Dawson passed away from esophageal cancer on June 2 in Los Angeles. He was 79

By Keith Staskiewicz
Updated June 08, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

There’s an image of the game-show host as a lovable huckster, someone who trades primarily in charm like a distant occupational relation to the used-car salesman. Much of this perception comes from one man: Richard Dawson, the effortlessly self-possessed and charismatic original host of Family Feud, who died June 2 in Los Angeles at age 79 of complications from esophageal cancer. The English-born Dawson gained visibility on the sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, but it was as a panelist on the ad-lib-heavy Match Game that he first demonstrated his real talents as a showman. So when he was given his own program in 1976, he quickly became one of the genre’s most beloved figures, democratically doling out kisses to female contestants and sly sideways winks to everyone else. (He then subverted this persona as the villain in 1987’s The Running Man.) The rule that television personalities should actually have a personality may have since expired, but every week on Family Feud Dawson had more than enough to spare.