Richard Dawson, the long-time host of the TV game show “Family Feud”, died Saturday. He was 79. My wife will tell you (as I am about to) that my guilty secret, my brainless pleasure, is watching the bonus round on “Family Feud” and guessing the top answers.
“Family Feud” sits on the opposite side of the game-show spectrum from “Jeopardy”. “Jeopardy” is work. Watching “Jeopardy” is like playing chess while listening to NPR while doing a crossword puzzle. But playing along with the contestants on “Family Feud” is like being at a summer picnic, with beer and pretzels. And you had the questionably-sober Richard Dawson, keeping things lively without ever taking the game seriously.
Much was made of Dawson’s habit of kissing all the female contestants (upwards of 20,000 of them). Yes, he was a throwback, as were Johnny Carson, Dean Martin, Foster Brooks, Hugh Hefner and Jackie Gleason. You knew they were from another era and were never going to embrace this one, but you tolerated them nonetheless. Sort of like your parents.
Personally, I enjoyed Richard Karn as host of “Family Feud” more than I did Dawson or subsequent hosts. Karn followed Dawson’s tradition of tongue-in-cheek respect for the proceedings but, unlike Dawson, kept his tongue in his cheeks when greeting contestants.
Dawson died of esophageal cancer, as did writer Christopher Hitchens at 62 and Governor Ann Richards at 73. All were reputed or admitted heavy drinkers at one time. Alcohol reduces the tone of one’s lower esophageal sphincter, allowing the acidic contents of the stomach to flow backwards and damage the lining of the esophagus.
I take Prilosec but I also take note.