Tuesday, June 19, 2012


He's best known for being just an ensemble member of a sitcom, and for spending ten years looking at "surveys" as the host of the quiz show "Family Feud." Yet, Richard Dawson was a certified star, a guy you liked, and even admired. A skilled actor, an adept ad-libber, he could also get a lot of mileage out of a knowing stare or a raised eyebrow. And though he'd been out of the spotlight for decades, the news of Richard Dawson's death was sad indeed.

America didn't know him when he entered the world under the name Colin Emm, nor when the 20-something stand-up comic became "Mr. Diana Dors," having what it took to land "the British Jayne Mansfield." In the U.S.A., Dawson started to gain some attention in co-starring movie roles, and as "Racy Tracy" Rattigan on a memorable "Dick Van Dyke Show." In 1965 he won the role of Cpl. Newkirk on "Hogan's Heroes," despite nearly failing the audition by using a working class Liverpool accent. Producers felt he was "unintelligible." It amused him that soon that same accent was being heard on movie screens in "Hard Day's Night" and "Help."

During the show's run, an album was released called "Hogan's Heroes Sing the Best of World War II." It was dominated by Robert Clary and Larry Hovis (both legit singers with long resumes before the sitcom), with Dawson only rating one solo. It was the album closer, because nothing could top the over-the-top "This Is Worth Fighting For." It moves from sappy spoken words of inspiration ("I saw a peaceful old valley with a carpet of corn for a floor…) to alarming outbursts of almost Jolson-esque belting ("Didn't ah build dat cottage? Didn't ah plow that corn?") and crooning ("Didn't my folks before me fight for this country before I was born?"). Then there's the near-shout finale, all of it very untypical of the comical cool Cpl. Newkirk character of the sitcom.

Was "This is Worth Fighting For" just an aberration, something Dawson had to do because a record producer gave it to him? Or did our laconic, witty, sophisticated man of the world truly have a very mushy and sincerely sentimental side? The latter, it turns out, as witness the notorious 1967 solo single "His Children's Parade" (just too corny for words) b/w "Apples & Oranges," which builds on its monotonous chorus toward a "heavy" message at the end.

Interview shows and quiz shows let Dawson's skiklled stand-up wit shine through, so after "Hogan" ended, he was still very visible as a daytime regular on "I've Got a Secret" and the racy "Match Game," and a welcome guest on the night time talk show circuit. He guest-hosted "The Tonight Show" once in a while and was whispered to be a possible replacement should Johnny Carson retire. That didn't happen, but starting in 1976 he ran through nine years as host of "Family Feud." He became notorious for elaborately puckering his lips and planting a quick kiss on the equally trouted mouths of female contestants. His second (and final) wife was one of them…he met her on a 1980 broadcast. Despite the growing bags under his eyes, Dawson remained a favorite with the housewives, and they loved his flirting and his slightly naughty ad-libs. For sick kids staying home from school, there was also his lapses into W.C. Fields imitations, the timing of his reactions to dumb answers, and, yeah, who didn't like those slightly naughty ad-libs?

I have a photo Richard autographed and personalized for me, with the "Family Feud" set in the background. I do remember him a bit more fondly for the quiz show than "Hogan's Heroes" (which I haven't watched in 20 years). You can actually find "Feud" on DVD, as well as some Dawson drolleries on a "best of" for "The Match Game."

The kindly star seemed to enjoy his retirement (after his nine year run on "Feud" he did a brief comeback for one more year in 1994 after new host Ray Combs was fired). Years later, a weight gain that had him looking a bit like actress Pat Carroll as Gertrude Stein, or a blown-up Phyllis Diller. Odd, that. But the photo above also shows prime Dawson in his two most memorable TV shows. And now, below, two of his most memorable songs! Really. You will NOT forget having heard these.

Submitted for your amazement is the late Mr. Dawson ((November 20, 1932 – June 2, 2012), offering up two songs that might make you think. Or cringe.


Richard Dawson THIS IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR Survey Says: Instant download or listen on line. No capcha codes, wait time, or extortion from Commies about how you should get a "premium account" to fatten their Kim Dotcom waistlines.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The "puffiness" seen in that picture of Dawson may be the result of his being treated for some illness with a corticosteroid like Prednisone. I've seen similar pictures of other celebrities, usually not long before their demise (Lee Remick springs to mind).