Dawson died Saturday at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center from complications related to esophageal cancer. The actor, who had been living in Beverly Hills, was diagnosed with the disease about three weeks ago, said his son Gary.
Dawson's key gimmick on "Family Feud" was something that had never been done by a game show host, and is seldom seen today — he kissed all the women players on the lips.
His son said the tradition started almost by accident; "There was a girl on the show who was very nervous, and my dad was trying to calm her down. So he said he would give her a kiss for luck, and he did. Then when he went to the next female player, she said, "Well, don't I get a kiss?' That's how it started and it just became this thing."
The kissing also sparked complaints from viewers who said that Dawson was getting a bit too familiar. He finally asked viewers to write in and tell him whether he should discontinue the kissing. "The mail flowed in, and it was overwhelmingly positive that he keep kissing the women," said Gary Dawson.
Dawson later parodied his game-show image in "The Running Man," a 1987 action movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger about a game show in which contestants are forced to fight for their lives. Dawson played Damon Killian, the show's Machiavellian host and creator, and rewrote almost all of his lines in the script.