When You Kiss The Ladies, Do It On Camera: How Richard Dawson Beat Bob Barker And Everyone Else

Richard Dawson is not dead. He is available on Television, which is now available on the Internet.

Everything I know about Richard Dawson I learned on television, which is how it should be when you are appreciating the life of someone you only know from television. I don't know anything about Richard Dawson except that he was on Hogan's Heroes, the probably-on-someplace-right-now 1960s situation comedy about life thwarting the Nazis in a Prisoner of War camp in WW II—The Big One, a war we (as in U.S.) could laugh about immediately because we fucking won it, and one thing I know about that show (from watching television, which is the last time I will mention where I went to elementary school) is they even had one guy on it, Robert Clary (as P.O.W. Louie LeBeau), who was in fucking Buchenwald, a Holocaust concentration camp. Jesus Christ. Everytime LeBeau said "those dirty Boche," he did not look like he was "acting."

Anyway, after winning WW II, Richard Dawson was on the Match Game (and maybe Match Game PM, which was the p.m. version, with better prizes), and on a lotta those shows he was the cool customer, on a panel of six wacky celebrities. I used to theorize he was hung over from an evening hanging out wherever he hung out. Sometimes he seemed a little pissed off, as if he was surrounded by idiots. And I'm not talking about the contestants.

He did a lotta years on Match Game and he was ALWAYS the one picked by the players in the "Final Match" and the "Super Match," because homeboy came to play. Always. He was a fucking GAMER. He wanted the guests to win. More than he wanted to make a funny with a wacky double-entendre answer to a question such as, "Her hands were full, so Dumb Dora dropped her car keys between her BLANK." Beyond the fun of the show and his responsibilities as a performer, when a contestant missed an easy one, or when he let the side down, he always looked like it meant something to him personally.

In terms of matching stuff, he moved on to be the host of Family Feud, which became a show that was crazy-successful and people goofed on and played the Home Version of. Family Feud was way less double-entendre dependent than Match Game, though, because they had teams of people who were related. Family! When I went to community college, we used to do a pickup game of the Feud in the Student Lounge, which is the sincerest form of flattery for a game show, to have people doing it for fun without any television or any prize money. The part everybody always wanted to do was the Richard Dawson part, because it meant you were gonna interact with all the goofballs who were playing, but also because Richard Dawson was an easy blueprint. He was relaxed, funny, and not ever really very mean to the people who were playing, the headlight-frozen-deer television amateurs who were playing for an amount of money Richard Dawson probably made in one workday of recording. Even when the people on his show were really, really, dumb, he was not really mean.

Anybody who has ever wanted to be the host of a Game Show (everybody) watches Richard Dawson and says, "This fellow knows how to get it done." He's a good guy, not a prickly know-it-all who really doesn't know shit because he's reading from cards, like Alex Trebeck; he's not a phony death-grin cheeseball like Wink Martindale; and he's not an ego-tripper like Bob Barker, who nailed a lotta the girls on The Price is Right and then got ‘em fired when he got bored with them, and then got sued by the girls, and then tried to play it off like nothing ever happened and he wasn't a piece of shit who went too far in his position of power. Geez, Bob, you couldn't get hella-laid outside Television City?

Plus Bob Barker was transparently contemptuous of his audience. He didn't even want them to touch him. Richard Dawson, on the other hand, smooched thousands of ladies on his show, but he did it on camera. It was part of the show. He wanted everybody to win.

Image by Jim Cooke