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Richard Dawson Met Much Younger Bride at Show Where He Kissed Nearly 20000 Women While Hosting It

Junie Sihlangu
Mar 10, 2022
03:40 P.M.
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When he got divorced, Richard Dawson already had children and never thought he'd ever marry ever again. However, he met someone younger whom he thought had given him a fake number at a studio.


Richard Dawson's first wife was a British singer and actress, Diana Dors, whom he fell hopelessly in love with despite the unattainable image she portrayed in public. When she divorced the "Family Feud" host, the couple already had two children.

The television personality, whose show "Hogan's Heroes" ran from 1965 to 1971, had his divorce coincide with the run on the show. Richard was left as a single father who had to independently take care of his young sons.

Richard Dawson on "Family Feud" on October 18, 1983, and he with Diana Dors and their son, Mark, at home on September 20, 1960. | Source: ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content & CBS/Getty Images


The star, who began his career in Hollywood as a standup comedian, was starting to make his name with "Hogan's Heroes" when the separation occurred. Speaking to Closer, the personality's son, Mark Dawson, noted this about his father:

“He could have easily just said, ‘Well, you take the kids.’ He was just starting to make a name with Hogan’s, but he fought for us. It was like, ‘You can leave, but the boys are staying with me.’”


Richard Dawson in the opening credits of "Hogan's Heroes" with an airdate of January 20, 1967. | Source: CBS/Getty Images


Richard married Dors in 1949, a year after they'd met, with Mark being welcomed nine months later. The couple's second son, Gary Dawson, joined the family two years later, but when the actress left Richard with the children, the star said:

“People looked down their noses at Diana for leaving me with two young boys. But it was an act of sheer kindness. I don’t know what would have happened to me without them.”

Diana Dors and Richard Dawson with their first baby, Mark, on February 9, 1960. | Source: Derek Berwin/Fox Photos/Getty Images


In the book "Richard Dawson and Family Feud," the television show host shared what his hopes had been for himself after his marriage to Dors. Weekly World News reported on July 7, 1981, that the television personality confessed:

“I always thought there would be another lady after Diana,” adding “It hasn’t worked out.”

Diana Dors with Richard Dawson, and their son, Mark, at home in an image dated September 20, 1960. | Source: CBS/Getty Images


Even though Dors had up and left her former husband with their children, she still had some positive things to say about him. In the same Weekly World News publication, the actress shared more about her exes personality by noting:

“Richard is a super sensitive person. Having once experienced a marriage gone bad, he could not easily give his love and affection again.”


Diane Dors with Richard Dawson, and their son, Mark, at home in an image dated September 20, 1960. | Source: CBS/Getty Images


According to Showbiz Cheat Sheet, one of Richard's producers estimated that during the star's role as the host of "Family Feud," he got to kiss around 20,000 women! The tradition of kissing women on the competition began during episodes 10 or 11 of the show.

During a Television Academy Foundation interview in 2010, the star, the third person to host "Family Feud," explained how a female contestant seemed nervous and couldn't give the correct answer. He tried to get her out of her funk by kissing her on the cheek.


After getting the answer right, an opposing contestant wanted a kiss for luck too! Richard, who hosted the show initially from 1976 to 1985 and then again from 1994 until 1995, told her she didn't need luck at that moment, but when she struggled later in the show, he conceded with a kiss.

The television personality recalled in the interview how he met the woman that became his second wife. He shared how the Johnson family came on his game show in May 1981, comprising a father, a mother, and three daughters.


Richard revealed how he'd had his eye on the youngest daughter, Gretchen Johnson. When asked what activity could make one exhausted, Gretchen nervously responded "making love" before reacting badly for her honest answer. 

The television personality squeezed her hand told her there was nothing wrong with her response because the goal was to win money. The star knew that there was something special about Gretchen and between them.

Richard Dawson on an episode of "Family Feud" on April 12, 1978. | Source: ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content/Getty Images


When the game show had ended, and everyone was about to leave, Richard asked Gretchen if he could call her or if she'd phone him. She gave him her number, and he called her on two consecutive days, but no one answered.

Richard couldn't help but assume she'd given him what he called a "joke number." When he finally got a hold of her, he discovered that the number was correct. Gretchen hadn't answered because she'd recently gotten her wisdom teeth removed and was drugged.


The television star proposed to cook his love interest dinner when she came up to Miami, Florida, to visit her parents. Gretchen arrived at his place on Good Friday, and he'd made several dishes, including beef wellington, asparagus, and avocado.

For someone who was initially heartbroken when his first wife [Diana Dors] left him, he seemed to bounce back quite well.

Richard Dawson launching the new "Family Feud" video slots in Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 28, 2003. | Source: Denise Truscello/WireImage/Getty Images


She claimed the dinner looked excellent when he dished up, but Richard noticed Gretchen had just moved the food around and hadn't eaten much towards the end. The star later found out she'd "totally hated" the meal because she didn't eat anything starting with the letter "A!"

The pair ended up becoming a couple and getting married. The television personality, who was 23 years older than Gretchen, also jokingly shared how a fan once wrote him after he'd retired, calling his second wife his "child bride!"



Richard and Gretchen got married and welcomed a daughter, Shannon Nicole Dawson. At the time of the interview, the star said he and his wife had been together for around 30 to 40 years, describing the time as the best years of his life, adding that he was the "luckiest man alive."

The "Family Feud" show host seemed to bounce back quite well for someone who was initially heartbroken when his first wife left him. Richard and Gretchen stayed together until his death at age 79 on June 2, 2012, from complications of esophageal cancer in Los Angeles.