Dawson dominated television screens across America when he began hosting Family Feud in 1976. His good looks and wisecracker sense of humor won the hearts of viewers, but it was his unconventional style of greeting female contestants that would make him famous.
Dawson started kissing female contestants on the cheeks and hands and even the lips within the first few weeks of the show. It all started when he came across a woman who seemed quite nervous, unable to name a green vegetable.
After a month or so, executives tried to put an end to the kissing, according to Dawson, by claiming the sponsors felt kissing women without knowing their martial status or getting their permission was uncomely. In the interview below, Dawson insinuates that it may have to do with him kissing two non-white female contestants.
He asked viewers to vote on whether or not they would like him to stop. The votes came in 14,600 to 704 in favor of kissing.
As controversial as the kissing was, in 1981, Dawson planted a peck on a woman who would eventually become his second wife. Forty-nine-year-old Dawson met 24-year-old Gretchen Johnson when she was a contestant on the show.
During that taping, Dawson ends up kissing Johnson on the lips a total of four times — which is a lot, even for him. Dawson later revealed that after the show, he asked Johnson if he could call her.
“I just knew there was something about this young lady and myself,” he said. She agreed, but after calling her multiple times with no answer, Dawson admittedly thought the college student had given him a fake number. He eventually got a hold of her and learned that she’d just had her wisdom teeth removed. Johnson agreed to let Dawson cook dinner for her a couple of weeks later.
While many people, especially fans, weren’t fond of their beloved host dating someone so young, Dawson continued dating Johnson even after his first stint on Family Feud came to an end in 1985.
The couple had a daughter, Shannon Nicole, in 1990, and were married in 1991, just three years before Dawson would return to host Family Feud for a second time. After being invited back to host the now hour-long show in 1994, Dawson made it clear to the first female contestant that he was was giving up his signature greeting. The reason is actually really sweet.
“I met someone on the show about 13 years ago and we’re married, and now we have a little daughter. Her name is Shannon Nicole …. And I can’t kiss any of the ladies because I promised my daughter I would only kiss
Dawson and Johnson remained together until his death in 2012. In one of his last interviews, he said, “I’ve had been 30 and 40 years with Gretchen — the best years of my life — I am the luckiest man alive,