The star passed away at Los Angeles’ Ronald Reagan Memorial hospital on Saturday night (02Jun12) from complications of esophageal cancer. He was 79.
Breaking the news to fans on Facebook.com, Dawson’s son Gary writes, “It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my father passed away this evening from complications due to esophageal cancer. He was surrounded by his family. He was an amazing talent, a loving husband, a great dad, and a doting grandfather. He will be missed but always remembered…”
Born Colin Lionel Emm in Britain, Dawson landed his big break in the 1960s in U.S. TV comedy Hogan’s Heroes, about prisoners in a Nazi prisoner of war camp. He played quick-talking Corporal Peter Newkirk in the series until 1971, before embarking on a change of career by fronting the quiz show Family Feud.
Famed for giving each of his female contestants a kiss, the job won him a Daytime Emmy Award in 1978 for Best TV Game Show Host.
He also landed a cameo in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1987 movie The Running Man and made regular appearances on another game show, The Match Game.
Dawson is survived by his second wife Gretchen, a former contestant on Family Feud, and his two sons Mark and Gary from his seven-year marriage to blonde British bombshell Diana Dors.