‘Family Feud’: Original Host Richard Dawson Eventually Married a Contestant from the Show

by John Jamison
(Photo by ABC Television/Fotos International/Getty Images)

“Family Feud” is one of the most iconic game shows of all time. Starting in 1976, the long-running show is in the conversation with the likes of “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune.” And like these other iconic game shows, “Family Feud” has a history of different hosts. The first host, however, did more than just run the game. He landed himself a wife.

From 1976 to 1985, Richard Dawson served as the inaugural host of the game show that millions still enjoy under the leadership of Steve Harvey to this day. But “Family Feud” gave Dawson more than publicity and a paycheck. In fact, the show gave him his second wife.

That’s right. In 1981, during a regular episode of “Family Feud,” Richard Dawson encountered a family that would eventually become his. His romance with the contestant was a slow burn, however. It took nearly a decade after this first encounter for the two to get married.

Still, the fact that a game show host met his future wife as a contestant on his show is unprecedented. The video below features the entire “Family Feud” episode in which Gretchen Johnson and her family competed. Given the nature of game show hosts like Richard Dawson, it’s hard to tell if he and Gretchen have any specific chemistry at this time. After all, it was his job to be charming and entertaining.

In any case, Dawson was interested in Gretchen from the time he first laid eyes on her.

And when the show finished taping, he caught up with her as the family was leaving. The “Family Feud” host shot his shot, asking her if he could call her some time or vice versa.

The ‘Family Feud’ Host Thought She Gave Him a Fake Number

Gretchen explained to him that she lived in San Diego. But he persisted, and she finally agreed to give her number. Richard Dawson tried his best to play it cool. He waited a while before calling. But when he finally did, he wasn’t getting any response. His heart sank, and he came to a conclusion that fills guys everywhere with dread.

The “Family Feud” host assumed that Gretchen gave him a fake number. Then, finally, Gretchen picked up. Dawson told her that he’d been worried. But she assured him that everything was fine. She was preoccupied because she had just gotten her wisdom teeth taken out.

Dawson breathed a sigh of relief and asked her if she might be interested in having him cook her dinner the next time she traveled up to LA to see her family. She was, and Dawson spared no expense, cooking an intricate beef wellington with a side of asparagus.

The “Family Feud” host was proud of the meal he prepared until he noticed that Gretchen wasn’t eating her asparagus, but insisted that it was great. He didn’t find out until weeks later that she hated foods starting with the letter “A.” From there, the two hit it off and remained married until he died in 2012.