Family Feud contestants had to undergo herpes tests during host Richard Dawson’s time on the show, a new book by Kliph Nesteroff titled Outrageous: A History of Showbiz and the Culture Wars has claimed.
Richard, who hosted the game show from 1976 to 1985, had a penchant for kissing female contestants on the mouth, and this caused fans to raise concerns about the health safety of guests on the show.
“As a physician, I have worried about the risks Richard Dawson takes in kissing every female contestant on Family Feud,” read a letter quoted in the book from the Philadelphia Daily News. “The diseases that could be transmitted by promiscuous kissing are too long and too loathsome to recount here. Does Dawson or the producers take any caution to prevent infection? Are any of them informed?”
After the letter was published, The Pacific Daily reported that new safety measures were put in place and “contestants, both male and female, have to undergo a mouth test with a magnifying glass from medical distaff.”
Outrageous also included quotes from contestants and viewers of Family Feud during Richard’s time as host. Kliph revealed that “several game show fans were repulsed,” and one viewer reportedly complained that “Richard Dawson spreads more bugs every week than a flu epidemic.”
The book also revealed that an unnamed female contestant said that a production assistant came into her dressing room and announced, “OK, everybody line up for your herpes tests.”
“When you watch clips of that era of Family Feud on YouTube and you see Richard Dawson kissing the ladies, a lot of the comments in the comment section will say things like, ‘Well, it was a different time. That’s the way men were back then. It was a different time. People weren’t so sensitive,’” Kliph said in an interview with People. “And here, again, is evidence to the contrary that all kinds of people were complaining.”
Richard, who was the first host of the widely popular game show, once said in an interview with The Television Academy that he began the tradition in order to calm the nerves of women appearing on Family Feud who was so flustered “she couldn’t even name a vegetable.”
“I said, ‘I’m gonna do something that my mom would do to me whenever I had a problem of any kind,'” the host recalled. “And I kissed her on the cheek, and I said, ‘That’s for luck.’ And she said, ‘Asparagus.’”
However, he added that ABC eventually told him that he had to “stop the kissing.”
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While many fans complained about his antics, Richard claimed that he received thousands of letters supporting his smooches to the women on the show.
Richard died from complications from esophageal cancer in 2012 at the age of 79.
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