Richard Dawson, Late Star of Family Feud and Hogan's Heroes -- a Personal Connection

Richard Dawson, the acerbic, but playful host of Family Feud for so many years, died yesterday at the age of 79.

Our connection to Dawson was this: He was best buddies with Bob Crane, star of the prisoner-of-war sitcom Hogan's Heroes, on which Dawson played mouthy sidekick Corporal Peter Newkirk.

And Dawson also was very well-acquainted with John Carpenter, a quirky fellow who in 1992 was accused by Maricopa County authorities of murdering Crane at a Scottsdale apartment in 1978.

If memory serves, Dawson had introduced the pair, the hook being that both Crane and Carpenter were inveterate "horndogs" and loved to document their exploits on videotape.

Oh, and that Carpenter was a video salesman who had sold state-of-the-art Sony equipment to Elvis Presley and President Lyndon Johnson.

Better than relying on memory is this story we wrote almost two decades ago, the first of a three-part exploration into the mercurial life and violent death of Bob Crane, the nation's biggest TV star during the heyday of Hogan's Heroes.

We had occasion during the months of reporting for that series to meet (and later to become good friends with) Richard Dawson's son, Mark, an exceptionally bright and fun guy to be around.

Mark's beloved mom was the late Diana Dors, a.k.a. the "British Marilyn Monroe," a blond bombshell whose image is emblazoned on one of the most famous albums of all-time, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" by a group called the Beatles.

Mark Dawson was living on his dad's boat in Marina del Rey at the time with his girlfriend, also a terrific person (and heavy-metal drummer) named Linda McDonald, who still performs far as I know with a kick-ass group called The Iron Maidens.

We spent endless hours discussing the Crane murder -- the late actor was "Uncle Bob" to Mark-- and we bounced around theories deep into the night.

Mark introduced us to John Carpenter shortly after the latter's surprise 1992 arrest in the Los Angeles area by a now-retired Phoenix cop Jimmy Raines.

Carpenter was in custody at the LA County Jail, and when we spoke to him there that first time, he was sitting behind the Plexiglass window next to Damian "Football" Williams, one of the guys charged in the infamous attack on truck driver Reginald Denny in the riotous aftermath of police-brutality victim Rodney King's acquittal.

A confluence of quasi-historical figures, to be sure.

We spoke just once to Richard Dawson on the phone, to ask him something about John Carpenter, whose alleged motivation for bludgeoning his sleeping pal Crane with a tripod was that Crane was about to terminate their friendship.

Dawson was grumpy, monosyllabic, and wasn't about to give up anything of substance. Didn't blame him, and didn't take it personally. Wished him well, and was done with it.

A Maricopa County jury acquitted Carpenter of first-degree in 1994, despite a spirited effort by veteran prosecutor Bob Shutts. Carpenter died of a heart attack four years later, after which we wrote this  about our "relationship."

We know how much Mark Dawson loved and respected his dad, and our condolences go out to him.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin