Jim Lange, left, congratulates Connie and Steve Rutenbar of Mission Viejo, Calif., after they won $1 million on the TV show " The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime" in this 1986 file photo. Lange, the first host of the popular game show "The Dating Game," has died at his home in Mill Valley, Calif. He was 81.Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
SAN FRANCISCO — Jim Lange, the first host of the popular game show "The Dating Game," has died at his home in Mill Valley, Calif. He was 81.
He died Tuesday morning after suffering a heart attack, his wife Nancy told The Associated Press Wednesday.
Though Lange had a successful career in radio, he is best known for his television role on ABC's "The Dating Game," which debuted in 1965 and on which he appeared for more than a decade, playing host to many celebrity guests. Michael Jackson, Steve Martin and Arnold Schwarzenegger, among others, appeared as contestants.
Even a pre-"Charlie's Angels" Farrah Fawcett appeared on the program, introduced as "an accomplished artist and sculptress" with a dream to open her own gallery.
The show's format: a young man or woman questions three members of the opposite sex, hidden from her view, to determine which one would be the best date.
The questions were designed by the show's writers to elicit sexy answers.
"I've never been out on a date before. What do two kids like us do on a date?" a teenage Michael Jackson asked one of his potential dates on a 1972 episode of the show.
"Well, we'd have fun," the girl answered. "We'd go out to dinner, and then I'd go over to your house."
Lange was born on Aug. 15, 1932, in St. Paul, Minn., where as a young man he discovered a passion for local radio. He worked as a disc jockey for decades, and upon his retirement from broadcasting in 2005, he was the morning DJ for KABL-FM in the San Francisco Bay Area, which specializes in playing classics from the Big Band era to the 1970s.
"As much as he's known for his television work, his real love was radio," his wife said. "He loved doing local radio, especially before it was computerized."
Lange is survived by a sister, five children, two stepchildren and four grandchildren.