John Davidson (entertainer)
John Davidson (at right, in 1990)
John Hamilton Davidson
December 13, 1941
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Alma mater||Denison University|
|Occupation||Actor, singer, game show host|
|Spouse(s)||Rhonda Rivera Davidson (married 1983–present)|
Jackie Miller (married 1969–1982)
John Hamilton Davidson (born December 13, 1941) is an American actor, singer, and game-show host known for hosting That's Incredible!, Time Machine, and Hollywood Squares in the 1980s, and a revival of The $100,000 Pyramid in 1991.
Davidson was born to two Baptist ministers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and graduated from high school in White Plains, New York, before entering Denison University. He thought about following in the footsteps of his parents but ultimately decided that he would rather sing about love than preach it.
He went on to work in various television roles, including sitcoms, game shows, variety shows, and talk shows. Davidson is a protégé of television producer Robert James "Bob" Banner Jr., and as a tribute to his mentor, he ran a summer camp for would-be performers for two summers[when?] in the 1970s. As the 1980s began, Davidson became well known for hosting, alongside Fran Tarkenton and Cathy Lee Crosby, That's Incredible! (1980–84), a human-interest/stunt-themed series whose creation, by Alan Landsburg, followed in the tradition of the 1950s television show You Asked for It.
Davidson made his film debut in The Happiest Millionaire, released in 1967, alongside Lesley Ann Warren and Fred MacMurray. The next year saw Warren and Davidson co-star again in The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band.
During an appearance on the game show Scrabble in 1987, he told the national television audience that he appeared as an underwear model in the 1959 Sears catalogue; he would have been 17 at the time. He made his Broadway debut in the 1964 production of Foxy, which starred Bert Lahr. He also appeared in State Fair in 1996.
He was a member of the regular repertory company on the short-lived CBS variety show The Entertainers (1964–65). He made more than a hundred appearances on the original Hollywood Squares during its 1966–81 run. He was a regular player on many anthology and variety series of the 1970s–80s, including The Ed Sullivan Show, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, Love American Style, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and Spenser: For Hire.
Davidson made numerous appearances on the original Hollywood Squares, from the game show's 1966 premiere to its 1981 cancellation, and he was there known for his long-winded bluffs. None of the comparatively minor celebrities who were guests of producers Merrill Heatter and Robert "Bob" Quigley were more convincing at getting contestants to believe his (often ridiculous) answers to questions the program's "Square-Master," or host, entertainer Peter Marshall, posed. Most times, Marshall could barely conceal a grin as Davidson started in on some far-fetched but plausible explanations for his answers, often prefaced with something to the effect of: "I just read about it in the New England Journal of Medicine, it was a fascinating study, and it said that.... Davidson sold these preposterous stories with such sincerity that contestants were often duped more than once in the same show.
In 1973 and 1974, he starred alongside Sally Field on the situation comedy The Girl with Something Extra. (The "something extra" Field's character had was psychic powers.) In 1974 he guest-starred on the television series The Streets of San Francisco, in the episode "Mask of Death," portraying a cross-dressing lounge singer who murders his/her fans. In the episode, Davidson sings in drag while impersonating such notables as Carol Channing, singing "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend." Also in 1974, the singer posed near-nude (with a strategically placed towel) for the magazine Cosmopolitan.
In 1977 Davidson was present at the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire in Southgate, Kentucky. He was expected to appear onstage as the headline act the evening the fire broke out, killing 165. Davidson helped others escape before fleeing through a back door. Unfortunately, Davidson's then–music director, Douglas Herro, was among the victims. Davidson was not injured and later participated in a charity concert to raise funds for the families of fire victims.
In the late 1970s the actor became one of four regular guest hosts (along with Joey Bishop, McLean Stevenson, and Joan Rivers) on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and hosted the show 87 times. In the early 1980s he hosted his own talk show, produced by Westinghouse Broadcasting/Group W, after it canceled The Mike Douglas Show. Davidson's show aired daily in syndication from 1980 to 1982. In 1985 he hosted the NBC daytime game show Time Machine.
Davidson worked with real estate promoter Dave Del Dotto’s paid programs during the late 1980s and early 1990s, which were notable for taking place in outdoor, scenic settings (such as Hawaii), and for having the actor as host. These "infomercials," as they have come to be called, often appeared on late night television and were a staple for years on many cable channels till the FCC filed a complaint against Del Dotto in 1995, alleging that in his paid programs, Del Dotto had "made false and unsubstantiated representations."
Davidson also hosted a revival of Hollywood Squares, whose announcer, Shadoe Stevens, in time also became a regular "square," which ran from 1986 to 1989. In addition, he hosted a 170-episode revival of The $100,000 Pyramid in 1991. Davidson also appeared as a featured guest on the Carpenters's television specials Space Encounters (1977) and Music! Music! Music! (1980).
Davidson has recorded 12 albums (none of which charted on Billboard's Hot 100, a failure he has attributed to his not being a good studio singer) and performed in various musicals. His album CD John Hamilton Davidson Is a Funny Guy was released late 2006 to show both his skills at comedy and singing. He acted in many movies including The Happiest Millionaire (1967), The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968), Coffee, Tea, or Me (1973), The Concorde . . . Airport ’79 (1979), Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders II, (1980) and Edward Scissorhands (1990).
Davidson has appeared in recent productions of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Kismet, State Fair, Man of La Mancha, Chicago, and Will Rogers' Follies, at the Surflight Theatre in Long Beach Island, New Jersey. He has also performed in his own play, Father/Son and Holy Ghost, an autobiographical play about his relationship with his father, who was a minister; this last has received generally negative reviews. He has placed several singles on their "Adult Contemporary" survey, the most popular being "Everytime I Sing a Love Song," which reached #7 in 1976.
In July 1991 Davidson appeared in summer stock with Sacramento Music Circus of Sacramento, California, in The Music Man alongside Susan Watson, Richard Paul, Carol Swarbrick, and the Delta Music Society Quartet of Sacramento.
Davidson performed daily in 1993-94 in Branson at a theater bearing his name.
In June 2012 Davidson took on the role of Henry in the off-Broadway revival of The Fantasticks. In April 2013 he took on the role of the Wizard in the first North American tour of Wicked. In June 2017 he took on the role of Charles Frohman/Captain James Hook in the North American tour of Finding Neverland.
Personal life and other notes
Divorced in 1982 from singer Jackie Miller, who once was part of the folk duo Jackie and Gayle, after 13 years of marriage and two children (John Davidson Jr., who often appeared with his father on later versions of Hollywood Squares, and Jennifer Davidson Kane), John is currently with second wife and former backup singer, Rhonda Davidson (née Rivera), (since 1983). Together, they have a child of their own, Ashleigh Davidson. John and Rhonda now live primarily in New Hampshire.
The son of two Baptist ministers, Davidson now identifies as an atheist, declaring himself "openly secular" in a video for the Openly Secular Coalition begun by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, the Secular Coalition for America, and other humanist groups.
- "John Davidson Biography". filmreference.com. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
- People Weekly Magazine, "John Davidson's 'Incredible' Year", August 23, 1980.
- Cherry, Robin (November 1, 2008). Catalog: The Illustrated History of Mail Order Shopping. New York City: Princeton Architectural Press. p. 19. ISBN 978-1568987392.
- "Foxy". Playbill. Retrieved 2015-09-10.
- The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946–Present. Ballantine Books. 2003. p. 1214. ISBN 0-345-45542-8.
- Beitler, Stu. "Southgate, KY Nightclub Fire Disaster, May 1977". GenDisasters. Retrieved 2015-09-10.
- Video on YouTube
- Elliott, Ronald E. (June 1, 2010). Inside the Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire. Turner. ISBN 978-1630263614.
- Lucas, Paul (January 9, 2008). "What Ever Happened to Dave Del Dotto?". Infomercial Hell.
- Discogs: John Hamilton Davidson Is A Funny Guy Archived August 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- Fabulous Palm Springs Follies: John Davidson, archive.org; accessed August 28, 2017.
- "Alison Luff and John Davidson Join WICKED Tour Today". Broadway World. April 30, 2013.
- Desk, BWW News. "John Davidson Joins FINDING NEVERLAND Tour as 'Captain Hook' Tonight". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 2017-08-29.
- Openly Secular (April 20, 2015). "John Davidson - Openly Secular" – via YouTube.
- Dorff, Steve "What Went Wrong?, Episode 9: Interview with John Davidson", WorldPress.com, January 4, 2009; accessed February 28, 2012.
- John Davidson on IMDb
- John Davidson at the Internet Broadway Database
- John Davidson at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- John Davidson at the TCM Movie Database
- John Davidson Website
| Host of Pyramid
Jon Bauman in the Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour (1983–1984)
| "Square-Master" (Host) of Hollywood Squares
Tom Bergeron in the 1998–2004 version