John Davidson (entertainer)
John Davidson (at right, in 1990)
|Born||John Hamilton Davidson
December 13, 1941
|Occupation||Actor, singer, game show host|
John Hamilton Davidson Sr. (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 went on to work in various television roles, including sitcoms, game shows, variety shows and talk shows. He is well known for hosting That's Incredible! (1980-1984), a human interest/stunt-themed series created in the tradition of the 1950s television show You Asked for It.
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. Davidson 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 one hundred appearances on the original Hollywood Squares during its 1966–1981 run. He was a regular player on many anthology and variety series of the 1970s–1980s, including such series as The Ed Sullivan Show, The Bobby Goldsboro Show, The Sonny and 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 mid-1960s until its cancellation, and was known for his long-winded bluffs. No one was more convincing at getting contestants to believe his (often ridiculous) answers to questions posed by Peter Marshall. 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.
From 1973-1974, he starred with Sally Field on the sitcom The Girl with Something Extra. 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 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. Davidson was not injured and later participated in a charity concert to raise funds for the families of fire victims. However, his music director, Douglas Herro, was among victims who perished in the fire. 
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. The performer hosted his own talk show, produced by Westinghouse Broadcasting/Group W after it dropped 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 infomercials 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. The infomercials often appeared on late night television and were a staple for years on many cable channels until the FCC filed a complaint against Del Dotto in 1995, alleging that Del Dotto “made false and unsubstantiated representations".
He also hosted a revival of Hollywood Squares, 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 television specials Space Encounters (1977) and Music! Music! Music! (1980).
Davidson has recorded twelve albums 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 is also performing in his own play Father/Son and Holy Ghost an autobiographical play about his relationship with his father who was a minister, which 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.
In June 2012, Davidson took on the role of Henry in the current off-Broadway revival of The Fantasticks.
Personal life and other notes
Davidson and his wife Rhonda have three children, including John Davidson Jr. (who often appeared with his father on later versions of Hollywood Squares), and now lives in New Hampshire.
He is 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.
Davidson has said that The Music Man was his favorite show to do. When playing Professor Harold Hill, he had the holes of his pitch pipe taped so that the only open hole was for the pitch he needed to blow; on one occasion, the barbershop quartet's bass (Chuck Kenney) had a working pitch pipe to lend him on stage when Davidson's didn't work. He also owned a copy of the famous booklet "Captain Billy's Whizbang" (mentioned in the lyrics of the song "Trouble") which he carried with him in the production.
- "John Davidson Biography (1941-)".
- Cherry, Robin (1 November 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. (1 June 2010). Inside the Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire. Turner. ISBN 978-1630263614.
- Lucas, Paul (9 January 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
- "Alison Luff and John Davidson Join WICKED Tour Today". Broadway World. 30 April 2013.
- Openly Secular (20 April 2015). "John Davidson - Openly Secular" – via YouTube.
- Dorff, Steve (January 4, 2009). "What Went Wrong?, Episode 9: Interview with John Davidson". WorldPress.com, 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)
|Host of Hollywood Squares
Tom Bergeron in the 1998–2004 version