Minnesota native Jim Lange, the first host of the iconic game show "The Dating Game," has died, The Associated Press reports. He was 81.
Lange's wife, Nancy, says her husband died Tuesday at his home in Mill Valley, California, after suffering a heart attack.
The television personality, who was born on Aug. 15, 1932, in St. Paul, reportedly started his career in radio at age 15, after he won an audition at a local station.
In a 1992 interview with the Bay Area Radio Museum, Lange said the station wanted a male and female in gender-specific roles.
"They wanted the boy to do sports and the girl to do the dances and stuff that was going on in the Twin Cities – very sexist – and play music once a week," Lange told the museum.
Lange also told the museum that he was inspired by a legendary announcer at WCCO Radio.
"There's a broadcaster back in Minneapolis, a fellow named Steve Cannon, who I used to listen to when I was thinking about becoming a DJ," Lange said, noting that he went on to become close friends with Cannon.
According to the AP, Lange hosted the show for two years before attending the University of Minnesota. After that he served three years in the Marines. He got his break in network TV in 1962 as an announcer and sidekick on "The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show."
Lange hosted "The Dating Game" for more than a decade, beginning in 1965. Among the celebrity guests appearing as contestants on the show were Michael Jackson, Steve Martin and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Lange told the Bay Area Radio Museum that his best memories are working with all the wonderful people who passed through the show.
"I guess, almost every celebrity who was single, from Michael Jackson to Burt Reynolds to Tom Selleck. They all came through the show, even Groucho Marx. So I got to meet all those people – I think that was a great thrill, and also the fact that I got to see nine beautiful women everyday," he said a laugh.
The TV blog Zap2it says Lange also hosted pre-fame celebrities on the show, including Farrah Fawcett, Bob Saget, John Ritter and Phil Hartman.
The Internet Movie Database says Lange also hosted such game shows as ''$100,000 Name That Tune" and "The New Newlywed Game," and also appeared on "Card Sharks" and "The Hollywood Squares."
Talking about Lange's death Thursday, Josh Elliott of ABC's "Good Morning America" called the host "truly one of the giants of the golden age of the game show."
In addition to his TV work, Lange was a disc jockey for decades in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, the AP says.