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 tells the AP. Though Lange had a successful career in radio, he is best known for his television role on the ABC game show, which debuted in 1965 and on which he appeared for more than a decade, charming audiences with his mellifluous voice and wide, easygoing grin. He also played 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.
Lange was born on Aug. 15, 1932, in St. Paul, Minn., where at 15 he discovered a passion for local radio after winning an audition at a local station. He hosted that show for two years before attending the University of Minnesota and doing a three-year stint in the Marines. His big break on network TV came in 1962 when he was made an announcer and sidekick on The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show. After The Dating Game, he also hosted the game shows Hollywood Connection, $100,000 Name That Tune, and The New Newlywed Game. Lange also worked as a disc jockey for decades in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, and upon his retirement from broadcasting in 2005, he was the morning DJ for KABL-FM. "As much as he's known for his television work, his real love was radio," his wife says. "He loved doing local radio, especially before it was computerized."