Feb. 27, 2014 at 8:06 AM ET
Jim Lange, the original host of the long-running game show "The Dating Game" died Tuesday in Mill Valley, Calif., after suffering a heart attack, his wife, Nancy, told TODAY. Lange was 81.
He appeared as the host of the ABC show after spending his early career in radio, and hosted the program during its on-and-off runs from 1965 to 1980. The show usually featured a bachelorette asking questions of three bachelors she couldn't see, and ultimately choosing one to go on a date. Sometimes, it would be one bachelor asking questions to three bachelorettes.
Lange was known for blowing a kiss goodbye to the audience at the end of each episode.
"Jim Lange was one of the great show hosts of television. Always in control, but with a soft enough hand to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable," "Charles in Charge" star Willie Aames, who appeared on "The Dating Game" in 1978, told TODAY. The game show often featured aspiring stars as bachelors and bachelorettes.
Lange was originally from St. Paul, Minn., and discovered radio while still a teen after winning an audition at a local station. He hosted a show for a few years before attending school at the University of Minnesota and then spent a few years as a Marine, the Bay Area Radio Museum noted in a 1992 interview with him.
He went into television in 1962 as an announcer and sidekick on "The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show," and stepped into the national spotlight once he joined "The Dating Game." He would go on to host more game shows, including "$100,000 Name That Tune" and "The New Newlywed Game."
After television, he moved back into radio as a DJ in Los Angeles and San Francisco before retiring in 2005.
TV may have made him nationally famous, but Lange's heart truly was in radio. As he told the Bay Area Radio Museum, "Radio is the theater of the mind. You're on your own. You don't have to worry about lighting directors and cameramen or script writers and all that. Good radio is still the most fun. It always will be. Plus, you don't have to wear makeup and you don't have to shave."
He is survived by his sister, five children, two stepchildren and four grandchildren.