Ray Combs PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 29 October 2008 12:27

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Raymond Neil "Ray" Combs, Jr.

Born: April 3, 1956, Hamilton, Ohio, United States

Died: June 2, 1996, Glendale, California, United States

Age: 40

Cause of death: Self inflicted strangulation while in Psychiatric Ward.

Notable because: A Mormon with 6 kids, appeared on WWF Wrestling as a guest announcer.

Ray Combs was an American comedian and host of the game show Family Feud on CBS and in syndication from 1988 to 1994.

The Hamilton, Ohio-born Combs ascended into the world of comedy after moving to Los Angeles in 1983 and doing audience warmups for sitcoms. Johnny Carson noticed this and invited him to perform on The Tonight Show in October 1986; the audience gave him a standing ovation his first time on stage, the first time in the show's history a comedian was given such an honor on his or her first appearance. He was soon given warm-up duties for the audience of the sitcom Amen.

In 1987, he appeared as a celebrity panelist on the John Davidson version of Hollywood Squares, and had a small role (as a cop at Elk Cove Hospital) in the comedy film Overboard starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. His appearance on Hollywood Squares was memorable for him leading the audience in singing a terrible rendition of the theme to The Brady Bunch.

Combs was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called Mormons.

In 1988, game show producers Mark Goodson and Howard Felsher selected Combs to host a new version of Family Feud, which aired concurrently on CBS beginning on July 4, 1988 and in syndication beginning on September 19, 1988. Audiences initially accepted Combs' performance on Family Feud despite the inevitable comparisons to longtime host Richard Dawson. According to Feud announcer Gene Wood, Combs would also tour extensively around the United States to promote the show, including guest appearances on CBS' Card Sharks starring Bob Eubanks and CBS' The Price Is Right starring Bob Barker.

Combs also made a couple of appearances for the World Wrestling Federation, appearing as a guest ring announcer at WrestleMania VIII, where he amused the capacity crowd at Indianapolis' Hoosier Dome by lashing into the team of the Nasty Boys, The Mountie, and Repo Man with various scathing insults before being ultimately chased out of the ring. He later served as a guest commentator alongside Vince McMahon and Bobby Heenan at Survivor Series 1993. These two appearances were also met with various WWF/WBF celebrity editions of Family Feud; Heenan and Combs also struck up a friendship, which Heenan recounted about in his autobiography, whereby he noted that he believed Combs felt demeaned by being a game show host. Combs also portrayed himself in episodes of In Living Color and 227 during Family Feud sketches.

On June 29, 1992, CBS expanded the daytime show from thirty minutes to one hour. The Bullseye round was added and the show was rechristened as Family Feud Challenge. Two and a half months later, on September 14, 1992, the Bullseye round was integrated into the syndicated run. This edition, however, remained thirty minutes in length, but was rechristened as The New Family Feud.

By 1993, however, ratings for the show slipped after the death of creator Mark Goodson. CBS canceled the daytime version on September 10, 1993, although the show had been in reruns since March 29, 1993, and the syndicated version was also in danger of cancellation. Jonathan Goodson, who became chairman of Mark Goodson Productions after his father's death a year earlier, then made the decision to replace Combs with Richard Dawson.

During the taping of his final episode, which aired in first-run syndication on May 27, 1994, instead of mingling with the two competing families at the end of the show, Combs walked off the set. Prior to the conclusion of the show, Combs jokingly noted that his final contestant on the show would be the first to score zero points in Fast Money (and thus far only contestant), and that was "a damn fine way to go out... I thought I was a loser till you walked up here; you made me feel like a man!"

Combs was severely injured in a July 1994 car accident which nearly paralyzed him. He went through financial problems after the closing of CaddyCombs, his Cincinnati, Ohio, comedy club, over a dispute with his business partner.

He had also separated from Debbie, his wife of 18 years, with whom he had six children. Several attempts to make it back into television—most notably as the host of the cable TV game show Family Challenge - all failed. About a week prior to his suicide, he appeared on television for the last time, live on a Memorial Day edition of The Home and Family Show with Cristina Ferrare and Chuck Woolery on May 27, 1996, where he talked about his experiences while hosting Family Challenge.

Combs was eventually admitted to the psychiatric ward of Glendale Adventist Medical Center and placed on a 72-hour mental observation hold. At about 4:10 in the morning, Pacific Standard Time, on Sunday, June 2, 1996, he removed the sheets from his bed and hung himself in the closet of his hospital room.

His family relied upon a $25,000 donation from Johnny Carson to pay for funeral expenses.

Alsace Avenue in Hamilton, Ohio, was renamed "Ray Combs Blvd" in his memory.

Combs is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Hamilton, Ohio.

 

Last Updated on Monday, 11 May 2009 10:57
 

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