Birth Date: December 22, 1917
Birth Place: Christopher, Illinois, USA
Date of Death: November 29, 1999 / Age: 81
Location of Death: Gloucester, Massachusetts, USA
Cause of Death: congestive heart failure
Biography: Gene Rayburn, born Eugene Rubessa (December 22, 1917-November 29, 1999), was an American radio and television personality.
Rayburn was born in Christopher, Illinois, and became a popular radio personality in New York City on WNEW-AM. He was half of the first two-man team in morning radio, partnering with Jack Lescoulie and later Dee Finch. before breaking into television as the original announcer on The Tonight Show in 1954. He hosted his first game show, Make the Connection, in 1955; from there he hosted shows such as Choose Up Sides, Dough Re Mi, and Tic Tac Dough. On radio, Rayburn become one of the many hosts of the popular NBC program Monitorin 1961 and remained with the show until 1973.
In 1962 Rayburn first hosted the game show that he was best known for hosting, The Match Game. The original version, which aired on NBC, lasted until 1969; in 1973 the show returned to CBS with a new format. The popular revival of Match Game, which featured regular celebrity panelists Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly, ran until 1982. A year later the show was revived as part of the Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour, with Rayburn hosting the Match Game segment and sitting on the panel of the Hollywood Squares segment. The show lasted only nine months on NBC.
After his stint on Match Game ended, a reporter publicly disclosed his age, which was much older than many people believed. Rayburn had trouble finding jobs after that, blaming the reporter for disclosing his age and subjecting him to age discrimination.
Rayburn was married to Helen Ticknor from 1940 until her death in 1996. They had one child. Helen appeared with Gene on the tv game show "Tattletales" in the 70s and 80s.
What made Rayburn so likeable is that he was willing to do anything for a laugh, especially on Match Game. Also, he was very quick on his feet and could make the best of any situation. In addition, you could tell that he really enjoyed being around people and he communicated well with them, especially celebrities. He was the perfect combination of goofiness and togetherness for a game show host. He knew when to get back to the game and when to let things go.
Rayburn was unabashedly liberal in his politics. So much that, on one occasion on Match Game (CBS), the name of Bill Buckley (a famous conservative) was brought up. Rayburn said that Buckley was "...always wrong!"
Rayburn died in Gloucester, Massachusetts, of congestive heart failure at age 81.