John Hamilton Davidson, Sr. (born December 13, 1941) is an American singer, actor and game show host known for hosting That's Incredible!, Time Machine, and Hollywood Squares in the 1980s, and a revival of The $100,000 Pyramid in 1991.
Davidson was born to two Baptist ministers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and graduated from high school in White Plains, New York before entering Denison University. His boyish good looks, broad smile, and telegenic charm gained him entry to such television venues as sitcoms, game shows, variety shows, and talk shows. He is perhaps best known for hosting 1980–84's That's Incredible!, a human interest/stunt-themed series created in the tradition of the 1950s television show You Asked for It.
During an appearance on the game show Scrabble in 1987, he told the national TV audience that he appeared as an underwear model in the 1959 Sears catalogue; he would have been 17 at the time. Davidson made his Broadway debut in the 1964 production of Foxy, which starred Bert Lahr. He also appeared in State Fair in 1996. He was a member of the regular repertory company on the short-lived CBS variety show The Entertainers (1964–65). He made more than one hundred appearances on the original Hollywood Squares during its 1966–1981 run. He was a regular player on many anthology and variety series of the 1970s–1980s, including such shows as The Ed Sullivan Show, The Bobby Goldsboro Show, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, Love American Style, Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and Spenser: For Hire. Davidson hosted the eponymously named, The John Davidson Show from 1980 to 1982. Davidson also guest hosted The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson 87 times.
Davidson made numerous appearances on the original Hollywood Squares, from the mid-1960s until its cancellation, and was known for his long-winded bluffs. No one was more convincing at getting contestants to believe his (often ridiculous) answers to questions posed by Peter Marshall. Most times, Marshall could barely conceal a grin as Davidson started in on some far-fetched but plausible explanations for his answers, often prefaced with something to the effect of: "I just read about that in the New England Journal of Medicine, it was a fascinating study, and it said that..." Davidson sold these preposterous stories with such sincerity that contestants were often duped more than once in the same show.
From 1973-1974, he starred with Sally Field in the series, "The Girl With Something Extra". In 1974, he guest starred on the TV show The Streets of San Francisco in the episode "Mask of Death", portraying a cross-dressing lounge singer who murders his/her fans. In the episode, Davidson sings in drag impersonating such notables as Carol Channing, singing "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend". Also in 1974, the singer posed near-nude (with a strategically placed towel) for the magazine Cosmopolitan.
In 1977, Davidson was present at the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire in Southgate, Kentucky. He was expected to appear onstage as the headline act of the evening when the fire broke out, killing 165 persons. Davidson helped others escape before fleeing through a back door. Davidson was not injured and later participated in a charity concert to raise funds for the families of fire victims. John Davidson's music director was among those who perished in the fire.
In the late 1970s, the actor became one of four regular guest hosts (along with Joey Bishop, McLean Stevenson and Joan Rivers) on The Tonight Show. The performer hosted his own talk show, produced by Westinghouse Broadcasting/Group W which aired daily in syndication from 1980 to 1982. In 1985, he hosted the NBC daytime game show, Time Machine. He later hosted a revival of Hollywood Squares, which ran from 1986 to 1989. In addition, he also hosted a 170-episode revival of The $100,000 Pyramid in 1991. Davidson also appeared on the Carpenters television specials Space Encounters (1977) and Music! Music! Music! (1980).
Davidson has recorded twelve albums and performed in various musicals. His album CD, John Hamilton Davidson Is a Funny Guy, was released late 2006 to show both his skills at comedy and singing. He acted in many movies including The Happiest Millionaire (1967), The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968), Coffee, Tea or Me (1973), The Concorde ... Airport '79 (1979), Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders II (1980), and Edward Scissorhands (1990), as well as the sitcom The Girl with Something Extra (1973–74) with Sally Field. Davidson was also a featured guest on several of The Carpenters TV specials.
Davidson has appeared in recent productions of A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to the Forum, Kismet, State Fair, Man of La Mancha, Chicago, and' Will Rogers' Follies, at the Surflight Theatre in Long Beach Island, NJ. He is also performing in his own play Father/Son and Holy Ghost an autobiographical play about his relationship with his father who was a minister, which received generally negative reviews. He has placed several singles on their "Adult Contemporary" survey, the most popular being "Everytime I Sing A Love Song", which reached #7 in 1976.
In July 1991, Davidson appeared in summer stock with Sacramento Music Circus of Sacramento, California in The Music Man alongside Susan Watson, Richard Paul, Carol Swarbrick and the Delta Music Society Quartet of Sacramento.
In late 2011 Davidson was listed as a guest star with The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies at the Plaza Theatre in Palm Springs, California.
In June 2012, Davidson took on the role of Henry in the current Off Broadway Revival of The Fantasticks.
In April 2013, Davidson took on the role of the Wizard in the first North American tour of Wicked.
Personal life and other notesEdit
Davidson and his wife, Rhonda, have three children, including John Davidson, Jr. (who often appeared with his father on later versions of Hollywood Squares), and now live in Atlantis, Florida.
Davidson has said that The Music Man was his favorite show to do. When playing Professor Harold Hill, he had the holes of his pitch pipe taped so that the only open hole was for the pitch he needed to blow; on one occasion, the barbershop quartet's bass (Chuck Kenney) had a working pitch pipe to lend him on stage when Davidson's didn't work. He also owned a copy of the famous booklet "Captain Billy's Whizbang" (mentioned in the lyrics of the song "Trouble") which he carried with him in the production.
Davidson, appearing in Lake Tahoe in the 1970s, once remarked to a dinner show crowd that the people in the audience the night before must have all been from Petaluma, California. "My god, I have never seen so many Simplicity patterns in my life," the singer quipped.