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There’s tremendous development in the media industry, but the old days were still awesome. An excellent show called Match Game that defined the 1970s with its phenomenal host, Gene Rayburn is perhaps a great example. The television show with clever witticism defined its host, giving him a grand and revered persona in the media industry. What happened to Gene?

Television Personality Gene Rayburn attends Third Annual Fred Astaire Awards on October 22, 1984, at the Rainbow Room in New York City. Photo: @Ron Galella
Source: Getty Images

Gene entertained a generation of watchers with his comically-long microphone and a suggestive toothy grin on the signature show, Match Game. This made him a game show icon, emulated by many that came later. Whatever happened to Gene Rayburn?

Gene Rayburn profile summary

  • Name: Gene Rayburn
  • Also known as: Eugen Peter Jeljenic
  • Birthday: December 22, 1917
  • Birth country: Christopher, Illinois, United States
  • Nationality: American
  • Sun sign: Capricorn
  • Died: November 29, 1999 (aged 81) at Gloucester, Massachusetts, U.S
  • Cause of death: Heart attack
  • Occupation: Game show host, announcer, actor
  • Years active: 1953–1998
  • Known for: Match Game
  • Spouse(s): Helen Ticknor (m. 1940; died 1996)
  • Children: 1
  • Awards: Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences
  • Net worth: $4 million

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Gene Rayburn biography

Gene was born on December 22, 1917, as Eugen Jeljenic in Christopher, Illinois, the United States of America, to Croatian immigrant parents. Gene’s father perished when he was a toddler, and his mother remarried after relocating to Chicago in 1919. She married Milan Rubessa, and Gene took his new father’s surname immediately.

Rayburn has an older brother called Alfred that died when he was young. Gene had another half-brother called Millan Rubessa Jr. that came into the family after his mother remarried.

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Gene attended Lindblom Technical High School and later Knox College. He showed tremendous leadership skills at the learning institution, where he was a senior class president. Gene also displayed great enthusiasm in acting and took part in the plays Robert of Sicily, and Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch.

After completing his studies, Rayburn was interested in acting and singing in the opera. However, after moving to New York City, he was unsuccessful in finding viable employment. Fortunately, he got a job as a page and tour guide at NBC studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

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This opportunity started his long career in the media industry. After working for three years in the same position, Gene was given a chance to announce at different radio stations. This announcing gig landed Rayburn back in New York at WNEW.

Another exciting thing about Gene Rayburn is that he enlisted in the United States Army Air Force and served in World War II. He chose the stage name Rayburn from a phone book. He randomly stuck his finger in the book and landed on the name.

Career

Gene Rayburn
What’s My Line?, a CBS television game show. Pictured is panellist Gene Rayburn. Recorded on February 25, 1969. Photo: @CBS Photo Archive
Source: Getty Images

Gene Rayburn had a successful career in radio and television. Long before becoming a television show host, he was one of the most popular morning drive time hosts in New York City.

Gene started radio with Jack Lescoulie (Anything Goes) and later with Dee Finch (Rayburn and Finch) on WNEW, now called WBBR. After Rayburn left WNEW, his co-host, Finch, continued the format with another host Gene Klavan. After leaving the radio show, Gene Rayburn acted in the Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie.

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Rayburn entered into the television niche when he became the original announcer on Steve Allen’s Tonight. This allowed him to interact with other industry personalities like Mark Goodson and Bill Todman in 1953.

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Gene started hosting Match Game in 1962 and brought his exciting style to the show. Even though the show was cancelled in 1969, Goodson and Todman revived it in 1973, bringing back Rayburn as the host. Gene brought in a new format whereby contestants would attempt to match the responses of six celebrities.

Rayburn hosted many other shows, and appeared as a guest in others like:

  • Party Line in 1983.
  • Break the Bank in 1985 (replaced by Joe Farago after 13 weeks).
  • The Movie Masters on AMC cable TV from 1989 to 1990.

His last television appearance was in 1998 when he was featured in an interview with Access Hollywood that coincided with the 25th anniversary of the CBS game show, Match Game.

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Did Gene Rayburn die?

Gene Rayburn died on November 29, 1999, of congestive heart failure. The unfortunate event happened at his daughter’s Gloucester, Massachusetts home. Gene wasn’t buried but cremated and his ashes spread over his daughter’s garden.

Gene Rayburn’s wife

Gene Rayburn was married to Helen Ticknor. She died in October 1996 while still married to the television show host star. The couple had only one daughter called Lynne, that was born in 1942.

Many people have been speculating about Brett Somers, another Match Game panellist, association with Gene Rayburn. Did Brett Somers marry Gene Rayburn? Gene had only one wife and was never married to Somers. Brett was once married to actor Jack Klugman, but they separated in 1974. However, they never officially divorced.

Gene Rayburn net worth

Gene net worth at the time of his death was $4 million. His long career in the media industry where he worked in radio and television put him in a great position of winning lucrative deals. These earned him immense wealth over time.

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Is anyone from Match Game still alive?

Gene Rayburn
MATCH GAME ’73, from left back row: Michael Landon, Richard Dawson, Vicki Lawrence and Jack Klugman. (Seated from left) Jo Ann Pflug, host Gene Rayburn and Anita Gillette. Photo: @CBS Photo Archive
Source: Getty Images

Aside from Gene Rayburn, Match Game had a panel of six celebrities that consisted of a few main and semi-regular ones. Richard Dawson, one of the first on the show, died at the age of 79 of oesophageal cancer on June 2, 2012.

Brett Somers also died in 2007 from stomach and colon cancer at the age of 83. Charles Nelson Reilly, another regular, died from pneumonia complications on May 25, 2007. However, Betty White is still going strong at the age of 98.

Gene Rayburn amused audiences for over two decades as a host, becoming famous for Match Game. Even though he started as a promising actor side-tracked initially, he made a significant breakthrough in radio and television hosting and is a great legend today.

Are you trying to find out more about Louis Osbourne? Tuko.co.ke featured an interesting article about the English record producer and DJ. Many know him as part of The Osbournes celebrity family, which he has made several appearances on the family’s show.

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Did you know that he started his career as an actor by making regular appearances with Ozzy and his family in the first season of The Osbournes? He has taken part in other movies, but his primary career is producing and doing DJ work.

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