Jim Lange, the first host of the popular game show “The Dating Game,” died Feb. 25 at his home in Mill Valley, Calif. He was 81.

He had a heart attack, his wife, Nancy Lange, told the Associated Press.

Mr. Lange had a successful career in radio, but he is best known for his television role on ABC’s “The Dating Game,” which debuted in 1965 and on which he appeared for more than a decade, charming audiences with his mellifluous voice and wide, easygoing grin.

He played host to many celebrity guests, including Michael Jackson, Steve Martin and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Before she leaped to stardom in “Charlie’s Angels,” Farrah Fawcett appeared on the program, introduced as “an accomplished artist and sculptress” with a dream to open her own gallery.

Host Jim Lange, left, congratulates Connie and Steve Rutenbar of Mission Viejo, Calif., in 1986 after they won $1 million on the TV show “The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime.” (AP)

The show’s format: A young man or woman questions three members of the opposite sex, hidden from view, to determine which one would be the best date. The questions were designed by the show’s writers to elicit sexy answers.

“I’ve never been out on a date before. What do two kids like us do on a date?” a teenage Michael Jackson asked one of his potential dates on a 1972 episode of the show.

“Well, we’d have fun,” the girl answered. “We’d go out to dinner, and then I’d go over to your house.”

Mr. Lange was born Aug. 15, 1932, in St. Paul, Minn., where he discovered a passion for radio after winning an audition at a local station.

He hosted a show for two years before attending the University of Minnesota and doing a three-year stint in the Marine Corps, according to the Bay Area Radio Museum.

His big break on network TV came in 1962, when he was made an announcer and sidekick on “The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show.”

Later, after “The Dating Game” brought him national recognition, he also hosted the game shows “Hollywood Connection,” “$100,000 Name That Tune” and “The New Newlywed Game.”

Mr. Lange also worked as a disc jockey for decades in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area. When he retired from broadcasting in 2005, he was the morning DJ for KABL, a northern California station specializing in playing music from the Big Band era to the 1970s.

Mr. Lange once told the Bay Area Radio Digest that his favorite aspect of the medium was that “you don’t have to worry about lighting directors and cameramen or script writers and all that.”

“Good radio is still the most fun,” he said. “It always will be. Plus, you don’t have to wear makeup and you don’t have to shave.”

In addition to his wife, survivors include five children; two stepchildren; a sister; and four grandchildren.