Edward Leo Peter "Ed" McMahon,
Jr. (March 6, 1923 – June 23, 2009) was an American comedian, game show host, announcer, and television personality.
famous for his work on television as Johnny Carson
from 1962 to 1992, the one-time fighter pilot
also hosted the original version
of the talent show Star Search
from 1983 to 1995, co-hosted
TV's Bloopers and
with Dick Clark
from 1982 to 1986, and presented sweepstakes
for the direct marketing
company, American Family Publishers
as is commonly believed, its main rival Publishers Clearing House
McMahon annually co-hosted the The Jerry Lewis Labor Day
. He performed in numerous television commercials
, most notably for Budweiser
. In the 1970s and
1980s, he anchored the team of NBC
conducting the network's coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day
McMahon appeared in several films
, Fun With Dick and
, Full Moon
, and Butterfly
, as well as briefly in
the film version of Bewitched
. According to Entertainment Weekly
, McMahon is
considered one of the greatest "sidekicks".
was born in Detroit to Eleanor
(née Russell) and Edward
Leon McMahon, a fund-raiser and entertainer. He was raised in
Massachusetts. He attended Boston College as a freshman in 1940-41 and later finished at
University of America, majoring in speech and drama after his first
military service 1942-45.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts
degree in 1949. He was a
member of Phi Kappa Theta
fraternity. McMahon began his career as a bingo caller in Maine when he was
this, he worked as a carnival barker
for three years in Mexico,
Maine. He put himself through college as a pitchman for vegetable slicers on the Atlantic City boardwalk.
broadcasting job was at WLLH-AM in his
native Lowell and he began his television career in Philadelphia at WCAU-TV.
Ed McMahon wanted to become a US Marine
fighter pilot. Prior to the US entry into World War II
, the Army
required 2 years of college for
entry into its pilots program. Ed McMahon enrolled into classes at Boston College. After Pearl Harbor was attacked, the military dropped the college
requirement for pilot training, so McMahon dropped out of school
and applied to the Marines. His primary flight training was in Dallas
and was followed up by fighter training in Pensacola where he received his carrier landing
He spent the next 2 years as a flight
instructor training other Marine pilots. McMahon finally received
orders to the Pacific fleet in 1945, but those orders were
cancelled after the Atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima
ending the war.
As an Officer in the reserves, McMahon was recalled to Active Duty
during the Korean War
. This time, he flew
the OE-1 (the original Marine designation for the Cessna O-1 Bird Dog
), a unarmed
single-engine spotter plane. He functioned as an artillery spotter
for the Marine Batteries on the ground and as a forward controller
for the Navy and Marine fighter bombers. He flew a total of 85
combat missions, earning 6 Air Medals
After the war, he stayed with the Marines, as a reserve officer
, retiring in 1966 as a
The Tonight Show
McMahon and Johnny Carson first worked together as announcer and
host on the daytime game show Who
Do You Trust?
(1957-1962). McMahon and Carson left the
show to join The Tonight
in 1962. He describes what happened when the pair
first met, the whole meeting being "... about as exciting as
watching a traffic light change".
For more than 30 years, McMahon introduced the Tonight Show
with a drawn-out "Here's Johnny!" His booming voice and constant
laughter alongside the "King of Late Night" earned McMahon the
the "Human Laugh Track
" and "Toymaker to the King".
As part of the introductory patter to The Tonight Show
McMahon would state his name out loud, pronouncing it as Ed "Mc MAH
yon", but neither long-time cohort Johnny
nor anyone else who interviewed him ever seemed to pick
up on that subtlety, usually referring to him as Ed "Mc MAN".
The extroverted McMahon served as a counter to the notoriously shy
Carson. Nonetheless, McMahon once told an interviewer that after
his many decades as an emcee, he would still get "butterflies" in
his stomach every time he would walk onto a stage, and would use
that nervousness as a source of energy.
He was also host of the successful weekly syndicated
series Star Search
, which began in 1983 and helped
launch the careers of numerous actors, singers, choreographers, and
comedians. He stayed with the show until it ended in 1995, and in
2003, he made a cameo appearance
the revival of the CBS
show, hosted by his successor, Arsenio
McMahon was the long-running co-host of the annual Labor Day
weekend Jerry Lewis MDA
. His 41st and last appearance was in 2008, making him
second only to Lewis himself in number of appearances.
McMahon and Dick Clark
television series (and later special broadcasts of) TV Bloopers and Practical
from 1982-98, when Clark
decided to move the production of the series to ABC
In 2004, he became the announcer and co-host of Alf's Hit Talk Show
on TV Land
. He has authored two memoirs, Here's
Johnny!: My Memories of Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show, and 46
Years of Friendship
as well as For Laughing Out
Over the years, he emceed
the game shows
McMahon hosted Lifestyles
, a weekend talk program aired on the USA Radio Network
. He also appeared in the
feature documentary film, Pitch People
, the first motion
picture to take an in-depth look at the history and evolution of
pitching products to the public.
In the early 2000s McMahon made a series of Neighborhood Watch public service announcements
parodying the surprise appearances to contest winners that he was
supposedly known for. (In fact, it is not clear whether the company
McMahon fronted, American Family Publishers, regularly performed
such unannounced visits, as opposed to Publishers Clearing House
and its oft-promoted "prize patrol".)
Towards the end of the decade, McMahon took on other endorsement
roles, playing a rapper for a FreeCreditReport.com
commercial and in
a Cash for Gold
commercial alongside MC Hammer
. McMahon was also the spokesman for
, a leading power
wheelchair and scooter manufacturer.
McMahon had three daughters and three sons:
- Claudia McMahon
- Katherine McMahon
- Linda McMahon
- Jeffrey McMahon
- Michael Edward McMahon (April 12, 1951 - July 28, 1995,
- Lex McMahon (stepson; adopted after McMahon married Pam
2008, it was announced that McMahon was $644,000 behind on payments
on $4.8 million in mortgage loans and was fighting to avoid
foreclosure on his multimillion-dollar Beverly Hills home.
McMahon was also sued by Citibank for
$180,000. McMahon appeared on Larry
on June 5, 2008 with his wife to talk about this
situation. In the interview, McMahon's wife Pam said that people
assumed that the McMahons had so much money because of his
celebrity status. Pamela McMahon also commented that they do not
have "millions" of dollars.
On July 30, 2008, McMahon's financial status suffered another blow.
According to Reuters, McMahon failed to pay divorce attorney Norman
Solovay $275,168, according to a lawsuit filed in the Manhattan
federal court. McMahon and his wife, Pamela, hired Solovay to
represent Linda Schmerge, his daughter from another relationship,
in a "matrimonial matter," said Solovay's lawyer, Michael
On August 14, 2008, real estate mogul Donald Trump
announced that he would purchase
McMahon's home from Countrywide
and lease it to McMahon, so the home would not be
foreclosed. McMahon agreed instead to a deal with a private buyer
for his hilltop home, said Howard Bragman, McMahon's former
spokesman. Bragman declined to name the buyer or the selling price,
but he said it is not Trump. "For Mr. Trump, this acquisition was
not business-related, but, as he has stated, was meant to help out
an American icon," said Michael Cohen, special counsel to Trump.
"If another buyer should emerge who will create the benefit Mr.
Trump sought for Ed McMahon, then he is clearly pleased." In early
September, after the second buyer's offer fell through, Trump
renewed his offer to purchase the home.
On April 20, 2002, McMahon sued his insurance company for more than
$20 million, alleging that he was sickened by toxic mold that
spread through his Beverly Hills house after contractors failed to
properly clean up water damage from a broken pipe. McMahon and his
wife, Pamela, became ill from the mold, as did members of their
household staff, according to the Los Angeles County Superior Court
suit. The McMahons also blame the mold for the death of the family
dog, Muffin. Their suit, the latest of many in recent years over
toxic mold, was filed against American Equity Insurance Co., a pair
of insurance adjusters and several environmental cleanup
contractors. It seeks monetary damages for alleged breach of
contract, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional
distress. A spokeswoman for the insurance company declined to
comment. On March 21, 2003, the long battle ended with McMahon
reaping $7 million from what was later discovered to be several
companies who were negligent for allowing mold into his home. Their
dog's death was confirmed to be caused by mold.
McMahon was injured in 2007 in a fall and, in March 2008, it was
announced he was recovering from a broken neck and two subsequent
surgeries. He later sued Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
two doctors claiming fraud, battery, elder abuse, and emotional
distress, and accused them of discharging him with a broken neck
after his fall in 2007 and later botching two neck surgeries.
February 27, 2009 it was reported that McMahon had been in an
undisclosed Los Angeles hospital (later confirmed as Ronald
Reagan UCLA Medical Center) for almost a month.
He was listed in
serious condition and was in the intensive care unit. His publicist
told reporters that he was admitted for pneumonia at the time, but
could not confirm nor deny reports that McMahon had been diagnosed
with bone cancer.
died at age 86 on June 23, 2009, shortly after midnight at the
Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los
His nurse, Julie Koehne, R.N. stated he
went peacefully. No formal cause of death was given, but McMahon's
publicist attributed his death to the many health problems he had
suffered over his final months. McMahon had said that he still
suffered from the injury to his neck in March 2007.
paid tribute to McMahon on his show later that night,
saying "It is impossible, I think, for anyone to imagine 'The
Tonight Show With Johnny Carson' without Ed McMahon. Ed's
laugh was really the soundtrack to that show."
that McMahon, with Carson, created "the most iconic two-shot in
broadcasting history. There will never be anything like
. McMahon was interred
at the Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills
Cemetery in Los Angeles.
- Ed McMahon's Barside Companion (World Publishing
Company, Copyright 1969 by Parthenon Productions, Inc.), Library of
- For Laughing Out Loud: My Life and Good Times (Warner
Books, 1998), co-written with David Fisher
- Here's Johnny! My Memories of Johnny Carson, The
Tonight Show, and 46 Years of Friendship (Berkley Publishing
Group – Penguin Group (USA, Inc.), 2005)
- When Television Was Young (2007)
- " Setting the Record Straight on Ed McMahon,"
Publishers Clearing House official
blog, March 15, 2009.
- Joel Keller,
" Ed McMahon did not work for Publishers Clearing
Squad, June 23, 2009.
- Ben Schott, Schott's Mischellany Calendar 2009 (New
York: Workman Publishing, 2008), March 21.
- Lasting Tribute online obituary.
- Social Security Death Index.
- "Ed McMahon fighting foreclosure on his Beverly
Hills home however holds deposits in offshore accounts unaccounted
for." AP News, accessed June 4, 2008.
- Ed McMahon explains his mortgage mess, CNN.com,
June 6, 2008.
- Ed McMahon ill with pneumonia - Reuters Reuters
UK February 27, 2009.
- Yahoo: Ed McMahon's death at 86.