Ed McMahon Dies at 86
Tonight Show Sidekick, Much More
Screen legend Ed McMahon poses inside the Architectural Digest Green Room at the 60th Primetime Emmy® Awards held at the Nokia Theatre in September 2008 in Los Angeles, California.
Watch McMahon's exclusive conversation with the Television Archive about his life and career. Excerpt below.
Ed McMahon, the longtime sidekick of former Tonight Show host Johnny Carson whose signature introduction “H-e-e-e-e-e-ere’s Johnny!” boomed into American homes for 30 years, died Tuesday, June 23, 2009.
McMahon, 86, died shortly after midnight at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in the company of his wife, Pam, and other family members, according to his publicist, Howard Bragman.
No cause of death was stated, but McMahon has been battling numerous health problems in recent months.
In addition, McMahon had been best by financial troubles following a 2007 accident that resulted in a broken neck, which prevented him from working.
McMahon and Carson had worked together for nearly five years on the game show Who Do You Trust? when Carson took over NBC’s late-night show from Jack Paar in October 1962. McMahon played second banana on Tonight until Carson retired in 1992.
In addition to his tenure on Tonight, McMahon hosted several shows over the years, including The Kraft Music Hall and the popular talent contest Star Search.
He also served as co-host of the United Negro College Funds telethon with singer Lou Rawls for many years and as co-host of Jerry Lewis’ annual Muscular Dystrophy Assn. telethon for more than three decades. .
With Dick Clark, McMahon appeared on TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes. McMahon and Clark also partnered on promotional campaigns for American Family Publishers’ sweepstakes. McMahon appeared in numerous commercials for Budweiser and other Anheuser-Busch beers.
As an actor, McMahon had supporting roles in such films as Fun With Dick and Jane and Just Write. In the late 1990s he had a regular role on the TV sitcom The Tom Show, starring Tom Arnold.
In 1998, McMahon released his autobiography For Laughing Out Loud: My Life and Good Times.
Over the past few years, McMahon was often in the news due to medical and financial problems. It was reported in June 2008 that he was facing possible foreclosure on his Beverly Hills home. By year’s end, a deal was worked out allowing him to stay in his home, but legal action involving other alleged debts continued. Among those who had stepped up with offers of help was real estate mogul Donald Trump.
Edward Leo Peter McMahon, Jr., was born on March 6, 1923, in Detroit. He grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts. He got his start on television playing a circus clown on the 1950-51 variety series Big Top.
During World War II, he served in the Marine Corps, and he was a fighter pilot during the Korean War.
In addition to his wife, Pam, McMahon is survived by children Claudia, Katherine, Linda, Jeffrey and Lex.
On August 15, 2002, McMahon was interviewed by the Television Academy’s Archive of American Television.
An acknowledgment of his passing, along with excerpts from his interview, is available online here.
The eight-part video interview may be viewed in its entirety here.
To learn more about this life and works of this American Archive of Television personality online, please visit the Archive of American Television Update blog.