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Ed McMahon

Ed McMahon

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Also Known As: Edward Leo Peter Mcmahon Jr. Died: June 23, 2009
Born: March 6, 1923 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Detroit, Michigan, USA Profession: announcer, TV host, TV personality, commercial spokesperson, actor, producer, carnival barker, singer, TV writer, cookware salesman, bingo announcer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

). Essentially a talent show covering multiple genres of entertainment, "Star Search" served as an early stopover for comedians such as Drew Carey, Brad Garrett, Sinbad, Carrot Top and Rosie O'Donnell, as well as country music acts Sawyer Brown and LeAnn Rimes.In short, McMahon became ubiquitous - a big, jovial voice and increasingly grandfatherly countenance known best for being "the human laugh-track" at the end of Carson's couch and for, well, being ubiquitous. Send-ups of McMahon became nearly as frequent across the pop-cultural skein, most notably in a parody song by Weird Al Yankovic and Phil Hartman's imitation on "Saturday Night Live;" the latter actually adding a catchphrase to McMahon's repertoire, "You are correct, sir!" In a devilishly hilarious homage, HBO's groundbreaking inside-showbiz sitcom "The Larry Sanders Show" (1992-98) portrayed a fictional talk show that featured Hank Kingsley (Jeffrey Tambor), an unctuous, marginally talented, corporate endorsement-obsessed second banana to Garry Shandling's pathologically insecure title character. Though the Sanders character obviously drew much from Carson protégé and CBS late-night staple David Letterman, Shandling - a former Carson...

). Essentially a talent show covering multiple genres of entertainment, "Star Search" served as an early stopover for comedians such as Drew Carey, Brad Garrett, Sinbad, Carrot Top and Rosie O'Donnell, as well as country music acts Sawyer Brown and LeAnn Rimes.

In short, McMahon became ubiquitous - a big, jovial voice and increasingly grandfatherly countenance known best for being "the human laugh-track" at the end of Carson's couch and for, well, being ubiquitous. Send-ups of McMahon became nearly as frequent across the pop-cultural skein, most notably in a parody song by Weird Al Yankovic and Phil Hartman's imitation on "Saturday Night Live;" the latter actually adding a catchphrase to McMahon's repertoire, "You are correct, sir!" In a devilishly hilarious homage, HBO's groundbreaking inside-showbiz sitcom "The Larry Sanders Show" (1992-98) portrayed a fictional talk show that featured Hank Kingsley (Jeffrey Tambor), an unctuous, marginally talented, corporate endorsement-obsessed second banana to Garry Shandling's pathologically insecure title character. Though the Sanders character obviously drew much from Carson protégé and CBS late-night staple David Letterman, Shandling - a former Carson guest-host - intimated that the love/futz/abide dynamic between the two, as well as producer Artie (Rip Torn), offered a hyperbolized peek at the behind-the-scenes relationships at "The Tonight Show." McMahon, who graciously did a cameo on one "Sanders" episode, had his share of discomfiture with his own corporate relationships: Colonial Penn coming under scrutiny in the late 1980s for offering seniors health insurance at deceptive rates, and American Family Publishing file for bankruptcy in 1999 after years of public contention and even litigation over how it promoted its sweepstakes ("You may have already won!"). One of McMahon's own funny recollections about the "Artie" of "The Tonight Show," producer Fred de Cordova, could have come right out of a "Sanders" script. A few years before Carson stepped down, de Cordova and McMahon were having drinks at the renowned Beverly Hills restaurant Chasen's, when de Cordova said, "Ed, I want to tell you something. I've been producing this show for 20 years and I still don't know exactly what it is you do, but whatever it is, you're the very best at it."

When Carson retired from "The Tonight Show" in 1992, so did McMahon. Carson rigorously maintained off-camera privacy throughout his career, but McMahon maintained they shared an intimate and respectful friendship until Carson's death from cancer in 2005. Despite stepping down to make way for Jay Leno and crew, McMahon remained busy with "Star Search" for another three years, and in 1997, even netted a regular cast role in the Tom Arnold sitcom "The Tom Show" (The WB, 1997-98), but the balance of his work since that time was largely guest appearances playing himself. He did return to the second banana role briefly in 2004, reenacting his Carson duties alongside the furry, wisecracking "alien" puppet ALF in "ALF's Hit Talk Show," which ran only seven episodes on TV Land. Early in the show, he asked, himself as much as ALF, "Why am I doing this?"

The broader impetus may have resided in the deterioration of McMahon's financial circumstances. In 2002, a burst water pipe in his Beverly Hills house had turned even uglier. In the aftermath of the repair and cleanup, a toxic mold developed in the house, causing the death of the family dog and his wife Pamela (McMahon's third marriage) and members of the household staff to become ill as well. McMahon sued his insurance company, insurance adjusters and contractors for negligence, settling the case out of court for a reported $7.2 million. But more recently, as the economy took a downward turn, that same home became a liability for McMahon, drawing a spotlight to a rarified corner of the U.S. housing crisis - that even celebrities were not immune from the hostile economic environment. In March 2008, Countrywide Financial Corp. filed a notice of the McMahons' default on $4.8 million in mortgage loans, news of which was made public in June. Citibank compounded matters on June 9, suing to recover $179,687 it had loaned the announcer. McMahon told CNN's Larry King that the six-bedroom, five-bath house had been on the block for two years, listed at $6.25 million, but with the housing market ebbing, then crashing, he had received no offers and faced foreclosure. Appearing on King's show in a neck-brace, he claimed he had broken his neck 18 months previous, which had prevented him from working, but did not offer details as to how he had incurred the injury. A spokesman later claimed he had taken a nasty fall. McMahon called his circumstance a "perfect storm," saying "If you spend more money than you make, you know what happens," he told King. " a couple of divorces thrown in, a few things like that. And, you know, things happen." On June 23, 2009, McMahon died with his wife, Pam, and other family members at his side after suffering from a multitude of health issues. He was 86.how," and Carson brought McMahon along for the amazing ride.

Carson's imprint on the show became legendary, but it also proved a perfect meld of McMahon's talents, both with his straight-man set-ups of Carson and his adeptness at the early TV practice of in-show commercials, so-called live spots (though not actually done "live" on taped shows like "Tonight"), which recalled McMahon's old boardwalk pitch days. True to the two friends' rhythmic symbiosis, for example, once during one of McMahon's live spots for Alpo dog food, the dog cast to eat the food simply walked away in the middle of the spot, prompting Carson to jump down to all fours, crawl over and take a bite himself. In these and myriad other incidents, Carson and McMahon found themselves ushering absurd, sometimes juvenile and occasionally embarrassing TV moments into people's living rooms. All of this absurdity prompted one of their regular bits, when they would look at each other and one would say wistfully, referring to themselves: "graduates of major universities."

As his name and voice reached household status, McMahon lengthened his résumé across a spectrum of formats. NBC gave him concurrent work hosting some of its game shows through the 1960s and into the 1970s, including "Snap Judgment" (1967-69) "Missing Links" (1963-64), a brief stint on the long-running "Concentration" (1958-1973) and the short-lived "Whodunit" (1979). In 1967, McMahon signed on to be Jerry Lewis' sidekick for his annual Labor Day Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy, a relationship that would last for four decades. He did stints anchoring coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. He even scored a supporting role - in a rarity, not playing himself - in the 1977 feature comedy "Fun with Dick and Jane." By the late 1970s, he was also becoming a prolific advertising spokesman, notably for American Family Publishing's Sweepstakes - in which he would famously show up with a big check to make random entrants wealthy - Colonial Penn Life Insurance, and Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser, which gave Carson more fodder for his regular and hilarious references to McMahon as a boozehound.

In 1982, McMahon hooked up with his old friend, Dick Clark, whose company partnered with Carson's eponymous production firm on a series of NBC comedy specials, initially called "TV's Censored Bloopers" and "Television's Greatest Commercials;" the latter hosted by McMahon and TV comedy journeyman, Tim Conway. Though generally just aired as filler programming, the specials rated well enough for NBC to commit to a hybrid series, "TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes" (1984-86) starting in the fall of 1984 and hosted by both Clark and McMahon. Meanwhile, in 1983, McMahon made his famous foray into syndicated television as host of a concept that would anticipate a glut of hybrid reality/game shows two decades hence: "Star Search" (1982-1995

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Bewitched (2005)
2.
 Weather Man, The (2005)
3.
 Pitch People (2000) Himself
4.
 Safety Patrol (1998) Grandpa Bozell
5.
 For Which He Stands (1998) Governor
6.
 Mixed Blessings (1997)
7.
 Just Write (1997) (Cameo Appearance)
9.
 Love Affair (1994) Himself
10.
 Butterfly (1981) Mr Gillespie
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1938:
Began his career as a bingo caller in Maine when he was 15
:
First broadcasting job was at WLLH-AM in Lowell, MA
:
Served in the US Marines during WWII; earned wings at Pensacola Naval base and became a fighter pilot instructor
1949:
Began his television career as on-air personality in Philadelphia, PA at WCAU-TV
1950:
Performed as a clown on "The Big Top" (CBS)
1957:
First worked with Johnny Carson, as announcer and host on the daytime gameshow "Who Do You Trust?" (ABC)
1962:
Worked alongside Johnny Carson as the announcer and sidekick on NBC's "The Tonight Show"
1963:
Hosted the game show "Missing Links" (NBC)
1967:
First notable acting role, "The Incident"
1967:
Hosted the NBC game show, "Snap Judgment"
1972:
Headlined the NBC comedy special "Ed McMahon and His Friends ... Discover Cypress Gardens"
1973:
Returned to films after a six-year absence in "Slaughter's Big Rip-Off"
1977:
Co-starred with Jane Fonda and George Segal in "Fun With Dick and Jane"
1979:
Hosted the short-lived NBC game show "Whodunit?"
1979:
Acted in the TV-movie "The Kid From Left Field"
1980:
Featured in the NBC TV-movies "The Great American Traffic Jam" and "The Golden Momemt - An Olympic Love Story"
1981:
Co-starred in the NBC miniseries "The Star Maker"
1981:
Had supporting role in the instant camp classic "Butterfly" featuring Pia Zadora
1982:
Co-hosted a series of NBC specials, "Television's Greatest Commercials"
1983:
Hosted the syndicated TV talent show, "Ed McMahon's Star Search"
1982:
Co-hosted with Dick Clark NBC's "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes"
:
With Clark, became a commercial spokesperson for American Family Publishers
1991:
Hosted a number of ABC specials "Super Bloopers & New Practical Jokes" alongside Clark
1994:
Played himself in the feature film "Love Affair"
1997:
Had regular role on the sitcom "The Tom Show" (WB) playing the host of a morning talk show
1998:
Played a grandfather in the ABC TV-movie "Safety Patrol"
1998:
Published his autobiography <i>For Laughing Out Loud: My Life and Good Times</i>
2000:
Was the subject of the A&E's Biography segment "Ed McMahon: America's Sidekick"
2001:
Returned to weekly TV as host of "Ed McMahon's Next Big Star" (PAX-TV); also produced
2004:
Was the announcer and co-host of "Alf's Hit Talk Show" (TV Land)
2005:
Penned second book <i>Here's Johnny!: My Memories of Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show, and 46 Years of Friendship</i>
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Boston College: Boston , Massachusetts -
The Catholic University of America: Washington , Washington D.C. - 1949
The Catholic University of America: Washington , Washington D.C. - 1949

Notes

McMahon has lent his talents as announcer each year to Jerry Lewis' Labor Day Telethon to fight Muscular Dystrophy.

He has appeared in guest spots on numerous TV shows, mostly playing himself.

In November 2001, McMahon, along with former US President Gerald Ford, received the Ninth Annual Tony Orlando Yellow Ribbon Medal of Freedom Patriot Award, presented in Branson, Missouri.

He received the Man of the Year humanitarian award from the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation (1981)

"He had a great gift," says friend Don Rickles. "He was a magnificent straight man. People like him don't exist anymore."---Don Rickles on McMahon, quoted in EW, April 8, 2005.

"My attitude was: Be in when needed and out of the way when not needed. That's an art form."---McMahon on working with Johnny Carson to Emmy magazine, issue No.2, 2005.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Alyce McMahon. Married in 1949; divorced in 1976; mother of McMahon's four oldest children.
wife:
Victoria McMahon. Former flight attendant. Married in 1977; adopted daughter together in 1985; divorced in 1989.
wife:
Pamela Hurn. Fashion designer, former advertising executive. Born c. 1954; married on February 22, 1992.

Family close complete family listing

daughter:
Claudia McMahon. Mother, Alyce McMahon.
son:
Michael Edward McMahon. Counselor for abused children. Born in April 1951; died of cancer on July 28, 1995; mother, Alyce McMahon.
daughter:
Linda McMahon. Mother, Alyce McMahon.
son:
Jeffrey McMahon. Born c. 1960; mother, Alyce McMahon.
daughter:
Katherine Mary McMahon. Adopted in 1985 with second wife Victoria McMahon.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Ed McMahon's Barside Companion" World Publishing Corp
"Slimming Down" Grosset & Dunlap
"Here's Ed; or, How to Be a Second Banana, From Midway to Midnight G.P. Putnam's Sons
"The Art of Public Speaking" G.P. Putnam's Sons
"Ed McMahon's Superselling: Performance Techniques for High Volume Sales" Prentice Hall
"For Laughing Out Loud: My Life and Good Times" Warner Books
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