Ed McMahon dies at 86

Ed McMahon, a fixture on US late-night television for 30 years as the full-throated announcer and sidekick for Johnny Carson on NBC's "The Tonight Show," died yesterday at 86 after battling a series of illnesses in recent months.

The veteran TV personality best known for his nightly introduction of Carson in a deep, booming voice with the drawn-out line, "Heeeeeeeeere's Johnny!" died at a Los Angeles-area hospital, and was immediately hailed by friends and former colleagues as an icon of American popular culture.

"He died early this morning with his wife and loved ones by his side," his spokesman Howard Bragman said. McMahon had been battling pneumonia, among many other illnesses.

Outgoing, affable and possessing a robust, baritone voice, McMahon began his career with stints as a bingo caller, carnival barker and boardwalk pitchman before becoming a broadcast announcer and TV host.

Trained as a US Marine fighter pilot during World War II, he flew missions in Korea in the 1950s.

He went on to become one of the most celebrated sidekicks in TV history as Carson's right-hand man on "The Tonight Show" from 1962 to 1992, when Carson retired as host.

The gregarious McMahon, a frequent comic foil for the Carson during ad-libbed banter at the top of the show, was familiar even off camera for his "Hi-oooooh!" and frequent guffaws at Carson's monologue jokes, especially when a punch line fell flat. Carson died in 2005 at age 79.

"Ed's introduction of Johnny was a classic broadcasting ritual -- reassuring and exciting. Ed was a true broadcaster, and an integral part of Johnny Carson's 'Tonight Show.' We will miss him," talk show host David Letterman said yesterday.



ENDURING CATCHPHRASE

McMahon's signature introduction of Carson endured as a catch-phrase. Jack Nicholson's maniacal character in the 1980 movie thriller "The Shining" announced "Heeeeeeere's Johnny!" as he burst through a door to menace his wife with an axe.

McMahon was a leading figure on several other TV shows, too, including the talent show "Star Search" in the 1980s.

He was a long-time co-host of Jerry Lewis' annual telethon benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and he became well-known as the presenter of the American Family Publishing sweepstakes, as well as a pitchman on numerous TV commercials.

Lewis said McMahon was "a dear, dear friend. We were always making jokes, cracking each other up ... It's hard to imagine doing the (telethon) without him."

California governor and former movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger said America had lost "one of its greatest and most memorable television personalities."

"From 'Star Search' to the 30 years he spent in our living rooms as an integral part of the 'Tonight Show,' Ed brought joy and laughter to millions of Americans," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

McMahon made headlines a year ago when he defaulted on a $4.8 million (2.9 million pound) mortgage on his six-bedroom Beverly Hills mansion, although he later found a buyer and avoided foreclosure.

The star blamed his financial woes on having broken his neck about 18 months earlier, leaving him unable to work. He also sued Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre, accusing it of failing to diagnose the neck fracture and botching two operations.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?