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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant - Immediate Start - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant - Immediate ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders