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Ed McMahon dies at 86
Tue Jun 23, 2009 10:55am EDT
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By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Ed McMahon, a fixture on U.S. late-night television for 30 years as the full-throated announcer and sidekick for Johnny Carson on NBC's "The Tonight Show," died on Tuesday at age 86, his spokesman said.
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, spokesman Howard Bragman said.
"He died early this morning with his wife and loved ones by his side," Bragman said.
McMahon had been battling pneumonia and other illnesses. Bragman declined to confirm or deny reports that the performer had been diagnosed with bone cancer.
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 U.S. 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" starting in 1962, stopping in 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 January 2005 at age 79.
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 ax.
McMahon was a leading figure on several other television shows, including the syndicated talent show "Star Search," which helped launch the careers of a number of well-known performers, including comedian Dennis Miller.
The long-time co-host of Jerry Lewis' annual telethon benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Association, McMahon also became well-known as the presenter of the American Family Publishing sweepstakes prize and as a pitchman on numerous TV commercials.
McMahon made headlines a year ago when he defaulted on a $4.8 million mortgage on his six-bedroom Beverly Hills mansion, although he later found a buyer for the house to avoid foreclosure.
The television 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 Center, accusing the hospital of failing to diagnose the neck fracture and botching two subsequent operations. Continued...
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