Best known for his 30 years as Johnny Carson’s second banana on NBC’s “Tonight Show,” Ed McMahon continued in show business long after Carson retired in 1992. McMahon had suffered numerous maladies in the past few years and died Tuesday morning at a hospital in Los Angeles. He was 86.
McMahon’s long career in broadcasting began in the 1940s at WLLH-AM in Lowell, MA, where he grew up. He moved on to WCAU-AM &TV in Philadelphia in the 1950s. He was paired with Carson in 1957 as announcer for the ABC daytime game show “Who Do You Trust?” When Carson left to join the “Tonight Show” as host in 1962, McMahon went with him and delivered his iconic “He-e-e-e-e-e-ere’s Johnny” for Carson’s entire 30-year run on the NBC show.
After the “Tonight Show,” McMahon continued to appear in movies and commercials. He hosted TV shows, including “Star Search” and “TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes.” He had long served as co-host of the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon.
Lesser known than his media career was his military career. McMahon was a US Marine Corps pilot in World War II and took a break from his early broadcasting career to return to active duty as a fighter pilot in the Korean War. He retired from the Marine Corps Reserve as a Colonel and was then commissioned as a Brigadier General in the California Air National Guard.
McMahon made media headlines after breaking his neck in a 2007 fall and then suing the hospital which failed to diagnose it. Unable to work for a time, he successfully fought foreclosure on his home in 2008 but was reportedly again facing foreclosure at the time of his death. His publicist said only that McMahon had been suffering from numerous health problems in recent months. An AP report said he had bone cancer.