Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ed McMahon: "Tonight Show" Sidekick; Budweiser Pitchman; and Cultural Icon

Ed McMahon March 6, 1923 - June 22, 2009

"Ed McMahon dies at 86"
CNN (June 22, 2009)

"Ed McMahon, the longtime pitchman and Johnny Carson sidekick whose 'Heeeeeeerre's Johnny!' became a part of the vernacular, has died.

"McMahon passed away peacefully shortly after midnight at the Ronald Reagan/UCLA Medical Center, his publicist, Howard Bragman, said Tuesday

"McMahon, 86, was hospitalized in February with pneumonia and other medical problems...."

Ed McMahon has been a feature on America's cultural landscape for decades, and not just because of his 1962 to 1992 gig on "The Tonight Show." He's hosted "Star Search" and "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes," and done commercials for Alpo dog food Budweiser, and American Family Insurance.

Ed McMahon: A Few Notes and Links

Nosing around for this post, I picked up a little more information about EdMcMahon, some of which didn't get into the CNN article.

Ed McMahon's full name is Edward Peter Leo McMahon Jr., his father was Irish and Catholic, his mother Pennsylvania Dutch. The senior McMahon was "a promoter, an entrepreneur, a traveling salesman, and a fundraiser for charities and hospitals and clubs by selling punch boards and running bingo games...." (The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia) Ed McMahon's mother was an actress and had grown up in her grandmother's theatrical boardinghouse.

Ed McMahon started practicing to be an announcer in his grandmother's parlor. He was ten at the time.

I also ran into this clarification on Mr. McMahon's first gig:
"...While many sources report that McMahon's first appearance before a microphone was as a 15-year old caller at a New England bingo game, Ed tells a slightly different story. He says he landed his first broadcasting (or microphone) job at 15 for a small circus located on the Lowell Common. He was a soundtruck driver. Later, he pitched passersby, items on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Some area residents may remember the tall guy hawking a vegetable chopper or free fountain pens (where you had to buy the pen point). That was Ed McMahon...." (The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia)
Ed McMahon's been married three times:
  • Alyce Ferrill
    1949-1976, ended in divorce
    Michael (died of cancer in 1995)
  • Victoria Valentine
    1977-1989, ended in divorce
    Katherine Mary (adopted)
  • Pamela Hurn
    (stepson) Lex
While getting Mr. McMahon's family background, I learned that his son, Michael McMahon, was a counselor for abused children before he died of cancer in 1995.

And, Pamela seems to be alive and well.

Muffin, the McMahon's dog, died of a mold-caused disease: but aside from a clumsily-worded phrase in an online biography, it seems that Pamela survived. At least, she was being interviewed well after Muffin died.

Ed McMahon: Salesman, and Proud of It

My generation may know him best as Johnny Carson's sidekick on "The Tonight Show," but Ed McMahon saw himself a little differently:
"...Mr. McMahon had few if any peers as a pitchman. By his estimate, he did more than 60,000 commercials on radio and television. 'Of all the things I am, most of all I'm a salesman,' he declared in his 1998 memoir, 'For Laughing Out Loud.' 'I've always said with great pride, if I can hold it up or point to it, I can sell it.'..." (The Boston Globe)

That's Funny, You Don't Look Catholic

Ed McMahon graduated from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. - apparently because he could major in speech and drama there. (The Boston Globe) In common with many articles on celebrities, very few mention Mr. McMahon's faith. It looks like he went Catholic churches, though.

A tip of the hat to bryanfischer, on Twitter for the heads-up on EdMcahon's Catholic faith.

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