I don’t think anyone will disagree that when Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon left “The Tonight Show”, it changed. Sure, Jay Leno was his own man and an icon in his own right, but as far as I’m concerned, it was the real deal with Carson and McMahon.
Now the “second banana” of that great team has left the stage. Ed McMahon – said “second banana” - passed away today. He was 86 years old.
McMahon had been dealing with declining health for quite some time. From dealing with mold problems in his house, to cervical spine injuries from a fall in 2007, to the Pneumonia that is reported to have been the cause of his death, it had been a bumpy ride for him at the end. But he had an incredible life – he was born in Detroit, Michigan and raised in Lowell, Massachusetts. He served in the Marine Corps during the Second World War and during the Korean Conflict as a fighter pilot and an air forward observer. His career in the Corps ended in 1966 with his retirement from the Reserve as a Colonel – news to me when I learned that, but it impressed me just the same.
He was the “human laugh track”, known for his booming laugh and outgoing – some would say “over the top” – personality. And he was also known for seconding Jerry Lewis for many years of the Labor Day Telethon. I would submit that his involvement with MD was probably much more worthy of praise than his years on “Tonight”, but it doesn’t matter a great deal as he was just as well known for each of these.
He is also remembered for his endorsement of Budweiser and the commercials with the Clydesdales. This series of commercials generated parodies of their own. Some were funny, and others were hysterical. WBCN Radio in Boston did some that were especially good back in the mid-80’s – so much so that McMahon himself went on the air to congratulate the staff of the morning show “The Big Mattress.” I remember listening to that particular broadcast and laughing until I cried because host Charles “you can call me Chuck” Laquidera figured out that he’d met his match…
Edward Leo Peter McMahon
March 6, 1923 – June 23, 2009
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord
And may Perpetual Light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace.