Longtime MDA Telethon Anchor Ed McMahon Dies
TUCSON, Ariz. June 23, 2009 — Ed McMahon, one of America’s best known television personalities and longtime anchor of the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon, died today at age 86 in Los Angeles.
McMahon, of Beverly Hills, Calif., was an MDA corporate member from 1974 to 1988 and served as a volunteer MDA national vice president since 1992. He became a member of MDA’s board of directors in 2001.
McMahon perhaps was best known as the announcer on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," from 1962 to 1992. Subsequently he became host of the popular syndicated show, "Ed McMahon's Star Search," and co-host with Dick Clark on NBC's "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes." He also starred in the comedy series, “The Tom Show” with Tom Arnold, and appeared in several movies.
Jerry Lewis, MDA national chairman, said, "Ed was a dear, dear friend. We were always making jokes, cracking each other up. He cared deeply about people with neuromuscular diseases. On the Telethon, he was my right-hand man – it’s hard to imagine doing the show without him.
"Ed also performed many services for MDA behind the scenes," Lewis continued. "Of the thousands of celebrities who’ve helped ‘my kids’ during the last 50-plus years, none has given more, and given more gladly, than Ed McMahon."
His last appearance on the Telethon in 2008 was McMahon’s 41st, second only to Lewis’ number of appearances.
McMahon, president of McMahon Communications Inc., appeared on an MDA Telethon as early as 1967, and became its anchor in 1973, a position he held until his death.
In his 1998 memoir, “For Laughing Out Loud,” McMahon remembers that his first appearance on the Telethon was as a celebrity guest asking viewers for donations. But while he was making his pitch, Lewis temporarily left the stage, leaving McMahon standing there alone when his speech was done. So, “being a professional, I introduced the next performer at the proper time. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, here they are, let’s give a big round of applause…’ As I finished I looked into the wings and saw Jerry standing there, arms folded, watching me. ‘Go ahead,’ he told me. ‘You’re doing a great job.’” It was the first step in a decades-long Telethon partnership.