LOS ANGELES – Ed McMahon, the loyal “Tonight” show sidekick who bolstered boss Johnny Carson with guffaws and a resounding “H-e-e-e-e-e-ere’s Johnny!” for 30 years, died early Tuesday. He was 86.
McMahon died shortly after midnight at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center surrounded by his wife, Pam, and other family members, said his publicist, Howard Bragman.
Bragman didn’t give a cause of death, saying only that McMahon had a “multitude of health problems the last few months.”
McMahon broke his neck in a fall in March 2007, and battled a series of financial problems as his injuries prevented him from working.
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Doc Severinsen, “Tonight” bandleader during most of the Carson era, said McMahon was a man “full of life and joy and celebration.”
“He will be sorely missed. He was one of the greats in show business, but most of all he was a gentleman. I miss my friend,” Severinsen said in a statement.
Don Rickles, a frequent “Tonight” guest, said McMahon was “a friend from the day I first walked” onto the show’s stage.
“That kind of fun will never be repeated. Ed was the best at what he did and will never be replaced. Another giant is gone,” the comedian said.
David Letterman paid tribute to McMahon as a “true broadcaster” and key part of Carson’s show.
“Ed McMahon’s voice at 11:30 was a signal that something great was about to happen. Ed’s introduction of Johnny was a classic broadcasting ritual – reassuring and exciting,” Letterman said, adding, “We will miss him.”
Jerry Digney, who was McMahon’s longtime publicist, said McMahon was the most “courtly, good-natured person you could ever meet” and that he brought “elegance, humor and a new sense of importance” to the role of second banana.