Celebrity deaths. Ed McMahon….  “Yessssssss!”

I met and shook hands with Ed McMahon about five years ago at an NAB convention in Philadelphia.  Ed was trying to get a syndicated radio show off the ground.  If he ever did, I never heard anything further about it.

Ed was bigger and brighter than life.  He may have been wearing television make-up at the time, but no matter.  

Before guys like Conan, Craig Ferguson and even Leno and Letterman there was Johnny Carson.  Ed was Carson’s sidekick for decades. Together, they invented the late night talk show format for television. After the Carson years, Ed could be seen hosting blooper shows, Star Search and others.

In 2006, however, McMahon literally broke his neck. Obviously, this impacted his ability to make a living and he began to get into trouble financially. 

Celebrities are real people with real trials and tribulations just like you and me.  They are no different.  They live, get sick and die.  There’s a beginning and end to their active careers and lives just like anyone.

While my impression having met Ed was that he was “bigger than life”, that was only because he was obviously PHYSICALLY bigger than the image of him projected on millions of television screens.    This guy was the real deal; a genuine human, yet a respected icon whom Johnny Carson must have had a pretty high opinion of him (to keep him on the show for so many years).  

Toward the end of the Carson run, Johnny had called Ed “a rock.” He was always there, when a bit was falling flat or an interview was going sour, or something WASN’T funny, but Ed still laughed.   Yet with his home near foreclosure toward the end of his life, he managed to straighten things out before his death in June of 2009.

I wouldn’t say I paid a huge amount of attention to the Carson show or Ed’s work when he was active.  I did recognize that he was part of the fabric of American culture and entertainment much more so than some of the other celebrities who have passed more recently.  If you missed some of those years simply because you were born too late, you probably have a different reference point.

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