|Between his 12 years hosting the popular
syndicated show, Ed McMahon's Star Search, his 30 year network TV
appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, numerous
performances as host on specials and telethons, and his activities in TV and
radio commercials, McMahon is more familiar to most Americans than their own
McMahon's first professional stint as an announcer, at the age of fifteen, was on the sound-track of a carnival, ballyhooing the midway attractions around the state of Massachusetts. By eighteen he'd had three summers as announcer for a traveling bingo-parlor and had earned enough money to enroll in Boston College.
World War II interrupted both college and career, McMahon joined the Marines, got his wings at Pensacola Navel Base, and became Fighter-pilot instructor at various stations in the southern U.S. He also test-piloted fighters, including the sophisticated Corsair. After the war he returned to school as a Speech and Drama major at Catholic University in Washington, DC.
Earning his Bachelor of Arts in 1949, he moved to Philadelphia and into television, tackling his career in earnest. Again war intervened. In Korea, and once more in the Marines, McMahon flew 85 combat missions and rose to the rank of full Colonel. He was commissioned with the rank of Brigadier General in the California Air National Guard.
During 1956, while preparing for a show one day, his attention was distracted by a figure on the station's CBS monitor, a wiry young man giving off some hilarious body language. McMahon turned up the volume in time to hear the tiny image say, "Hi, my name is Johnny Carson. Within a year, McMahon got to meet Carson in-person when the latter, then hosting a daytime quiz show called Who Do You Trust? Was searching for a new announcer. McMahon got the job!
After four years of polishing their interplay, the team of Carson and McMahon took over The Tonight Show. All day long before their first broadcast, McMahon mulled over the problem of a suitable dramatic introduction for their premiere appearance. Minutes before air-time he remembered the success he'd had in radio with rolling his RRRs. A few moments later the trademark "Heeeere's Johnny" was born, and thirty years later, on May 22, 1992, history was made when the legendary late night institution taped its farewell show.
Being the Man-for-all Seasons on The Tonight Show was only part of McMahon's overflowing appointment book. Over the years he moved more into acting, appearing in theatrical and television features with such stars as Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, George Segal, Beau Bridges and Jim Brown. He also appeared on Broadway in the comedy The Impossible Years. Ed has co-hosted with Dick Clark the NBC specials TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes. In 1991, he returned to radio as host of How Do They Do That? on the NBC radio network. McMahon was host on the game show Whodunnit? and of countless special events such as the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade; America's Junior Miss Pageant; The Mother's Day Show From Las Vegas; and the Night of Stars, also from Las Vegas.
McMahon acknowledges the duty involved with fame and puts his popularity to work for good causes. He has co-hosted the annual Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon
for 30 years, and is a vice-president of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He is also on the boards of The Marine Corps Scholarship Fund and St. Jude's Ranch for Children in Boulder City, Nevada. He was recently named honorary chairman of the National Marine Corps Aviation Museum to be built at Cherry Point, North Carolina. He was President of the Catholic University Alumni Association for four years. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Horatio Alger Association. He received their award in 1984. Most recently, he starred along with Tom Arnold in his first sitcom The Tom Show on the WB network.