“Gentleman” McMahon Brought Laughs to LA

Fans visited Ed McMahon's star on Hollywood Boulevard Tuesday in memory of a man who entertained television audiences for more than 50 years.

The 86-year-old TV personality and former late-night sidekick died Tuesday morning surrounded by his family at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in California, his agent Howard Bragman said.

"You could not know Ed McMahon without being his friend," Bergman said Tuesday morning.

And McMahon had a lot of friends in Los Angeles. He was best known for his role as Johnny Carson's sidekick on the "Tonight Show."

Long-time "Tonight Show" crew member Joe Drago recalled McMahon's generosity  During an interview Tuesday morning outside the former "Tonight Show" studio on NBC's Burbank lot, Drago said working with McMahon was a privilege.

"He was very gracious," Drago said. "There was a time on stage, we didn't have (people) to do runs for us. We needed something in the middle of a sketch. He saw me trying to call and find somebody to drive out and get something. Ed walked up and said, 'Hey, go take my limousine. Just tell him you need to make a run.' Here I am, this young kid driving to the store in a limousine. The driver even opened the doors for me. Driving back up to the stage every body's watching me get out of Ed's limousine."

McMahon had a "multiple of health problems the last few months," Bragman said, though he declined to name the entertainer's cause of death. A person close to the TV personality told the Associated Press that he had bone cancer, among other ailments, and had been hospitalized for several weeks.

Earlier this year, McMahon had been hospitalized in intensive care with pneumonia and other illnesses.

"I think he was one of the guys that helped define Los Angeles," Bergman said. "When Carson moved out to LA from NY it became a show that defined Burbank and defined this area. Ed was really the face of that show in many ways. Ed loved to be out and be around.

"He could meet the president or he could meet the guy at the gate at NBC and you got the same Ed McMahon. And that's the kind of gentleman he was."

Born in Los Angeles, McMahon grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts. During World War II, he was a Marine aviator, flight instructor and test pilot. Discharged in 1946, McMahon graduated from The Catholic University of America in 1949, and he began his television career at WCAU-TV in Philadelphia.

The Hollywood legend fell on hard times recently and became embroiled in financial trouble.

His home was reportedly to be placed on the auction block later this month after he fell behind $644,000 on his $4.8 million mortgage.

"Last year, when the news came out that he was potentially losing his house, he said, 'I want to stand up and tell the world that I made a mistake. I want people to know that I can go through this and they can go through this with dignity with their heads held high,'" Bragman said. "He was inspirational to others."

He recently settled lawsuits against a hospital and doctors over difficulties stemming from the broken neck he suffered in fall of 2007. In 2002, he sued various insurance companies and contractors over mold in his house and collected a $7 million settlement.

In the 1950s, he emceed the game shows "Missing Links," "Snap Judgment," "Concentration" and "Who Dunnit?" before returning to active duty in the Korean War in 1953.

He remained in the Marine Corps Reserve, retiring with the rank of Colonel in 1966 and was then commissioned as a Brigadier General in the California Air National Guard.

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