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‘Tonight Show’ Sidekick Ed McMahon Dead at 86

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Ed McMahon, the top banana of second bananas, died peacefully early Tuesday morning at Los Angeles' Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, publicist Howard Bragman said.

He did not give a specific cause of death but did cite a "multitude of health problems the last few months."

McMahon, 86, was a household name for 30 years as the announcer and sidekick to Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show." His trademark opening "Heeeeeere's Johnny!" became part of the cultural lexicon, echoed most memorably by Jack Nicholson in 1980's "The Shining."

McMahon also served as host, announcer and sidekick on numerous other television shows, including "Star Search," ''TV Bloopers & Practical Jokes" and Jerry Lewis' annual Muscular Dystrophy telethon. He appeared as himself on such shows as "Scrubs" and "Just Shoot Me."

After leaving "The Tonight Show" with Carson in 1992, McMahon remained in the public eye as a product pitchman, most recently playing off his iconic image in a Cash 4 Gold commercial during this year's Super Bowl.

He also became synonymous with American Family Publishers, showing up at the doors of unsuspecting winners to present a giant-sized check.

In recent years, he was in the news for home and money troubles. In 2001, he had to leave his Beverly Hills mansion after becoming sick from toxic mold.

Despite winning a lawsuit over the matter, money woes arose, jeopardizing his ownership of the house. McMahon appeared on Larry King's talk show last year wearing a neck brace and saying a broken neck he suffered in a fall in 2007 had prevented him from earning money to pay off his debts.

Last year, McMahon performed a rap in a Web ad for FreeCreditReport.com, playing off his own financial troubles.

Recently, investors took over his outstanding loan with the promise he could remain in the hilltop home.

Born in Detroit and raised in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, McMahon began training for his future career by calling bingo games as a teen and hawking vegetable slicers on the Atlantic City boardwalk to pay college expenses.

He served as a pilot in the Marine Corps in World War II before graduating from Catholic University and starting his announcing career in Philadelphia. He went back to Marine service during the Korean War, flying reconnaissance missions.

McMahon joined Carson in 1957, serving as the announcer for Carson's game show "Who Do You Trust?" before both men ascended to NBC's "Tonight Show" in 1962. That partnership lasted three decades, with McMahon playing straight man during such bits as Carson's "Carnac the Magnificent" and providing a hearty laugh - and often a "Hi-Yo!" - during the host's monologues, skits and interviews.

McMahon is survived by his third wife, Pam, five children and six grandchildren.

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