Gosh, it's been 30 years now since a good friend of mine who was a page at NBC in Hollywood asked if I wanted to spend the afternoon seeing Johnny Carson on the "Tonight Show." Who wouldn't! She got me a pass and let me into Johnny's studio about three hours before it started. I couldn't leave and couldn't move. There I was, all by myself in the place where Johnny hosted all his guests. Wow, I will never forget that.
The production crew fired up the lights, and the band members started strolling in and practicing, I loved listening to them play. Doc Severinsen was NOT leading them, because Ed McMahon was NOT working that night. They joked about having a guest host, but said Johnny was actually hosting the show that night.. this is October of 1978 I'm talking about. It was a magic night, but I never got to see or hear Ed McMahon say "Heeeere's Johnny!"
Thank goodness for the MDA Telethon. Fast forward about 20 years to 1999, and I finally had my first chance to say hello to this wonderful sidekick and 2nd banana at the meetings of the Telethon hosts. Ed loved having his picture taken with the beautiful co-hosts from stations around the nation, and they loved having their pictures taken with him.. so sometime during all that mayhem, I finally got to chat with him for Moment #1. Also, be sure to read about Melissa's close encounter with Ed in her blog today.
Three years ago, I walked up to Ed before the telethon meetings in Las Vegas that year, and asked if he would autograph his book about Johnny Carson for me. (I even told him the story about being in the audience the night he wasn't there! He chuckled, and signed my book.)
I will be holding up the book that Ed autographed for me, on our "13 News at 4" this Friday. Watch for that! Anyway, back to Moment #2..
Ed looked 83, but otherwise looked fantastic in his tailored suit. This was before his life and his health were about take some turns for the worse.We all know about his bouts with cancer, his claims of his botched surgery that left him unable to move his neck, and the foreclosure on his home. (He was rescued when Donald Trump bought his home for him, saying Ed was a national treasure who did not deserve to have this happen to him.) Good for the Donald.
On to Moment #3. The final time I was able to see Mr. McMahon was actually at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park. He had come to Kansas again to talk about Johnny in his video highlights show he took on the road. The video clips were all stuff you could see on the Tonight Show DVD, but to have Ed talk about them was special. I got up my nerve, and stood up to mention to Ed McMahon that I had just seen him with MDA, and asked about his involvement with Jerry Lewis. He told the huge crowd that one of the special parts of his life was helping the Muscular Dystrophy Association over the years, in raising more than one billion dollars to fight muscle diseases.
For that, Melissa and I also give our grateful thanks.
Ed was apparently getting tired, and had to wrap up his live show at JCCC. So he turned and said good night, then disappearing through the curtain, he was gone. We'll miss you at Labor Day and always, Ed McMahon. RH