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An Appreciation: Ed McMahon (1923-2009)

June 23, 2009 | 11:05 am

Although he did other things in his 86 years, Ed McMahon, who died Tuesday in Los Angeles, will be remembered mostly as the man who sat next to Johnny Carson, except when more important celebrities came between them.

Notwithstanding the dozen years of hosting "Star Search," a role in the 1997 Tom Arnold sitcom "The Tom Show," a high-profile Cash4Gold ad during the last Super Bowl and all that knocking on people's doors in the name of American Family Publishers, McMahon was a professional sidekick, a less-than-equal partner in an enterprise of which he was nevertheless a vital part: Thinking of Johnny, one proceeds quickly and naturally to Ed, who, by dint of association, was almost as famous as his boss -- I say "almost" to include that fraction of the world that may have seen or heard of Carson but never watched his show.

It's easy to underestimate his accomplishment -- or even to wonder whether it should be called an accomplishment at all. We live in a nation of aspiring quarterbacks, pitchers, lead singers and presidents, where we are told to dream big and have it all. (The vice presidency of the United States is regarded as a rarefied form of failure.) But in a world where everyone is innately a star, what does it mean to settle for life as a mere moon?

Read the rest of Robert Lloyd's appreciation of Ed McMahon here.

Read the full obituary here.