See, Ed is 85. He went to the press this past July asking the public for help essentially and give a face to the current home foreclosure meltdown that has been gripping this country this year. Ed McMahon, the familiar face who created the “Heeeere’s Johnny!” line and a host of other dopey expressions (“Heyo!”, “You are correct, sir!”) while sitting on his ass at NBC Studios in Burbank all those years, is still in the news. Now you might think that an octogenarian would be taking it easy, relaxing, lucky to be alive and praying that each day is pain free and that you’re limber. That’s what a typical 85-year-old would do. Some would reflect on a long life with grandkids, passing on some wisdom and leaving some kind of proud legacy, knowing that your life is ebbing and that, bless your heart, you’ll be gone soon. Such a life is not Ed McMahon.
Last July, McMahon blazed his way on to world headlines when he revealed that he was behind about $644,000 on his $7 million home in the Hollywood Hills. He did so in a neck brace. He claimed that he was in a painful neck injury and that the past 18 months had been spent mostly resting and that —get this—he had been unable to find work and thus deal with his house payments. You would have thought this was some saintly figure with all the press coverage: dear old Ed, Johnny’s pal and God love him, here he was putting himself and his ego out there for the world to pity. Yes, pity because it takes a lot to actually show yourself in narcissistic Hollywood as a 1) deadbeat who can’t afford to pay off a house and 2) a shameless charity case who isn’t above appearing anywhere near a camera to recount one’s own travails and basically beg for help —and money. This is your life, Ed McMahon and you are living it for all the world to see, and you don’t seem to care what younger generations of McMahons (or even friends of yours or colleagues) think about this kind of running “Save the Children” promotion.
I saw you on Larry King this summer. You were there with the neck brace again. God, you looked terrible.Your veneers looked like they were about to fall off and you grimaced in pain. When Larry, who could buy you 100 mansions, asked you how you felt, you tried to man up and look valiant. You’d get through this. Your trophy wife (well, she was once!) sat there, soaked in tears next to you. She has been cited as the reason behind her man’s troubles, running up credit card bills and other profligate spending that stretched their income so much that they fell behind on the mortgage. And doesn’t she work? If so, why doesn’t she? Why is he, neck jacked up, barely coherent and cadaverous, spread eagle on a worldwide TV talk show, having to air all his money problems and hope someone will toss him a dollar?
Since when was it socially acceptable for a celebrity to make such a public appeal for cash after this kind of financial humiliation? Didn’t stars used to just keep this kind of stuff quiet? Gary Coleman was broke because his parents took it; he was working as a security guard (ok, I know the image is strange), but at least he was collecting a check. Don’t celebrities declare bankruptcy and then try over, avoiding the spotlight? Not Ed. He presumed that all the “Tonight Show” love, all those years of “Star Search” (“I brought you Justin Timberlake, dammit!”) accounted for something. We are supposed to just look away at the trainwreck that he is living now and simply write checks (something Larry, with his fortune, didn’t do) because we are all fans of his.
And in fact, one famous fan did step in. Donald Trump, shameless self-promoter extraordinaire, announced in August that he would buy the house that McMahon owed money on. It would be “taken over” by a private buyer, according to the story, and that Trump would oversee it. For his part, Trump made some remark about how when he was studying at the Wharton Business School, the “Tonight” show with Carson and Ed McMahon really helped him get through. Trump does his good deed, writes it off on his taxes (charitable donation?), and good ol’ Ed somehow doesn’t have to eat in a soup kitchen. Except that McMahon ended up declining Trump’s offer and instead made a deal with a private buyer, allowing McMahon to lease it.
The story doesn’t end there. You see, when you put your shit out there and moan that you can’t pay your mortgage, and then when some benefactor steps in with some cash, other long-lost creditors (or predators, take your pick) come looking for you. A lending firm claimed that McMahon reneged on a $260,000 loan and was suing. The same report alleged another $475,000 in two other debt-related suits. Even the estate of Johnny Carson got into the act, claiming that McMahon did not pay back another six-figure loan. Now the Merv Griffin Group is suing for a $100, 000 loan it says McMahon never paid back. When it rains, it pours. When you have the cash all of a sudden, people want it from you.
Let’s now look at the next money-making scheme from deadbeat Ed, and somehow this all makes sense given the kind of career he’s had as a sidekick, promoter, host, hanger-on. Wikipedia, with a straight face, actually refers to McMahon as an “American comedian, game show host, announcer and television personality”. So how will it explain the new ad McMahon is doing with the fine folks at freecreditreport.com (see past post). In it, McMahon is wearing a tracksuit, being chauffeured around Los Angeles in a Cadillac Escalade golf cart and waxing lyrical about his very public financial troubles.
The still shots of the viral videos, which will premiere sometime in October, look pretty depressing. It’s not just that it isn’t humorous, but look what this man is reduced to, shilling for Experian, the credit reporting agency, and at the same time make fun of the financial predicaments he has been in. And collect a little cash along the way, get your name out there still. Because after all, it is about getting what’s yours, and make others feel that you still matter, and if you are miserable and talk about it, you can still get to stand beside Jerry Lewis and his MD telethon on Labor Day, or stand on stage at the miserable Emmy Awards show last Sunday just to scream “Here’s Johnny!” That alone must have snatched him enough for a taxi fare. Or the recent “surprise” visit to the Rachael Ray show as a New York City tour guide. Hey, every little dolla’ counts!
See, when you’re Ed McMahon, or when you are really down on your luck and you have some self-esteem to go on, you can always count on publicity –good or bad—to help you through. Remember –we are in a vulture culture, where no matter how high you get, we are always ravenous in our desire in bringing you down, and toss you a bone to lift you up again. Go on and get yours Ed, you deserve it. You have been a happy slave all your professional life because you never, well, did well in the spotlight yourself. You were always helping others look good. You caved in then and you seem to have no other self-respect left. Money’s gone? Oh well. Time to put the pimp suit on again.