LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - From Star Search to Publisher's Clearing House, Ed McMahon will be remembered for a lot of things. But in the hearts of many he will always be remembered as the loyal straight-man to Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show".
McMahon's publicist said he died after midnight this morning at UCLA Medical Center. He had been battling bone cancer and pneumonia. TV personality, Joan Rivers, says McMahon was a good guy and neighbor who represented the American spirit.
"And, he also is a great American success story," said entertainer Joan Rivers. "He started out on the board walk in Atlantic City, you know, chopping vegetables and selling kind of like funny choppers."
While Ed McMahon ruled television airwaves for years, his successful career lead him to a town right in East Texas.
Everyone remembers that famous opening.
But that's not the only opening East Texans will remember Ed McMahon for. Back in 1978 McMahon graced East Texas for the grand opening of the Longview mall.
"Ed McMahon was here because he was the good will ambassador for our company," said Frankie Parson, the Longview mall manager back then. "He traveled around the country and represented and the Simons at grand openings and other major events."
KLTV's own Joan Hallmark even interviewed the TV icon at the mall's grand opening in August of 1978.
"This is Ed McMahon on stage at center court right there in front of Dillard's," said Parson. "And, he's shaking hands."
She remembers Ed coming to Longview along with several other super stars.
"This of course is Smoking Joe Frazier, Billy Carter [and] Grizzly Adams," she said.
The event was so huge because it also marked the start of Longview's first balloon event liftoff, known today, as "The Great Texas Balloon Race". Balloon pilot Bill Bussey had the privilege of meeting Ed McMahon.
"I remember his (Ed McMahon's) wife too and I recall just what a great gentlemen he was and also he exuded happiness," said Dr. Bill Bussey. "I mean, you meet the man and you see him in real life [and] he was exactly the way he was on television."
East Texas angler Barry Hanson also has fun memories of meeting Ed in L.A. at a muscular dystrophy event.
"I started down the escalator, and this gentleman to my left says, "Oh, excuse me," and I stopped and I looked, and it's Ed McMahon," said Hanson. "So he looks at my name tag and goes, 'Tyler...Longview. Oh yes, I know it well.' The funny part of the whole thing became everybody knew who he was, but they didn't know who I was and were trying to figure out that I had to be somebody because I was with Ed McMahon
McMahon died at 86 years old and leaves behind his third wife and five children.