December 22, 2009

The stars we lost in 2009

Posted: 01:23 PM ET

(CNN) - The recent passing of actress Brittany Murphy adds another high-profile name to the list of those who have died in 2009.

The year seems to have been filled with an inordinate amount of high-profile deaths - some even on the same day.

Among those who passed: Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Natasha Richardson, Bea Arthur, Dom DeLuise, Karl Malden, David Carradine, Patrick Swayze, John Hughes, Ed McMahon, Walter Cronkite and Don Hewitt.

Authors John Updike, Frank McCourt and Dominick Dunne died, as did blues legend Koko Taylor, Ventures guitarist Bob Bogle, Mary Travers of Peter, Paul & Mary, guitar innovator Les Paul and Adam "DJ AM" Goldstein.

In sports, NFL players Steve McNair and Chris Henry died as did veteran basketball coach Chuck Daly.The politcal world mourned the loss of Sen. Edward Kennedy, and former U.S. Housing Secretary Jack Kemp.

Even celebrity pitch personalities weren't immune as 2009 also saw the passing of Oxiclean pitchman Billy Mays and Gidget, the chihuahua best known for hawking Taco Bell.

But was 2009 any more notable for celebrity deaths than other years? Or, in our hyper-caffeinated, overly Twittered culture, is there simply more awareness?


Filed under: Don Hewitt • Ed McMahon • Kennedy • Michael Jackson • Patrick Swayze • Walter Cronkite

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June 23, 2009

Larry Remembers His Friend Ed McMahon

Posted: 03:12 PM ET

Below, Larry reflects on the loss of his friend, Ed McMahon.  We'll be talking about Ed's life and career tonight on the show.  Doc Severinsen and Joan Rivers will be among our guests.

Ed was a really terrific guy to be around.  He was a great storyteller, Irish, a marine, a skilled announcer, and a wonderful foil for Johnny Carson.  Ed always carried himself as a top professional.  I always liked and admired him.  He once introduced me at a speech in Orange Country, and he introduced me with his trademark, "Heeeeere's Larry."  I gotta tell you, it felt really good.McMahon-FG-1

One of the beautiful things about Ed, and this is very important in our profession, is he was the same off the air as he was on.  I've always tried to be like that myself.  Arthur Godfrey told me the secret in this business is there is no secret - be who you are, and Ed was always himself.  I think that was the key to his success, and the key to the kind of career he had.

He wasn't a true star.  He couldn't carry a show by himself.   An "Ed McMahon Show" probably wouldn't have worked.  He was a born sidekick, and the beauty of Ed was he realized that and didn't try to make more out of it than it was.   Hugh Downs was Jack Parr's sidekick, but Hugh was a pretty good comedian in his own right.  Conan O'Brien has Andy Richter, who's also very funny.  Then there's Ed.  He was a generalist.  He wasn't great at any one particular thing, but he was comfortable with himself and his role, and that made the audience comfortable with him.  What you saw was what you got, and there's no trick to that - you either have it or you don't.

Ed was also a very good salesman - he sold himself, "The Tonight Show," and the many products he was a spokesman for.  He was also very good at selling himself.

Unfortunately, there was quite a bit of sadness at the end of his life.  The saga involving his house was very sad.  He came on the show to talk about and I could tell it really, really hurt him.

There was also a lot made out of Ed's friendship with Johnny Carson.  I think Ed made more of their relationship than was there, but I don't blame Ed for this.  Johnny had no really close friends.  He was a distant guy, and kept people at arms lenght.  Ed was probably as close as you could get to Johnny, but they weren't buddy buddy.  Ed made a career off his relationship with Carson after Johnny's death, and I think some people resented him for that, but I can't really say I blame him for trying to capitalize on that relationship.

You really have to admire Ed for having the kind of career that he did.  He did it by being himself - and that was about as good as they come.

Filed under: Ed McMahon • King's Things • LKL Web Exclusive

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