A sad day. The best second fiddle in show biz, Mr. Ed McMahon, crossed over the line of the living at age 86.
Growing up, Ed was the quintessential sidekick to Johnnie Carson on “The Tonight Show”… his was the voice that forever hard-wired “Heeeeeeere’s Johnnie!” into the gray matter of millions.
He gave softball-sized joke set-up lobs to Johnnie, and had a laugh that was infectious. He was the original celebrity who was famous for being famous.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Ed because if not for him, I would not have achieved the success in my career I have. Hmm, sounds like story time…
Back in the early 80′s, Ed McMahon was the spokesperson for Publisher’s Clearinghouse. His face was plastered on all kinds of incessant direct mail pieces that blanketed anyone with a pulse. A standard part of the direct mail package was a letter with a picture of Ed in the corner. Under the picture of a smiling Ed were the immortal words “From The Desk of Ed McMahon”.
The letter from Ed told of the great opportunity to win the fantabulous Publisher’s Clearinghouse and the incredible savings available on all your favorite magazines. This letter and Ed’s persona pimping Publisher’s Clearinghouse was a cultural cliche. And I stole it to help sell myself.
I cut out the picture of Ed and “From The Desk of Ed McMahon” and I wrote a letter of endorsement for a young copywriter. The letter began, “My name’s Ed McMahon and although I don’t usually make endorsements, I’m writing to tell you about a terrific copywriter named Patrick Scullin…”
It went on and on about how he’d met me at a party he was at with Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, The Pope and Sammy Davis, Jr., and how they were talking about how they hated name droppers.
It had stupid gags like that and it sold pretty hard on my skills as an ad writer. Well, the letter worked like crazy opening the doors of good agencies. Unfortunately my portfolio was full of hatefully bad ads. Still, the letter gave hope there was some talent lurking in me somewhere, and my ability to shill for myself demonstrated I might have what it takes to be a good adman.
At the time I wrote this letter, I had five years experience working at mediocre agencies and for The Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus as an advance man. With this letter, I finally got a break. I was hired at a terrific agency– The Richards Group in Dallas. I learned a lot, grew a lot, met my wife and began down a career path that had me pinging across the country (like I was in the Witness Protection Program) working at some of the best agencies in the land.
I have Ed to thank for my big break. Well, Ed and my sleazy ability to shamelessly vampire off his face and fame.
Thanks, Ed. You will be sorely missed.