Ed McMahon's Surprising Relationship with Publishers Clearing House

Do You Think of Ed McMahon Delivering PCH's Oversized Checks? Think Again!

2006 Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon - Day 2
••• Ethan Miller / Getty Images

When Ed McMahon passed away, one question came up over and over again: how will Publishers Clearing House notify their winners now? The answer is easy: they'll notify their winners the same way they always have, because Ed McMahon never worked for PCH.com!

Why Is Ed McMahon Associated with Publishers Clearing House?

For many years now, a popular sweepstakes myth places Ed McMahon at the front door of Publishers Clearing House's multi-million dollar winners with an over-sized check and a bottle of champagne. If you do a Google search for Ed McMahon and PCH, you'll come up with over 32,000 websites that mention both names together.

The public's determination to associate McMahon with PCH is baffling. Ed McMahon was never a spokesperson for Publishers Clearing House. He worked for a rival company called American Family Publishers, while PCH winners have always been notified by their popular Prize Patrol.

American Family Publishers (AFP) is no longer in business. They were a New Jersey-based competitor of Publishers Clearing House, and they had a similar business model. Both companies were direct marketers who sold magazine subscriptions.

Both companies used large sweepstakes, with prizes worth hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, to promote their services. And both ran afoul of the law for deceptive sweepstakes practices that caused people to think they had already won a prize, or that they needed to make a purchase to win.

AFP was faced with lawsuits about deceptive marketing practices, much like PCH. The company changed its name to American Family Enterprises before filing for bankruptcy in 1998, according to Wikipedia.

Ed McMahon and fellow entertainment giant Dick Clark both worked for American Family Publishers, filming commercials and delivering prizes for the company. Neither ever worked with Publishers Clearing House. Perhaps American Family Publishers has passed out of the mainstream consciousness, so people associate their spokesmen with the more famous company.

Want to see the celebrities in action? You can watch an American Family Publishers commercial from 1995 on YouTube, which features both Dick Clark and Ed McMahon..

Who Was Sweepstakes Celebrity Ed McMahon?:

Anyone who grew up watching Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show is familiar with Ed McMahon's voice. Mc Mahon did the famous introduction for The Tonight Show, calling out his catchphrase, "Heeeeeere's Johnny," every night as the comedian walked on stage.

Ed McMahon worked on The Tonight Show for 30 years, from 1962 to 1992 and had a long-running stint on Star Search from 1983 to 1995 and on TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes. He also appeared in several movies.

Perhaps his most famous role, however, was being a spokesperson for magazine company American Family Publishers. The company promoted magazine subscriptions with large sweepstakes, and Ed McMahon would show up unannounced at the winners' doors, surprising them with the news that they had won a life-changing prize.

Ed McMahon's Personal Life:

Edward Leo Peter McMahon, Jr., better known to the public as Ed McMahon, was born on March 6th, 1923 in Detroit, Michigan. Married three times, he had six children: three boys and three girls. One son died before McMahon did, in 1995.

Ed McMahon was a fighter pilot in the US Marine Corp. He served in World War II and the Korean War.

Despite his comedic successes, McMahon ran into financial trouble due to overspending, his multiple divorces, and a neck injury that prevented him from working. "If you spend more money than you make, you know what happens. And it can happen. You know, a couple of divorces thrown in, a few things like that," McMahon said in an interview on Larry King Live. He had to work out a deal with his lender to allow him to keep his Beverly Hills home.

Ed McMahon suffered from bone cancer and various other health problems. He died peacefully on June 23, 2009 at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in California at the age of 86.