LOS ANGELES — For years, Ed McMahon promised wealth, comfort and happiness as a pitchman for the American Family Publishers' sweepstakes. Now, he could use some of that cash himself.
The former sidekick to Johnny Carson on the "Tonight" show is in danger of losing his multimillion-dollar Beverly Hills home to foreclosure. Documents show that McMahon is nearly $644,000 behind in payments on a $4.8 million mortgage loan he got in 2005. Countrywide Home Loans Inc. filed the notice of default on Feb. 28, with the amount owed to "increase until your account becomes current," according to documents obtained by Celebtv.com.
As of Wednesday afternoon, McMahon's Mediterranean-styled house was still in the process of foreclosure; the bank hasn't taken it over yet and no trustee sale date has been set. McMahon and his wife, Pamela, are having "very fruitful discussions" with the lender to resolve the problem, spokesman Howard Bragman said Wednesday.
Bragman declined to give specifics about McMahon's finances, but said the 85-year-old television personality has been unable to work since he broke his neck 18 months ago. He did say that the current problems are unrelated to a toxic mold that spread through the structure, sickened McMahon and his wife, and led to the death of their dog in 2001. He received a $7.2 million settlement from that case.
The former "Star Search" host has found himself in the same situation so many homeowners have recently, said Daren Blomquist, spokesman for RealtyTrac, which follows foreclosure filings. He found that McMahon has taken out several loans on the house over the past few years, including a $300,000 home equity line of credit the same day he took out the $4.8 million loan in November 2005.
"You're using your house as a piggy bank because there's so much equity _ at least back in 2005 _ so you're able to take money out of it and use that for just spending in any way you see fit," Blomquist said. "But the problem with that in the long term is that with the housing in this market, you don't see it continue to go up in property value. Now, you see it going down in many areas ... and you still have to pay your mortgage payments. You don't have the option to take more cash out of the house."
Bragman said there was "a certain irony" in the fact that McMahon has always tried to connect with average Americans, and now he's experiencing some of their same problems.
"The part that really is touching, as Ed has said to me, is that, `I know I'm not alone in this. There's a lot of working-class Americans who are getting caught up in this situation, and my heart goes out to them.'"
He first bought the six-bedroom, five-bathroom, 7,000-square-foot house in January 1990; the purchase price wasn't mentioned in court documents. It's been on the market for the past two years and is listed at $6.25 million. The mansion is in a gated hilltop section off Mulholland Drive called The Summit, the same exclusive area where Britney Spears lives.
Photos of the estate, posted on the Hilton & Hyland realty Web site, show an imposing stone facade with a large driveway, a sweeping staircase and a large pool in the back. The listing boasts, "The master suite, with his and hers baths and closets, overlooks the yard and sweeping canyon."
McMahon is the latest celebrity to be hit by Southern California's foreclosure crisis. In May, former baseball star and "Juiced" author Jose Canseco had his property foreclosed in the San Fernando Valley. Canseco said then that he walked away from his $2.5 million, 7,300-square-foot home in suburban Encino because it didn't make sense to continue making payments.
Bragman said McMahon and his wife still live in their home and plan to remain there as long as possible: "He's a pretty proud man. I don't see him calling people and saying, 'Send money.' We're not going to do a telethon for Ed."
AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang contributed to this report.