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Ed McMahon's Money Problems: Should We Really Care About Millionaires in Financial Distress?

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For the past couple of months we have been subjected ad nausea to the financial woes of Tonight Show announcer and TV pitchman Ed McMahon, and with all the legitimate concerns of ordinary citizens, who've lost their jobs and/or homes, I have to ask who really gives a damn?

Frankly, I have little sympathy for folks like McMahon, who have been gifted with extraordinary success and, in his case, incredible luck, having been propelled from relative obscurity as a studio announcer to national prominence thanks to the generosity of his colleague Johnny Carson. It was Carson, who'd been offered the Tonight Show, who insisted that his Who Do You Trust announcer move along with him to his long run gig at NBC late-night.

Since that fateful day in 1962, McMahon has become a well-known pitchman and TV Host of Star Search, making millions and millions of dollars in the process. How many of us have shared his good luck and fortune? Obviously very few, but somehow the bulk of us manage to make do, living our lives without the capacity or necessity of going on shows like Larry King Live et al to engender sympathy.

Is his bad luck a legitimate news story? Yes. But the real question is why he has not been lambasted for stupid behavior. Instead, we are told that he was such a generous man, who liked to tip big and had alimony to ex-wives and had to pay for his daughter's legal problems, etc. We are also expected to feel bad that he can't get the price he wanted to sell his multi-million dollar mansion.

When people are going homeless or downsizing to two or three bedroom apartments, it's hard for me to feel sorry for a guy who could have quietly sold his home at a loss, paid his bills and moved to a really nice house in Sherman Oaks. True, it might not have been the sort of downsizing recently announced by Candy Spelling (whose decision presumably had nothing to do with financial trauma), but it wouldn't have been the sort of extreme hardship so many of his fellow Americans have been suffering.

As someone who has been up and down in the entertainment industry and never nearly as far up as Ed McMahon, I have to take a more cynical attitude regarding his plight. Those of us who struggle to pay our bills and sometimes take jobs of lesser quality in order to do so, and without which face the prospect of living on the street, cannot and should not feel pity for such a man. Dismay is a better word. There is no excuse other than extreme stupidity regarding the handling of his finances or enormous vanity fed by delusions of grandeur to keep up a style of living, which his declining income no longer afforded.

I remember hearing about an Academy Award Nominated actress, who once reportedly said "Things were so bad we were down to our last quarter of a million." A quarter of a million dollars! A sum few of us will ever attain in a bank account. So, forgive me if I've offended any of you, but I have no patience for such folks or other rich people who cry about the lessening of their lives when it was poor financial planning and foresight on their part that created the problem, and so it was really their own damned fault in the first place.