Ed McMahon, a television pioneer who warmed "The Tonight Show" couch for nearly 30 years as Johnny Carson's jovial sidekick and announcer, died early Tuesday. He was 86.

McMahon died at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, according to his publicist, Howard Bragman. The cause of death was not announced, but McMahon had been in failing health for some time, with a number of issues that required his hospitalization.

Initially unable to work after breaking his neck in a fall in 2007, McMahon made news a year later when he defaulted on $4.8 million in mortgage loans and was facing the possible foreclosure of his multimillion-dollar Beverly Hills estate, which had been on the market for two years. An outside party purchased the mortgage and the McMahons were still living in the home.

"If you spend more money than you make, you know what happens. A couple of divorces thrown in, a few things like that," McMahon, in a neck brace, said in June 2008 on CNN's “Larry King Live,” where he was accompanied by his wife, Pam.

In 2008, McMahon filed a lawsuit against Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, two doctors and the owner of the home where he fell. The lawsuit was settled out of court last month, but the terms were not announced.

McMahon's health and financial woes marked an unexpected turn of events for the high-profile TV celebrity whose career began in 1949 and spanned more than half a century. During that time, he was rarely absent from the screen.

He was the host of the syndicated “Star Search” for 12 years and a co-host of "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes" with Dick Clark on NBC for nine years.

He also played a clown for eight years on the "Big Top" live circus show on CBS in the 1950s, and co-starred with Tom Arnold in a sitcom, "The Tom Show," on the WB network in the late 1990s.

And there were stints as host of the game shows "Missing Links," "Snap Judgment" and "Whodunnit?" in the 1960s and '70s.

In between, McMahon did commercials for Budweiser beer, Alpo dog food and hundreds of other products and services.

At one point in the early 1980s, he reportedly was the spokesman for no fewer than 37 banks around the country. And for years he served as the spokesman for American Family Publishers' national sweepstakes, famously informing Americans that "You may already have won $10 million!"

More recently, McMahon turned up in commercials for FreeCreditReport.com that poked fun at his financial woes. And he appeared with MC Hammer in a Cash4Gold commercial that aired during the 2009 Super Bowl.

But McMahon will be best remembered as the prototypal late-night talk-show announcer and second banana, who enthusiastically boomed out in his rolling baritone the familiar words, "And now, heeeeere's Johnny!"

As Carson's loyal, quick-to-laugh sidekick and comic foil, McMahon had so many catchphrases he could have done a medley of them in his nightclub act.

And as a sign of his effect on pop culture, McMahon was the inspiration for Jeffrey Tambor's late-night talk-show sidekick Hank ("Hey, now!") Kingsley on Garry Shandling's 1990s sitcom "The Larry Sanders Show."

When Carson died in 2005 at 79, McMahon described his longtime friend and colleague as being "like a brother to me."

This is "very sad for me," Doc Severinsen, the longtime bandleader of "The Tonight Show" during the Carson era, told The Times. "Ed was one of those guys who was bigger than life and full of joy. Always lots of laughs around him. We worked together for 30 years and went through a lot of layers of life together."

Edward Leo Peter McMahon Jr. was born in Detroit on March 6, 1923.

As a boy, he fell in love with radio. But it wasn't the stars of the shows he most identified with; it was the announcers -- men like Paul Douglas, Bill Goodwin, Harry von Zell and Don Wilson.