ED McMAHON: I COULD MAKE YOU THE NEXT BIG STAR

Published on: October 9, 2001

HEEEEEERE'S Ed McMahon! Nine years after leaving the "Tonight Show" couch and two decades after starting "Star Search," McMahon is once again scouring the nation -- looking for the next generation of American stars.

"What I like about my new TV show is that it's a true family program in every sense of the word. Everyone can enjoy it," the enduring TV veteran told The ENQUIRER in an exclusive interview.

And anyone with talent has a shot at getting on the show. Ed's scouts are crisscrossing the country, holding auditions for "Ed McMahon's Next Big Star," which airs Sunday nights on PAX TV.

What's more, you can also apply to be a contestant via the show's Web site: www.nextbigstar.com.

""I feel great doing the show," said 78-year-old McMahon. "A team of horses couldn't keep me down." "Each week contestants compete in five separate categories. The studio audience votes to determine the winners. Competitors will advance through the quarterfinals, followed by the semifinals and ultimately, the finals. Each finalist will have a chance to become the "Next Big Star."

"The program runs an hour," says Ed. "Each show features the categories of comedy, musical groups, kids' music, and male and female vocalist.

"The show has something for the whole family and creates a friendly competition as each family member picks the contestants they think will win."

Ed has a sexy blonde co-host on the show, singer Valeria, whose first single "Ooh La La" is featured on the hit movie soundtrack "Legally Blonde."

"Isn't it great that not too long ago she was singing songs at Venice beach for quarters? She's what this new show is all about," Ed told The ENQUIRER. "It is about hopes and dreams and having the chance to become the next big star."

McMahon's "Star Search" discovered Rosie O'Donnell, Dennis Miller, Sharon Stone, Ray Romano, Drew Carey, Christina Aguilera, LeAnn Rimes, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and many more.

"Justin was 8 years old when I first saw him and he came on 'Star Search' -- and now his group 'N SYNC is the hottest thing in the world!" beams McMahon.

In an added twist, many celebs who got their start with "Star Search" -- including Justin -- are coming back to rock the house with guest appearances.

For Ed, the show is also a family affair. His son Jeff is executive producer and his wife Pam is vice president of advertising and media. Quipped the affable host: "It's all McMahon all the time!"

-- LARRY HALEY