Star Senior Citizens Are Doing … What?

The olds are at it again.

In an arena normally occupied by blond, 20-something bimbos -- Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, et al. -- 65-plus stars are stealing the spotlight.

Of course, Paul Newman's death Friday was bound to dominate headlines. But other senior citizen celebs are shuffling up to the forefront of pop culture, and not via the usual Home Shopping Network skin-care lines and incontinence infomercials. Ed McMahon's rapping for, Cloris Leachman's dancing with the stars and William Shatner's ranting on YouTube.

"I've had problems, why not utilize my problems to do something good? I think it'll help other people around my country," McMahon told "Strange things are happening in our nation right now. Why not make a contribution? It seemed like a natural thing."

The 85-year-old former Johnny Carson sidekick stars in two videos for, spitting rhymes, riding with honies and rocking a leopard-print tracksuit. According to his publicist, they'll be on the Web in full in the coming week.

In July, McMahon made headlines when he defaulted on a $4.8 million mortgage on his six-bedroom Beverly Hills mansion. Donald Trump came to his rescue in August, when he announced that he would purchase the aging comic's home from Countrywide Financial and lease it to McMahon, thereby avoiding foreclosure.

As any rapper will attest, the best rhymes hail from hard times. Judging from his lyrics, McMahon seems to agree:

"When I retired, I was famous/I had money and glory/I bought a house for 6 mil/I thought nothing could touch me/Until my credit went south, and debt started to crunch me/Next thing I know, instead of playing gin rummy, I was scrambling just to make ends meet/It wasn't funny."

But now, working again, McMahon's on the rebound and counting himself among the ranks of Los Angeles' rap elite.

"Me as a rapper is kind of a wild thing," he said. "I can sing the blues -- I've been known to sing the blues on many occasion. Rapping is difficult but somehow we nailed it down, and I am now officially a rapper."

Maybe McMahon's not on the level of Snoop or Dre. But his venture propelled him back into the headlines for all the right reasons, which was the goal. It's been a common theme this year: For many older stars, post-50 power plays have paid off.

"Some of these over-50 celebs are doing their best work in these years. Look at Clint Eastwood. Dustin Hoffman has a great movie coming out. Glenn Close just won an Emmy," said Meg Grant, entertainment editor for AARP the magazine. "We've seen, in this past year, a difference in the physicality: Harrison Ford still doing 'Indiana Jones' and still using his body, Meryl Streep dancing and singing in 'Mamma Mia.' That scene where she pulls Pierce Brosnan's shirt off? You normally see actors in their 20s doing that."

Leachman -- and the, ahem, assets of hers that caused "Dancing With the Stars" judge Len Goodman to shout "Mind your cleavage!" last week -- fits firmly in that category.

The 82-year-old Academy Award-winning actress took over the dance floor Sept. 22 during the Season 7 premiere of "DWS." She begged viewers to vote for her because she was an orphan, thrust her gams up on the judges' table and hopped on top of judge Carrie Ann Inaba's lap. She may not last long on a show that's put her toe-to-toe with the likes of Brooke Burke and Kim Kardashian. But she sure as hell isn't going down without a fight.

Then there's Shatner. The 77-year-old "Star Trek" vet and "Boston Legal" HR-violation-waiting-to-happen took to YouTube to clear up any confusion about whether or not he'd reprise his role as Captain Kirk in J.J. Abrams' "Trek" movie. Earlier this month, Abrams told SciFi Scanner he came up with a way to bring Shatner back as Kirk but nixed the scene because "it didn't quite feel right."

In a YouTube video posted last week, Shatner said he was never told about the possible role.

"Nobody ever came to me and said, 'We have a cameo,'" he says. "The truth is, I wouldn't have wanted to do a cameo because you were having trouble fitting it in. … I'm just sorry that I'm not in your wonderful movie. I would've loved to have been in it. If you make another one, maybe you could think of ways of bringing Captain Kirk back to life."

Turns out, Shatner's slice of self-endorsement was just part of a bigger pie. Asked by to comment further on his video, Shatner responded via e-mail: "This video was part of my new online venture,, which is broadcast on YouTube to reach as much of my fan base as possible. It's the new way of doing things."

Indeed, it is. Harnessing the Internet and some of the most popular segments of pop culture that may not have been around when they ruled Tinseltown (read: Reality TV) is the best way for senior stars to hang onto their cache, especially as entertainment moves from the bigger screens to the LCDs of laptops and iPhones. Certainly, it's better than HSN and infomercials.

"Here's the key, and this is very important," McMahon said. "I am back working again. I have a dear friend, he's my best pal down in Florida. Two nights ago, I was chatting with him, and he said, 'You know what the best medicine in the whole world for you is? Working again,' that's what he said. And I'm working again and I feel great."