Wednesday, 21 October 2020

How To Get To a Rooftop

All the stock company players on the first season of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In had been kicking around for a while, but when I tuned for the first show, there was only one I recognised—Judy Carne.

Being an avid sitcom viewer at the age of 9, I had seen her in Love on a Rooftop, which co-starred Peter Deuel. About all I remember about it is Rich Little was in the cast and I was waiting each week for him to do his John Wayne impression, which finally happened in one of the later episodes. The fact that I don’t remember much more about it maybe explain why it lasted only a season (or maybe after 55 years I just forget stuff).

Carne did a pile of interviews at the time the show was on. Two of them are below, one from the Associated Press’ TV columnist from August 5, 1966, and the other from the West Coast entertainment reporter for the National Enterprise Association, who would never get away with the line “But you know how women are” today. It appeared in papers starting around January 15, 1967.

Being charged 10 cents for a phone call was probably one of the smallest problems in Carne’s life. Her marriage to Burt Reynolds wasn’t a pleasant one, she enjoyed drugs a little too much, and she never reached the heights of Laugh-In after leaving the show in somewhat of a huff. She died in 2015.

But let’s look back to when her career started taking off.

Judy Carne Gets Third Try At TV
AP TV-Radio Writer
HOLLYWOOD (AP) — There is a widely held belief among actors, undoubtedly fostered by budget-minded producers, that any regular employment in television, no matter how dismal the series, helps s fledgling career.
"Forget it," commanded Judy Carne, who encountered her leanest days after her two frail comedy barks foundered in network channels with all hands aboard.
Judy, who had replaced Julie Andrews in the London production of "The Boy Friend," was imported five years ago to play the young English girl in the ill-fated "Fair Exchange."
Then, a couple of seasons back, she had a part in "Baileys Of Balboa," another disappointment. Now she is a co-star in ABC's upcoming young-marrieds comedy, "Love On A Rooftop."
But it was not previous experience that won her a third chance, it was an elimination contest that started with 20 girls, among them Nancy Sinatra. And Judy worked hard, with a coach and a recorder, to eliminate her native British accents.
The elimination process for "Love On A Rooftop" was a real ordeal. After the 30 girls had been arbitrarily reduced to four, each girl was subjected to a "personality test." This involved sitting down in front of a camera to be interviewed by a director who had a bit of free time.
Ultimately she was told she would probably be the choice — but only for the pilot episode of an unsold program, maybe a week's work. Then came two months while they were testing for the boy who would play her husband — a difficult time when she could not take any acting jobs that would tie her up for more than a few days at a time.
This went on from September until they finally shot the pilot one week in December.
The series is built around the adventures of a young $85-a-week apprentice architect and his bride (Judy), an uninhibited art student. The aim of the show is to capture some of the kooky quality of, say, "You can't take it with you," which would be nice.
Judy, separated from husband Burt Reynolds (who is starring in New York in his own new ABC series, "Hawk") rides to work on her motorcycle and spends networking hours taking singing lessons and keeping up her dancing.

Outspoken Star Has Problem
HOLLYWOOD (NEA) — Judy Carne ordered a steak "with a great big baked potato and lots of butter please." Then she talked about her weight problem. It is the fault, she said, of ABC-TV's "Love on a Rooftop" in which shes playing newlywed Julie Willis.
She started the series last summer at a nice, well-curved 112 pounds. The curves are still there but she's down to 103 pounds and . . .
"Just look at me," she said. "I've taken to wearing high necked sweaters because I have a very active face when I act and my veins show. You should feel my hip bones. They show too."
It's all because of the filming schedule, Judy says.
"I'm up at 5 a.m. and don't get home until 7 p.m. By then I'm too tired to eat so I just have a glass of hot milk and fall into bed."
Across from you at luncheon, red-haired, vivacious Judy doesn't look like a girl who should be worrying about her weight. But you know how women are. Nine pounds — up or down — is a crisis.
"The producer of the show even sent me to the studio hospital for some B12 shots. And you know what the studio sent ME the bill for them. I marched into the producer's office with that bill and said, 'Look, you ordered these shots.' It was a mistake and the shots were charged to the production."
Judy was nettled about the bill, she said, because of two regular deductions the studio makes from her paycheck as the star of "Love on a Rooftop."
And she frowned the news:
"You won't believe this — and I wish you would print it — but the studio (Screen Gems) charges me 10 cents for telephone calls and $4 a month for parking my car on the lot. I'd really be mad except I figure I'm lucky to be in such a good show. It's a lot of fun and so well written."
Judy is just as outspoken about other things, such as the personality test she took on her way to winning the TV series despite two previous series, "Fair Exchange" and "The Baileys of Balboa." The test was scriptless with Judy just being herself and answering questions asked off camera by a director.
"He asked me about my most embarrassing moment," Judy laughed, "and I told him, 'It's right now— this test. I've never been so embarrassed in my whole life'." That's our Judy.


  1. Carne had that same type of cute British flightiness that Neil Simon imbibed into the Pigeon Sisters in "The Odd Couple", or that the writers of "Frasier" created for Jane Leeves. "Laugh In" wasn't exactly the place to grow a character, unless you were good at improve like Lily Tomlin, and the late 60s/early 70s drug use got to a lot of celebrities of the day.

  2. I remember Judy on " The Bailey's of Balboa ", and I certainly watched " Love on a Rooftop ". If memory serves,I believe it was all part of ABC's Bewitched-That Girl-Thursday night line up. I also recognized her more that all the rest in the first season of " Laugh-In ". In the Spring of 1988, Tom Snyder actually had a " Laugh In "radio reunion on his show. It was a first. They would do television reunions, but that would be in the nineties. Heard it on WLS. Gary Owens, Ruth Buzzi, Arte Johnson, Joanne Worley and Alan sues were present. The whole group agreed that Judy was a major trouper on that show. Their admiration was undying. The trap doors, constant water thrown on her, all types of physical beatings whenever our girl said: " Sock it to Me ". She *Was* the Sock it to Me girl. I read her biography; " Laughing on the outside, crying on the inside ". Yep, the marriage to Burt was pretty rough, physically abusive. For comics like Lily Tomlin, " Laugh In" was a great vehicle to hone improvisational skills. Gary Owens said that " Laugh In " writer Lorne Michaels continued to write material for Lily after she left " Laugh In ". I agree with J. Lee that good writers, like those of " Frasier " helped Jane Leeves leave " The Benny Hill Show " aura behind, and shine in another direction. I think Judy could have also.