There were plenty of enticing ladies in that "Age of Aquarius," the late 60s. TV had fantasy figures from Barbara Eden and Barbara Feldon to Diana Rigg and Stephanie Powers. But how many truly reflected the spirit of the SIXTIES, and especially that whole "England Swings" vibe? You might say Jean Shrimpton? Twiggy? Petula Clark? None were on TV in a regular series. I'd say Judy Carne was tops.
After two bland, almost-forgotten sitcoms (she co-starred on "The Baileys of Balboa" and then joined the suicidal Peter Deuel for the mild-mannered "Love on a Rooftop") she and her British accent emerged, with splashy panache and style, on "Laugh-In."
On that pioneering show she was sexy and sassy, impish and fun-loving. That's what the "British Invasion" and the "swinging" 60's was all about. No guns. No overt big-boobed sexuality (not that we didn't appreciate Honor Blackman's Pussy Galore). Judy Carne was cheerful; almost a Julie Andrews type. Julie starred in "The Boyfriend" in 1955, and Judy in the revival in 1980. But unlike Andrews, Carne was, CARNAL, although in a Carnaby way. She boasted about having fucked her way through her late teens, in bed with everyone from Stirling Moss to Anthony Newley. And once in America, she added Warren Beatty and Burt Reynolds, who would become her first husband.
"Sock It To Me," as chirped by Judy Carne, sounded frisky, not dirty. Most in the "Laugh-In" audience, especially kids, didn't really think too overtly about the idea of Judy being spread on her back and "socked." But that element was there. And she proved to be a sad, sad reminder of how the "flower power" era ebbed and then crashed, when her "sex and drugs" cheerfulness degenerated into abusive relationships and addiction. In 1977-78 she was arrested three times. In 1978 she literally crashed in a car accident, and for a brief time, she was memorably seen on talk shows wearing a kind of cage over her head, with bolts keeping her broken neck in place.
A few years later, and she was forgotten. In 1983 she turned up on a "Laugh-In" reunion show. Judy's embarrassing autobiography about laughing on the outside and crying on the inside arrived in 1985, and that was it. A few years later and she was just a has-been, taking a one-way ticket back home.
Judy disappeared back to the safety of Pitsford, which was near her original hometown in England. There, she was once again "Joyce," not Judy, and I guess that using her real last name (Botterill) helped keep her privacy. She was one of those rare celebs to evade the fanboys and the collectors who wanted to get an autographed index card by mail. Nobody seemed to know where to reach Judy Carne.
She didn't want to be reached. When she died, few people had anything to say. She didn't seem to have kept in touch with any of her "Laugh-In" co-stars. After all, she walked out on "Laugh-In" before its third year had ended. She was complaining that she was tired of "Sock it to Me" jokes and dancing around in a slim bikini covered in stenciled flowers. Some snickered that it was because she was jealous that Goldie Hawn had eclipsed her as the show's leading lady.
Over thirty years later, and her neighbors all seemed to say the same thing: "Oh, Joyce was a lovely lady. I'd see her walking her dogs." But talk to her? No, not really. Appear at a memorabilia show? NO, not really. What her income might've been, after all her legal problems, I have no idea. But selling photos of herself, or posing with big fat grinning Hoobastanks was not her deal.
Sadly, time has not been kind to "Laugh-In" either. The show seems dated and there aren't many DVDs available o it. Revisionist historians are quick to sneer that the show was "abusive to women," and "politically incorrect." How? Oh, "Laugh-In" promoted the stereotype of the bubble-headed idiot (Goldie Hawn), the loudmouth (Joanne Worley) and the ugly duckling nobody would want to fuck (Ruth Buzzi). And Judy was, of course, the abused sex object victimized by slapstick.
Just how often Judy appeared in public in England is hard to determine. Supposedly she made sporadic appearances in dinner theater productions. "She was a bit of a recluse," one Pitsford fellow admitted, and in her 70's was "frail."
"A Most Peculiar Lady," to paraphrase a certain song, she kept to herself to such a degree that people at first thought her death was a hoax. Who was going to confirm this? She had no agent? No friends? Her death on September 3rd was finallly confirmed on September 8th by a woman named Eva Duffy. Friend? No, a spokeswoman at Northampton General Hospital. Pneumonia was the cause of Judy's death.
"Reality," as the self-destroyed Mr. Williams used to say, "what a concept." So let's leave reality behind and enjoy the brief delusion that Judy is alive and well, and it's the happy late 60's again. Download "Sock it to Me," by Judy Carne.
JUDY CARNE SOCK IT TO ME