Friday, October 14, 2011

Judy Carne: The Sock It To Me Girl's Sad Life

Judy Carne has two major claims to fame.  She was married to actor Burt Reynolds from 1963 until 1965 and she was the Sock-It-To-Me Girl on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, the influential sketch comedy television show of the late 1960s and early 1970s.  On the popular program, hosted by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, Judy frequently wore bikinis and her body was often covered with graffiti.  With her trendy shag haircut and perky English accent, she popularized the catchphrase "Sock it to me!"

The daughter of a London fruit merchant, Judy was born Joyce Botterill on April 27, 1939 in Northhampton, Northhamptonshire, England.  Young Joyce displayed talent at an early age.  She received training at the Pitt-Draffen Academy of Dance and was accepted into the prestigious Bush-Davis Theatrical School for Girls in East Grinstead near London.  An instructor at the school began calling her "Judy," telling her that "Joyce" was not a good professional name.  The second part of Judy's stage name was taken from a character named Sarat Carn in the play Bonaventure by English playwright Charlotte Hastings.

In 1956, Judy Carne made her first television performance in a British program titled The First Day of Spring.  After building a respectable career on British TV, she was ready to seek fame and fortune in America.

Judy came to the United States in 1962, just ahead of The Beatles and the "British Invasion."  Producer Cy Howard brought her to Hollywood and cast her as Heather Finch in a new series called Fair Exchange.  While on a promotional tour for the show, she met an up-and-coming actor named Burt Reynolds. 

Judy married Reynolds on June 28, 1963.  Their marriage, however, was a disaster and they divorced acrimoniously in 1965.  Of her short-lived union with Reynolds, Judy made this comment: "Actors and actresses shouldn't be together.  Each is so involved in himself that there isn't room at the dinner table for the two of them."

Despite their failed marriage and bitter divorce, Burt was there for Judy in later years to help her overcome financial woes and drug abuse.  When he guest-hosted The Tonight Show, he invited Judy to appear with him.

Judy and Burt - wedding photo

By 1966, Judy had a leading role on an American television show, appearing in the romantic comedy Love on a Rooftop opposite the late Pete Duel.  She played the role of Julie Willis, an art student from a wealthy family, who marries David (Duel), a struggling apprentice architect.  They live in a small, walk-up apartment with a stairway leading to the roof where they enjoy a spectacular view of San Francisco.

Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In came along in 1968 and Judy became an instant celebrity on one of the hottest shows on television.  The fast-paced show was right in tune with the Swinging Sixties and it made household names of Judy and the other performers including Arte Johnson, Ruth Buzzi, Henry Gibson, Jo Anne Worley and Goldie Hawn.

On Laugh-In, Judy Carne usually found herself at the receiving end of numerous pranks such as being doused with pails of water whenever she mouthed her signature phrase, "Sock it to me!." She was a good sport and audiences like her for it but eventually she had enough of the endless pratfalls.

Judy with Goldie Hawn on Laugh-In

Judy in her Laugh-In Days

After only two years on the show, Judy decided not to renew her Laugh-In contract.  Tired of the grind, she feared being typecast and wanted to showcase her singing and dancing talents in a more serious manner.  Her decision to leave the show did not turn out particularly well.  With the notable exception of her role as Polly in a Broadway revival of The Boyfriend, Judy's post-Laugh-In career was rather lacklustre.  She appeared in a couple of mini-movies and an unsuccessful Las Vegas music act.  She also did the TV talk show circuit and guested on game shows.

Things might have worked out better for Judy if the pilot for a sitcom produced by Sheldon Leonard had been picked up in 1970.  She was poised to star as a journalist in a television series tentatively titled Poor Judy.  It never happened.

In May of 1970, 31-year-old Judy Carne married for a second time, this time to television producer Robert Bergmann, 23.  According to Time magazine, they were wed at dawn in a Unitarian ceremony in Manhattan's Cenral Park before some 100 witnesses.  Unfortunately, Judy's marriage to Bergmann proved to be even more short-lived and disastrous than her marriage to Burt Reynolds.  They divorced in 1971.

During the 1970s, Judy's career declined severely and her personal life became a hellish nightmare filled with pain, heroin addiction and degradation.  On June 16, 1978, she was involved in a near-fatal car crash along with ex-husband, Robert Bergmann. The two had been celebrating Judy's recent acquittal on charges of heroin possession. 

After stopping to eat near Bergmann's mother's cottage in New Hope, Pennsylvania, Robert was determined to drive back to his mother's house despite his inebriated state and slurred speech.  A frightened Judy pleaded with him to let her drive.  Threatening to leave her stranded, he began speeding down the narrow country road.  He lost control of the vehicle and it plunged down a steep hill. 

Bergmann was thrown from the car and escaped safely.  Judy, on the other hand, was thrust into the windshield and suffered serious injury.  She broke her neck and was laid up in a "halo" traction for  months.  After being released from the hospital, she returned to England with her parents who had come to visit her.

Judy returned to the United States in 1981 to sue Robert Bergmann for her medical expenses.  She was awarded a total of $95,000 - $45,000 for lost wages and $50,000 for pain and suffering. 

In 1985, Judy Carne's harrowing autobiography was published.  Titled Laughing on the Outside, Crying on the Inside: The Bittersweet Saga of the Sock-It-To-Me Girl, the book explicitly chronicled her descent into a life of drug addiction and debauchery.

In 1993, Judy attended the 25th anniversary of Laugh-In and appeared on a televised Laugh-In Christmas show.  Now 72 years old, Judy hasn't been in the spotlight for many years.  She resides in her hometown of Northhampshire, England and there have been unconfirmed reports that she married twice more.


* During her Laugh-In heyday, in July of 1969, Judy appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and performed "American Moon," a tribute to the Apollo 11 moon landing mission.  Sullivan, who had a penchant for mispronouncing names, introduced her as "Judy Crane."

* Pete Duel, Judy Carne's co-star on Love on a Rooftop, went on to star on his own television series, Alias Smith and Jones.  Judy guest- starred on an episode of the series.  Sadly, Pete Duel committed suicide on December 31, 1971.  He was 31 years old.

- Joanne

EDITOR'S UPDATE (September 8, 2015): Judy Carne passed away on September 3, 2015.  She died in hospital at Northampton, Northamptonshire England, the place of her birth. Her passing on September 3rd was confirmed today by a spokeswoman from Northampton General Hospital.  

Judy was 76 years old.  According to newspaper reports, she had suffered from pneumonia. Her cousin, Marnie Butcher, announced her death on Facebook with the words, "RIP Judy Carne, you're not suffering anymore."


  1. I'm watching a Bonanza episode with Judy Carne. She is playing a young nun and is a good actress...quite a departure from Laugh In. She was about 29 years old in this episode with Hoss Cartright.

  2. The episode of Bonanza that you are watching is entitled "A Question of Strength" and it aired during Season 5 on October 27, 1963. Judy Carne portrayed a nun by the name of Sister Kathleen. Since she was born in April of 1939, she was only 24 years old when the episode was filmed.


  4. R.I.P. Judy Carne, you were a part of American history and American culture, I am deeply saddened by your passing.
    A Devoted Fan....

  5. I just saw her on an old re-run of I Dream of Jeannie and had not realized she had recently passed. We were all blessed by her talents and the joy of laughter we all shared because of her work. Judy had made many poor decisions in her life that created much pain for herself and others. May we all remember her for the joy she brought to millions around the world and me she rest in peace.

  6. wow, you're the reason I had 'stickers' on my arms!!! thank-you, may you res in peace. jimmy o, Tempe, Arizona

  7. Watching old episodes of The Johnny Carson show with Judy as guest...Googled her I hadn't realized she passed