Judy Carne, Star of 'Laugh-In,' Dies at 76

Laugh In Judy Carne Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Photofest

Laugh In Judy Carne Still - H 2015

She was known as the "Sock-It-To-Me Girl."

Judy Carne, the British actress best known for the phrase "Sock It to Me" on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, has died. She passed away after suffering from pneumonia at Northampton General Hospital in the same U.K. town in which she was born in 1939. She was 76.

Carne's death was announced on Facebook by her cousin Marnie Butcher, according to the Northampton Herald and Post. "RIP Judy Carne, you're not suffering anymore," Butcher wrote.

The daughter of two greengrocers, Carne rose to fame on U.K. television screens in the early 1960s, starring in Danger Man (1961) and The Rag Trade (1961), but soon packed her bags and headed to the U.S., just ahead of The Beatles and the so-called British Invasion.

The mid-1960s would see her become a familiar face in American sitcoms, starting with a regular role in Fair Exchange (1963) alongside Eddie Foy Jr., followed by The Baileys of Balboa (1964) and Love on a Rooftop (1966). She also appeared in the popular spy show The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

While promoting Fair Exchange in 1963, Carne met and married then up-and-coming actor Burt Reynolds, and once recollected their first passionate meeting: "We were immediately in love, so we immediately made love. I was engulfed by him, my small body lost in his large frame." However, she claimed Reynolds soon became abusive, and they divorced in 1966.

One-night stands with Steve McQueen and Warren Beatty followed. There was also what she later recollected to be a “meaningful relationship with a woman for a year and a half.”

After a couple of movies, including A Pair of Briefs (1962) and The Americanization of Emily (1964), Carne landed what would go on to be her most popular role. On sketch comedy program Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, which ran from 1968-73, Carne featured in a routine that would end with her saying, “Sock it to me,” before being doused with water or otherwise assaulted. She starred in the first two seasons, then returned for occasional appearances.

By now, she was one of the biggest household names — if not the progenitor of one of the most famous catchphrases — on U.S. television. But the good times didn't last. Toward the end of the 1970s, Carne’s experimental drug use turned into fully fledged addiction and, in 1977 and 1978, she was arrested by the police three times. In March 1978, a possible drug overdose saw her rushed to the hospital, and a few months later, she was involved in a near-fatal car crash.

After being released from the hospital with a broken neck, she returned to her hometown of Northampton.

Carne's descent into addiction, together with her failed marriage to Reynolds and bisexuality, was outlined in her 1985 autobiography, Laughing on the Outside, Crying on the Inside: The Bittersweet Saga of the Sock-It-To-Me Girl.

In her later years, Carne resided in the small U.K. village of Pitsford with her two dogs.