For the audition they paired me with a handsome young actor who looked vaguely familiar. His name was Peter Deuel, and he was very outgoing, with a magnetic smile. As we waited our turn, we realized that we had indeed worked together before, on an episode of "Gidget," with Sally Field. Peter was under contract to Screen Gems, one of their stable of actors who attended in-house acting classes and appeared on their various shows.
Peter had a great sense of humor, so we hit it off immediately. The producers sensed our chemistry, and we were cast as David and Julie Willis, struggling newlyweds living in a tiny San Francisco apartment that boasted a roof with a spectacular view. Julie was an art student, and Dave an apprentice architect, and they survived on his weekly paycheck of $85.37, refusing to accept any money from Julie's rich parents, who could never understand how their daughter could be content to live on love alone.
Rich Little, the gifted impressionist, played our next door neighbor Stan, a struggling young writer who supported himself and his wife (Barbara Bostock) by writing restaurant menus.
Our executive producer, Harry Ackerman, was responsible for hit shows such as "Bewitched" and "The Flying Nun," and he had high hopes for us. To begin with, the show was to be shot in color, which was a big deal in 1966. The pilot had a charming script by Bernard Slade, and we were directed by a talented and energetic man named E.W. Swackhammer, whom we called "Swack" for obvious reasons.
"'Love on a Rooftop" was picked
up by ABC and slated for a desirable slot on Tuesdays at 9:30
PM. I was thrilled: Not only would I be working with a talented
group of people, but everyone thought the show was destined to
be a hit.
Peter Deuel and I spent more time together than people who were actually married. We had a 6:30 makeup call every morning, and filmed all day on the Screen Gems set that simulated our tiny apartment. The scripts called for an endless number of scenes in our minuscule bathroom, where we retreated to have a word with each other in private whenever guests were in the living room. There was endless hugging and kissing, and after doing this five days a week, we developed a love/hate relationship.
The hate part was nothing serious, just the result of working long hours in close quarters. We made sure we never left for the day bearing a grudge.
"I love Peter dearly," I told TV Guide. "It's just that I can't stand him most of the time!"
"Judy, baby," Peter interjected, "if you call this loving me dearly, I dread to think how you'd hate me dearly!"
I spoke in my normal British accent around the set, which never failed to startle Peter. I'd whisper something dirty to him in my Cockney best right before a take, and then go right into all-American Julie Willis as soon as Swack yelled "Action!"
Peter would cover for me when my Americanese faltered. If he heard me mispronounce a vowel, he'd make a mistake on purpose. "Sorry, Swack." he'd shout, shouldering the blame. "Careful, Judy," he'd whisper, "you're sounding a little mid-Atlantic."
Peter and I confided in each other about our personal lives. He was the first man with whom I felt comfortable enough to discuss my relationship with Ashley. He was fascinated when I told him about it.
Some men were drawn to me when they learned I was having an affair with another woman. They were aroused by the challenge of being the one to "save me" from my evil ways. Peter was not in that category. He cared on an emotional level. It was a revelation to him to be able to talk to a woman about this, and he felt it somehow enriched his understanding of the feminine mind.
Peter was fiercely protective of me if he thought I was being mistreated by anyone. One day during a break I was going over my lines and Peter was chatting to someone in another part of the studio, when suddenly a commotion broke out. I saw some members of the crew trying to restrain Peter, who was pummeling the fellow he'd just been talking to. I was shocked, because it was so unlike him to exhibit any kind of violence.
He stormed off to his dressing room without an explanation, so I followed him. I was determined to find out what had set him off, but he was evasive. "Peter, you don't have to bullshit me. What did that guy say to you to get you so crazy?"
"He was talking about you--he called you a dyke."
Tears welled up in my eyes. The incident
had left him shattered. I was so moved by this display of compassion
that words failed me, and I hugged him tight. There are friends,
and then there are friends.
I got into the habit of riding my motorcycle to work, traveling through Laurel Canyon to the Screen Gems studios with Whitney perched in a basket. Before long Peter showed up at work on his motorcycle, which he'd dug out of his garage. We would often go for a spin during our breaks, to clear our heads.
Every six weeks we traveled to San Francisco to film the exterior shots for each episode done in the previous weeks. Peter and I were housed in luxurious hotels, and since we didn't know anyone in San Francisco, we usually just headed back to the hotel after work for a sumptuous meal and drinks.
On one of those trips we ended up in my room after dinner, pleasantly drunk, and started to roll around on the plush carpet. Peter made me laugh with his imitation of a whale, which involved lying on his back, filling his cheeks with water, and spouting a thin stream high in the air which splashed back down into his face.
It had been a long time since I'd felt a desire to be held and kissed by a man. But here was dear Peter, my TV husband, so close to me, making me laugh and teasing me when I withdrew, gently drawing me close enough to kiss, then releasing me to clown again. With Peter I felt my instinctive responses not only replenish themselves, but well up to the point of overflowing.
"Do you realize we are lying to the American public? We owe it to our fans, darling!" he said as we climbed up onto the luxurious bed.
We undressed and he held me. His body was firm and muscular, and he soothed me by whispering, "You're not afraid, now, are you?"
I wasn't any more.
The next day we filmed a scene involving a brass bed that Peter was to wheel from an antique shop to our apartment as I rode on it, giving him directions. One by one we went up and down the steep hills of San Francisco.
We'd just reached the top of a hill and were about to start down when I heard a loud snap. The cable securing the bed to the camera truck had broken. I sat on the bed helplessly as it began rolling down the hill, gathering speed rapidly.
I screamed, and before anyone else could react, Peter ran ahead of the bed and planted his feet firmly, letting it crash into his back. His arms and shoulders buckled but the crew caught up with us and pulled the bed to safety, as Peter crumpled to the pavement in agony. He was the hero of the day--a few seconds more and the bed and I would have raced downhill out of control. He had acted quickly and bravely, straining his back and shoulder muscles in the process. But within minutes he was back on his feet, shrugging it off and making jokes.
"Without me, gang, there would be no Julie Willis!"
There would have been no Judy Carne, either. Within twenty-four hours, Peter had "saved" me twice--and both times it happened on a bed.
Peter and I were the sweethearts of San Francisco. We always got the red-carpet treatment and could do no wrong as far as anyone was concerned. But we tried.
The hotel's public relations man was always bending over backward to make us feel comfortable, saying, "Anything you want, call me."
One night we were longing to smoke a joint, so I dared Peter to call the guy and ask him for some pot. Peter flashed a grin and dialed the phone.
"Hi, this is Pete Deuel. Remember when you said that if I wanted anything, I should call? Well, I've got sort of an unusual request....."
"You want to meet some girls?" the man said.
"Well, I wouldn't say no to that, but it's not exactly what I had in mind. I wanted to get hold of some smoke...."
"Yeah, you know, the kind that gets you ... how shall we say, 'potted'? It's not that I need it or anything, it's just that I'd be a lot happier if I had some."
I watched Peter's face. Suddenly he hung up and burst out laughing.
"Whad he say, whad he say?"
"He said--get this--'I'll forget you said that, Mr. Deuel!'"
Peter and I often slept together on our trips away from home. After waking in the morning, I'd turn to him and plant a gentle kiss on his cheek.
"Good morning, TV husband," I'd whisper.
"Good morning, TV wife," he'd say, opening his eyes.
Our marriage was a divinely unusual relationship that we consummated on those trips to San Francisco, removed from our regular lives in Los Angeles.
By the time we finished shooting the last episode of the season in the spring of 1967, ABC had not yet told us whether the show would be renewed. This was unusual, since our reviews had been excellent and the ratings as strong as another new show on ABC, "That Girl." After weeks in limbo the network announced it was canceling "Love on a Rooftop." It had obviously been a tough decision-at the time, ABC was the poorest of the networks financially, and we had simply been unable to outrate our principal opposition, NBC's "Petticoat Junction."
Peter and I were devastated. It wasn't
just that we were out of work, it was the frustration of losing
out to such dubious competition. ABC received a flood of mail
in protest of our cancellation, but it was to no avail.
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