Producer Ed Friendly, who made the deal to bring hit series “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” to TV and produced “Little House on the Prairie” to television, died of cancer June 17 in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. He was 85.
When George Schlatter, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin originated “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” Friendly acquired the influential ’60s pop culture show show as VP of special programs for NBC. Friendly later joined George Schlatter Productions.
Friendly credited his first wife Natalie Coulsen Brooks, who died in 2002, with helping him secure rights to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” books, which launched as an NBC series in 1974 and ran until 1983.
Born in New York, the WWII vet got his start in advertising at Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn as a radio and TV director. He moved to ABC as director of sales, to CBS as a contract producer, and then to NBC.
Moving to California, he created Ed Friendly Prods., under which he also produced programs including “The Young Pioneers”; “Backstairs at the White House,” which garnered 11 Emmy noms; “The Flame Is Love”; and “Peter Lundy and the Medicine Hat Stallion.”
He was co-chairman and served on the steering committee of the Caucus of Producers, Directors and Writers and was named Producer of the Year by the Producer’s Guild.
An avid horseman who bought his first horse with actor Lorne Greene, Friendly owned an average 60 thoroughbreds a year and owned numerous champions.
He is survived by his second wife, Paula Reddish Zinnemann; daughter Brooke Friendly; son Edwin S. Friendly III (“Trip”), an entertainment exec; and three grandchildren.
Donations may be made to Venice Family Clinic, Development Dept., 604 Rose Ave., Venice, CA 90291 or to San Diego Hospice Foundation, 4311 Third Ave., San Diego, CA 92103.