Barry Comden dies at 74; restaurateur was 4th husband of Doris Day
By By Valerie J. Nelson
Jun 02, 2009 | 12:00 AM
Barry Comden, a businessman and restaurateur who was the fourth husband of singer-actress Doris Day, died May 25 of heart failure at his Los Angeles home, said his son, Danny. He was 74.
In 1976, he married Day after meeting her at the Beverly Hills Old World Restaurant, where he was the maitre d'. He always made sure that her favorite wine was chilled and provided her with ample leftovers for her dogs to eat, Vanity Fair magazine reported last year.
Pampered pets would be a recurring theme of the five-year marriage between Day and Comden, 12 years her junior.
Soon after they got together, Comden came up with the idea for a line of pet food that would feature her name. Day embraced the concept because she thought that the profits would help establish her nonprofit animal foundation, the magazine reported.
Comden sought business partners, who formed Doris Day Distributing Co., but the enterprise quickly unraveled, mainly because of a pyramid-type scheme that the couple had been unaware of, Comden later said. In a civil suit, they contended that the company had ended its contract with Day by marketing dog food that was not up to her standards.
The couple bought a hilltop home in Carmel in late 1978 but soon separated. When they divorced in 1981, Comden complained that Day preferred the company of dogs.
"She had 14 dogs, and the final straw was when I was kicked out of bed to make way for Tiger, a poodle," Comden recalled in 1996 to the London Sunday Mail.
Day once said the couple were "just incompatible."
Through a spokeswoman, Day declined to comment on Comden's death.
Comden "never got over his marriage to Doris Day," said Allan Hackel, a close friend. "He was very sad about that at all times."
Barry David Comden was born March 30, 1935, in New York City, to David and Natalie Comden.
His accountant father died when Barry was 12, and his mother headed the title department at Columbia Pictures, his family said. Tony Award-winning songwriter Betty Comden was a cousin.
He received a bachelor's degree from Tufts University in Massachusetts in the late 1950s.
In the 1970s, Comden opened an Old World restaurant in Westwood and supervised the construction of another restaurant, Tony Roma's, in Palm Springs.
Ever the entrepreneur, he got in and out of a number of businesses throughout his life, said Danny, an actor-writer.
After his second divorce, from Day, Comden never remarried. He preferred to remain a "quintessential bachelor," his son said, a "charismatic, fun-loving guy" whose main interests were "women and golf."
In addition to his son, Comden is survived by two daughters, Susannah and Maude; and a sister, Ellen Lichterman.