Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber’s successful 32-years-and-counting marriage has thrived in an industry where “long-lasting” relationships are actually flashes in the pan To quote Harmon, “That’s just not natural.”
How Did Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber Meet?
By the time Harmon and Dawber made the other’s acquaintance at a party thrown by a mutual friend, both were at a bit of a crossroads where their personal lives were concerned.
Having ended a string of both long and short-term relationships — the most enduring being the four years spent with former Flamingo Road co-star Cristina Raines — he declared, “When I marry, I want it to be everything this town says it can’t be. I’m not into catting around.”
She had suffered through “a bad love affair here and there” and was looking for a man “who is strong, intelligent, independent, someone I really admire – sensitive, sensuous, warm, and a sense of humor.”
Off that March 1986 introduction, Harmon and Dawber began courting. By the summer, they were engaged and a year later she finally moved the last of her belongings into his Pacific Palisades home and sold her own Hollywood Hills abode.
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Their March 21, 1987 wedding ceremony was a private, friends-and-family-only affair — something that Dawber had been insistent on after bearing witness to the events that followed the publication of details about Bruce Springsteen and Julianne Phillips’ wedding.
“Julianne was in tears almost the entire time. There were helicopters hovering over her parents’ house. People were camped out on their front lawn. Granted, we’re not talking Springsteen here, but if we choose a big church, everyone will find out about it. All of a sudden we’ll have Entertainment Tonight out there with microphones.”
The Family Expands and Dawber Takes a Hiatus
Over the next five years, Harmon and Dawber welcomed sons Sean Thomas (born April 25, 1988) and Ty Christian (born June 25, 1992). It was the arrival of baby number two that precipitated Dawber’s semi-retirement from show business – and it’s a decision that she still stands by.
“I did everything you can do…and then I had children… I wanted to drive my kids to school. I wanted to be there for their birthdays and bring cupcakes and donuts and do the school festivals and all that – and I did. I got to teach in their art class and so it was a different life then and I was very happy to do it.”
For his part, Harmon began to seek out projects that would keep him close to home and allot as much family time as possible. “I was in the jungles of New Guinea making a not very good movie when my firstborn took his first steps. No job is worth missing life’s most important moments.”
The Couple That (Doesn’t) Work Together, Stays Together
Despite the innate talent possessed by both parties, Harmon and Dawber only chanced working opposite each other twice. Their rendering of the classic play Love Letters was a success that surprised Harmon. “It was great fun because normally we don’t respond to the same material.”
However, the second project they tackled, — a 1999 feature film titled I’ll Remember April — was not as successful a collaboration. Harmon referred to the experience as “different” while Dawber said, “God knows I haven’t let him walk down that road again. Not that we had any fights, but we sure had discussions afterward.”
One thing that the couple was quick to agree on was their desire for privacy, especially where their family was concerned. “We’re not trying to keep something secret,” Dawber once explained. “But if you don’t want it totally exploited by the press you have to.”
In another interview, Dawber shared, “Notice you don’t see us in the magazines. When you’re married, that’s real life. And to go and plaster your kids… I’m sorry. I’m not for that.”
As for Harmon, he sees the family keeping a low profile as more than a mere choice. “It’s who we are. We stay home. A lot. I’m not a Twitter guy or a Facebook guy. Our sons aren’t into that, either.”
In 1996, Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber came to the rescue of teenagers whose vehicle had crashed and caught fire. Dawber had been the first to investigate, after hearing sounds resulting from the accident. “None of that happens without Pam walking up the street and investigating further,” Harmon later revealed.
Dawber returned and urged Harmon to assist. So while she dialed 9-1-1, he broke the glass of the car with a sledgehammer, helped untangle the trapped passengers, and remove them from the vehicle.
What’s The Key To Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber’s Longevity?
According to the NCIS star himself, it’s the fact that “we were both in our thirties when we got married, so hopefully that stupid stuff we did earlier. That’s probably the closest I have to what the key is.”