When it comes to Hollywood relationships, it is unfortunately too often that high-profile splits make the headlines, and while it may seem like some celebrity relationships are mostly fleeting, there are a few who have defied the odds and that includes beloved NCIS star Mark Harmon and former Mork & Mindy star Pam Dawber. Through the highs and lows of fame, starting a family, and bumps along the way, the two are now stronger than ever and one of the most enviable celebrity couples out there. Here are 12 things you never knew about the incredible pair and their relationship:
12. The “It” Couple
Every decade has its Hollywood golden couples and back in the ’80s you didn’t have to look any further than Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber. At the time they were the “It” couple thanks to Dawber’s leading role in Mork & Mindy which came to an end in 1982 and her continued success as the lead in the sitcom My Sister Sam. Meanwhile, Harmon was one of the most sought-after men in the industry which was solidified further when he was named People’s Sexiest Man Alive in 1986. While they were definitely dubbed the “It” couple and their faces were on every magazine, the two remained quite quiet about their relationship.
11. How They Met
With both being such major stars of the moment in the mid-’80s, it isn’t too hard to believe that their lives would overlap or they would run in the same circles, and it all came down to one of those chance meetings. Through their busy schedules, the two ended up at the same party hosted by a mutual friend in March 1986, and they were practically inseparable from that moment on. “We were fixed up,” said the actress.”Fixed up by a friend [rumored to be Gina Hecht] who thought we might hit it off. We did.” Despite immediately hitting it off, the two barely said a word about their romance. “We’re not trying to keep something secret,” Dawber clarified in a 1987 interview. “But if you don’t want it totally exploited by the press, you have to.”
As Harmon and Dawber worked together to keep their romance out of the spotlight even with their individual fame, behind the scenes, the relationship moved at record speeds. After meeting in March of 1986, the two became engaged in the summer of that year after only a few months of dating. Despite their engagement and their fast-paced relationship, the two continued to live mostly separately for about a year until March 1987 when Dawber revealed in an interview with People that she was officially selling her Hollywood Hills home to move into Harmon’s Pacific Palisades home.
While Dawber said more than she ever had before about her relationship with Harmon in her March 1987 interview with People, she didn’t let slip that the two were actually planning to wed later that month. The pair were successful in their attempts to keep their wedding plans a secret and on March 21, 1987, the two exchanged vows in a small ceremony attended by only a close circle of family and friends. Dawber pointed to Bruce Springsteen and Julianne Phillips’ wedding for what she didn’t want to happen in her marriage to Harmon. Springsteen and Phillips wed in 1985 and were close friends of Dawber’s. “Julianne was in tears almost the entire time,” Dawber revealed. “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.”
8. Keeping a Low-Profile
Although their relationship definitely caught the interest of the media and fans, the two were able to keep their marriage going the same way their relationship started, which was very much out of the spotlight. Now, having been married for over 30 years, Harmon said he thinks a large part of how they succeeded in keeping everything so private was because it was just natural to them, and they didn’t engage in social media. “It’s not even a choice,” the actor told TV Insider in 2017. “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. Pam and I have both made a living in this business, and still, there’s a part of that that’s just not natural.”
7. Pam’s Career Break
Although Dawber and Harmon’s careers seemed to be on the same trajectory, it is no secret now that Harmon has become the biggest star out of the two. Dawber doesn’t deny this, however, and she chose to step back in order to focus on their family because she didn’t believe their relationship could make it if they both continued on in the spotlight. “I don’t think two people can work all the time in show business and stay married,” Dawber told ET in a 2016 interview. “I was in a number one show. I had my own deal. I got to do Broadway. I got to do musical theater. I got to do cartoon voices,” Dawber said. “I did everything you can do in this business, and then I had children and it’s like, ‘I’m not going to chase this fame thing.'” She continued, “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.”
6. Before Their Love
Before Harmon and Dawber found each other, Dawber was going through a difficult time. The actress admitted that she was dealing with emotional problems which tied in with a slide in her career after Mork & Mindy came to an end in 1982 and her love life consisted of “a bad love affair here and there.” Not to mention in 1976, Dawber lost her only sibling, her sister Leslie, after she died during open-heart surgery at the age of 22. When she met Harmon, however, she found a man who had everything she was looking for, including “strength, intelligence, independence, sensitivity, sensuousness, warmth and a sense of humor,” and she couldn’t help but gush that “[h]e’s fabulous.” Meanwhile, Harmon was navigating the spotlight as one of the hottest new stars in Hollywood, and despite his status, he was only ever linked to Dawber, and the two never let rumors upset the stability of their relationship.
5. Working Together
As Harmon’s career took off and Dawber decided to step back and focus on their family, they are not considered an acting team, and with their penchant to stay out of the spotlight and not discuss each other, it might be surprising to some that they did act together once. The two took the stage in Los Angeles to star in the play ‘Love Letters,’ and it even surprised Harmon. “It was great fun because normally we don’t respond to the same material,” he said. “Consequently we have different opinions on the projects we prefer. Hey, it works for us.”
4. Heroic Acts
While everyone is used to watching Harmon’s heroism in the face of danger on NCIS, it turns out he has nerves of steel when it comes to real life emergencies as well. Harmon has been praised for rescuing two teens that he pulled from a burning car after their car crashed on the street where Harmon lived. When asked about it, however, Harmon said his response would’ve meant nothing if it weren’t for his wife. “None of that happens without Pam walking up the street and investigating it further.” According to Harmon, it was Dawber who rushed up to the scene of the accident after hearing something outside and she urged her husband to do something, so he broke the glass of the car with a sledgehammer and dragged both teens out. “I don’t see it as any thought process. Either you do or you don’t,” Harmon said of his actions. “If the car blows up and kills me and the kids in the car, then you’d be doing this interview with my wife about how stupid it was.”
3. Family Feud
The year that the pair were married, the two were put through some difficult times when they petitioned to gain custody of their nephew, Sam Nelson. Harmon’s sister, Kristen, married singer and actor Ricky Nelson in 1963 and had four children together before an acrimonious divorce. After Nelson’s death in 1985, things fell apart for Harmon’s sister and so Harmon and Dawber petitioned to get legal custody of their nephew Sam, who was Kristen and Ricky Nelson’s youngest. Harmon argued that his sister was incapable of being a good parent because of her mood swings and drug use. The case became highly publicized; however, the couple ended up dropping the petition because it was tearing Harmon’s family apart.
2. Normal Life
With Harmon and Dawber making the decision to not be one of those celebrity couples in the spotlight and in the headlines, it isn’t surprising that they made the same decision for their sons. They welcomed their first son, Sean Thomas Harmon, in April 1988 and welcomed their second son, Ty Christian Harmon, in 1992. “Notice you don’t see us in the magazines,” Dawber said. “When you’re married, that’s real life. And to go and plaster your kids… I’m sorry. I’m not for that.” She added that her sons hadn’t even seen anything she acted in, and weren’t too concerned that their mom was famous. “I’m just their mom,” she added. “They don’t care about what I did. They care about what they are doing. They want their parents to care about what they are doing. Their father is already iconic enough for two boys. I am just the mom.” Despite the fame that comes with starring on one of TV’s most successful shows with NCIS, Harmon admits he learned early on that nothing is more important than family. “I was in the jungles of New Guinea making a not-very-good movie when my firstborn child took his first steps. No job is worth missing life’s important moments.”
1. Vow Renewal
2017 was a difficult year for Mark Harmon after undergoing a knee surgery and losing a close friend, but as always, Pam was by his side and in March of 2017 the two celebrated their 30 year anniversary with a vow renewal. As was their wedding, it was a close-knit affair with only about 20 to 30 people in attendance at their California home. “Mark and Pam wrote their own vows and there was not a dry eye while they were being said,” a source said. “Mark and Pam spent the afternoon together afterwards, it was one of the few times Mark actually asked for a day off!” The source added that the two decided on a vow renewal ceremony not only because it was their 30th anniversary but also because of the trying year. “Pam and Mark had felt that they’d been through so much recently and without each other, they might not have gotten through it,” the source said. “They figured that now was as good a time as any!”