Mark Harmon & Pam Dawber: Their Untold Story!
THINGS MAY NOT BE AS PERFECT AS THEY SEEM FOR LONGTIME LOVEBIRDS MARK HARMON AND PAM DAWBER.
Star reveals the dark secrets threatening the couple’s 32-year marriage.
HE was the strikingly handsome and slightly broody actor from hit TV dramas St. Elsewhere and Flamingo Road; she was the adorable and sweet star of beloved sitcoms Mork & Mindy and My Sister Sam. When Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber met in the 1980s, they were a match made in Hollywood heaven. But unlike most famous couples, the duo has stayed together for more than three decades. And they’ve managed to do so without making headlines over cheating scandals, vicious fights or nasty divorce rumors. But that doesn’t mean Mark and Pam, both 67, haven’t had their fair share of issues behind closed doors. An insider tells Star the fiercely private pair have seen some dark days. “They’ve had a lot of highs,” reveals the source of the couple, who wed in March 1987 and welcomed sons Sean, 31, and Ty, 26, soon after. “But there have also been some lows.” The insider says a bitter family feud involving Mark’s now-late sister “almost pushed Mark and Pam to the brink,” and adds that Mark’s high-pressure gig as the star and an executive producer of the hit CBS series NCIS has also caused major tension at home. “Their marriage has been carefully guarded,” says the source, “but it hasn’t always been wedded bliss.”
It was love at first sight when Mark and Pam were introduced by a friend at a party in 1986. They got married a year later, but the honeymoon phase didn’t last long. According to the insider, Pam had to deal with the threat of other women early on. “Mark’s a good-looking man, and women have been throwing themselves at him for years,” says the source. “There have been moments when Pam was concerned.” The biggest threat to their happiness, however, was a woman Pam never thought she’d have to worry about: Mark’s big sister, Kristin. Shortly after their wedding, Mark and Pam ended up at the center of a dramatic — and public — custody case. Kristin had gotten involved in drugs during her marriage to hard-partying rocker Ricky Nelson, and in 1987, Mark and Pam took her to court to try to get custody of her son, Sam, who was 12 at the time. “Kristin had struggled to overcome a drug addiction,” says the insider, “and
“Things have been tough, but they’ve weathered the storm” — a friend tells Star
the couple felt Sam would be safer living with them.” After a long, drawn-out courtroom battle, Mark and Pam dropped the lawsuit and settled on visitation rights — but not before considerable damage had been done. “The case caused a lot of stress,” says the source. Mark’s bond with his sister (who died in 2018) was permanently fractured — and his relationship with Pam took a hit. “Their marriage clearly suffered from the strain,” says the insider.
They got back on track thanks to their shared values. “Hollywood is a den of sin and temptation, drugs and booze,” says the insider, “but Mark’s stayed away from all that.” Pam retired from acting to be a stay-at-home mom to Sean and Ty, while Mark continued to work, landing the lead role on NCIS in 2003. “Pam raised their boys to be independent and successful, while Mark brought home the bacon,” explains the source. “It’s afforded them a good life, but it’s anything but glamorous. It might be boring to some, but for them it works.” Still, Mark’s job on NCIS has been a source of contention over the years. In addition to the day-to-day demands of being the star (he rakes in a whopping $525 000 per episode) and one of its executive producers, Mark’s been embroiled in ongoing behind-the-scenes shake-ups, including his much-publicized feud with former costar and fan favorite Pauley Perrette (see sidebar). “Their war put more wear and tear on Mark and Pam’s marriage,” says the source. “Pam had to deal with Mark’s moods during the worst of it.” She’s actually hoping he’ll stop working soon, says the insider. “Pam would love it if Mark retired,” says the source. “They could travel and enjoy their lives together.” But that move seems unlikely for now — NCIS was recently renewed for a 17th season, and the insider says Mark isn’t looking to jump ship just yet. “Mark’s a stickler for routine,” says the source, “and he likes the idea of his bank account growing — even though he’s worth $100 million already.”
Listening to Pam wouldn’t be Mark’s worst idea: She saved his life once! In 1994, Pam had a premonition that something bad was about to happen and urged them to leave town as a family. Soon afterward, an earthquake struck and caused major damage to their Santa Monica home. “I’m so grateful we weren’t there,” Pam later said. “My kids would’ve been traumatized.” Says the insider, “Mark may not have realized it then, but Pam saved his life.” Despite their troubles, Pam continues to be the grounding force in Mark’s life. “He goes to work on NCIS and then comes home to Pam,” says the source, “who’s always been his support.” They recently celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary without any fanfare. “It was a quiet celebration at home,” says the source. “Mark and Pam don’t do Twitter or Facebook,” adds the insider, “they keep their stuff to themselves. They say it’s kept them from becoming another Hollywood divorce statistic.”
TV Royalty Mark and Pam were each at the top of their game when they fell in love in the mid-1980s.
Mark became a father figure to his nephew Sam, although he and Pam ultimately didn’t win custody of his sister’s son. “He didn’t regret going to bat for his nephew,” a source tells Star, “but wished that he could have done things differently. It caused a lot of tension, both with his wife and with his sister Kristin.” Family Business
Super Mom Pam became a stay-at-home mother for Sean (above) and Ty. “Two people can’t work all the time in show business and stay married,” she says.