The key to both thrive in the show biz and keep a happy, long-lasting marriage? Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber have the answer.
Have 30 plus years of a thriving relationship with the same person is a good reason for celebration. In the era of ever-changing relationships and dating apps, rare are the cases of commitment no matter what.
After all, that’s part of marital vows. However, we must admit that isn’t always an easy task. Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon celebrated 34 years of their union in March this year and we're sure they must have a few secrets of a lasting and happy marriage.
Left: Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber at American Film Institute Honors Gregory Peck in 1989. Right: Mark Harmon as NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, in 2019. | Source: Getty Images
Dawber and Harmon were one of the hottest couples in the ‘80s, specifically in 1987 when they started dating. A year before, Harmon was elected the hottest man alive by People magazine, and Dawber is one of those people whose beauty increases with age.
In other words, they were the hottest couple. Big time. The secrecy and extremely private life the couple decided to adopt right from the beginning of their relationship is what they call a “protective strategy”:
“We’re not trying to keep something secret, but if you don’t want it totally exploited by the press, you have to.”
Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon during 21st Annual AFI Lifetime Achievement Awards Honors Liz Taylor at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, United States. | Source: Getty Images
HOW THEY MET
After a few “bad love affairs here and there,” Dawber wrote down a list with the characteristics she was looking for in a man. She listed things like intelligence, independence, strength, sensitivity, and sense of humor.
Soon she’d manifested the man of her dreams. Dawber and Harmon met at a party of a mutual friend in March 1986. They got engaged a few months later and are together since then. A year after they met, the couple tied the knot in an intimate and small ceremony for just a few friends and family members.
Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber during The 15th Annual People's Choice Awards at Disney Studios in Burbank, California, United States. | Source: Getty Images
The discreet wedding was a decision they made after being guests at Bruce Springsteen’s wedding with his first wife, Julianne Philips. They said that the ceremony turned into a big media attraction, something they didn't want for themselves:
“Julianne was in tears almost the entire time. There were helicopters hovering over her parents’ house. People were camped out on their front lawn.”
PERSONAL LIFE AND CAREER
Pam Dawber grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and started out as a model. Right after high school, she began modeling at local fashion shows. She moved to New York at just 19 years old and posed for brands like Tupperware, Neet, and Sears.
Actress Pam Dawber poses for a portrait in 1978 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images
Her first major role was at the ABC’s “Mork & Mindy.” Dawber co-starred alongside Robin Williams, who played Mork. The sitcom aired for four years, and it was a hit that turned both actors into recognizable faces. Williams and Dawber's friendship lasted long after the show was over.
After the ABC show ended, she landed her second leading role in another sitcom, “My Sister Sam.” The show ended after a drop in the audience, and the actress landed a few movies gigs.
In 1992, she decided to take a break from acting and focus on her family life. At this time, Dawber and Harmon were already raising their two kids, Sean Thomas Harmon (1988) and Christian Harmon (1992).
Portrait of American actor Mark Harmon (in costume as Fielding Carlyle) for the televisions show 'Flamingo Road,' Burbank, California, February 9, 1982. | Source: Getty Images
Thomas Mark Harmon’s family background stems from the show biz. His father is a former football player and broadcaster and his mother is an actress. He played college football but turned into acting later.
Harmon’s good look helped him land some roles, but it was at the TV series “St. Elsewhere,” starring Denzel Washington, that Harmon proved to be more than a handsome guy. He played a doctor with AIDS.
Harmon’s most remarkable role is as Leroy Jethro Gibbs on "NCIS" — a part he’s been working on for 18 years! The actor’s longevity has paid its dividends, and now he’s one of the highest-paid actors on TV. After 19 seasons as the iconic Gibbs, Mark announced he’ll be leaving the show.
Mark Harmon as NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, in December 2020. | Source: Getty Images
Early this year, the discreet couple appeared on the screen together. In April, Dawber agreed to guest-star in four "NCSI" episodes as a journalist named Marie Warren.
CBS had pitched Harmon’s wife several times, but she revealed that Marie Warren, an "investigative journalist who uses her savvy wit and down-to-earth people skills to aid in her tireless pursuit of truth,” was the only character that got her excited enough to share the screens with her husband.
Dawber wasn’t the only family member who had the opportunity to work with Harmon at "NCIS". Sean Thomas, their eldest son, played young Gibbs in multiple seasons.
Pam Dawber as Marcie Warren, Mark Harmon as NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, in March 2021. | Source: Getty Images
In 2017, after decades without a public interview, the 70-year-old actor spoke with TV Insider about Gibbs and his personal life. He explained how and why he's always kept things low key when it comes to his relationship with his wife:
“It’s not even a 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.”
When questioned about the key to a successful marriage, besides keeping their relationship private, the "NCSI" star shared that the closest he has from “what the key is” is that they got married in their mid-30s, so they had already passed the “stupid stuff” phase.
Actor Mark Harmon (L) and wife actress Pam Dawber attend the Rolling Stones performance at Echoplex on April 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images
In 2016, Dawber spoke candidly about her decision to leave her actress career and to become a stay-home wife. She admitted she’s done and tried “everything you can do in this business,” from Broadway to cartoon voices to star a number one show.
The “Mork & Mindy” star revealed she wanted to be more present in their children’s lives by driving them to school and being present at their birthdays and school events.
She got a fulfilling life as a mom and even worked as an art teacher for a while — quite a contrast if compared to her past as a TV show star.
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