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Shelley Fabares Is ‘Blessed’ to Have Married Mike Farrell after His Divorce That Was ‘Hard’ on His Kids

Titi Dokubo
Apr 26, 2022
01:30 P.M.
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Mike Farrell and Shelley Fabares started their romance when they were still married to other people. Even more, both women he married at different times were his co-stars.


Shelley Fabares's stepkids didn't accept her at once because their parents' divorce was hard on them. She had to go out of her way to help them through the transition while believing they would accept her with time.

Mike Farrell showed the power of his love to Shelley Fabares when she was seriously ill and prepared for surgery. Here are all the details about their love and how Mike Farrell helped to save his wife's life.

Shelley Fabares and Mike Farrell first met in 1970, when she guest-starred on an episode of his short-lived series "The Interns." However, it took 12 years before their casual relationship became romantic.


When they first met, Fabares was married to record mogul Lou Adler. Adler and Fabares married on June 7, 1964, and separated two years later. However, they did not divorce until December 30, 1980.

Photo of Shelley Fabares at a party circa 1963 | Source: Getty Images


When Fabares and Adler met, the actress and singer became the first artist he produced, and her record was moderately successful.

Alder and Fabares got married in a fancy ceremony at the Bel Air Hotel. They had many celebrity guests at their wedding, including Sam Cooke, Lou Rawls, Herbie Alpert, and others.

Shelley Fabares and Lou Adler at an event circa 1964 | Source: Getty Images


On the other hand, Farrell was married to writer and actress Judy Hayden. The couple began their theater careers at the Laguna Playhouse in California, and when Farrell decided to go to Hollywood, Hayden supported him.

By the time he got a role in "M*A*S*H," he and Hayden had two children, and she became his co-star for eight episodes. However, when their lives continued to go in different directions, they had to divorce.

In his book "Just Call Me Mike: A Journey to Actor and Activist," Farrell revealed that the divorce devasted him, and he tried to fix their relationship but did not know what was wrong.

"M*A*S*H" stars Jamie Farr, Loretta Swit, David Ogden Stiers, Harry Morgan, Mike Farrell, Alan Alda, and William Christopher circa 1978 | Source: Getty Images


In 1985, Hayden married again to actor and producer Joe Bratcher. Bratcher is known for his roles in "The Howling," "Remington Steele," and for producing "Lunch Ladies."

Before their divorce, project director Martin Bloom chose the couple for a series on parenting titled "Footsteps." The couple who cared for their children were seen as one of the most dedicated parents in Hollywood.

Photo of Mike Farrell and Judy Hayden on the piano | Source: Getty Images


Three years into their marriage, the couple separated for a year because they were not communicating. However, they could recognize the danger signs of problems and deal with them when they got back together.

Hayden eventually disappeared from the screen for a while. She started a new career in writing and became a respected television writer when she wrote "Port Charles," a spin-off of "General Hospital."

Mike Farrell as Judge Miles Deakin on the set of "NCIS" on March 21, 2019 | Source: Getty Images



A year after he started dating Fabares, he proposed to her in a Topanga Canyon health-food restaurant. She said 'yes.' They married in the home of the veteran actress Nanette Fabray, Fabare's aunt.

Their marriage made Fabares a stepmother to Farrell's kids, which was not an easy journey. Farrell said,

"My kids had come to like Shelley a great deal, but [...] Even so, our marriage was tough for Erin and Mike."

Shelley Fabares and Mike Farrell at the "2000 Tourette Syndrome Awards Dinner" on February 10, 2000 | Source: Getty Images


Despite calling himself the 'luckiest man in the world,' Farrell knew that his children wanted him to get back together with their mother.

However, it took years for Fabares to help his kids to have 'two solid' homes. He and his new wife were clear with his children and tried to include them in everything.

Fabares went out of her way to embrace and support them, gave them space, and believed they would accept her with time. His ex-wife and her new partner also worked hard to help their kids through the transition.

Mike Farrell and Erin Farrell at the "25th Anniversary Celebration of Amnesty International" on September 15, 1986 | Source: Getty Images



Fabares understood that the divorce was 'very hard on the kids', and when the children did not 'accept their stepmom at once,' she had to show them a lot of love and exercise patience.

She also knew that she had to be strong and courageous because that was what it would take to help them through the hard times and have the solid homes everyone wanted.

When Hayden and Farrell were still together, their friends questioned their reluctance to discipline their children. They said people warned them they would irrevocably harm their children by attending to their every need.


Erin Farrell, Shelley Fabares, and Mike Farrell at the "ABC Fall Premiere Party" on September 12, 1990 | Source: Getty Images

However, Hayden and Farrell had decided that there was no way one could spoil a child because children are not apples. They also tried not to avoid difficult questions from their children.


When Farrell's son asked him about death, he tried to answer and even touched on the subject of reincarnation. Later he heard his son explaining it to a friend; he was stunned and charmed by the brilliance of what children say.

Mike Farrell and Mike Farrell, Jr. at the Benefit Premiere of "Bob Roberts" on September 1, 1992 | Source: Getty Images


Their close friend, Alan Alda, revealed that Hayden and Farrell never let anything disrupt their family life. He said,

"Mike and Judy are terrific parents. The clearest image I have of them both is kissing and hugging their kids."

He also revealed that they made career decisions based on the needs of their children. Hayden said they enjoy their kids even though things are never perfect.

Mike Farrell, Jr., Erin Farrell, Shelley Fabares, and Mike Farrell at the "JFK" world premiere on December 17, 1991 | Source: Getty Images


However, she further stated that every parent should learn to realize that it is okay for things not to be perfect, and they can go on from there.

On the other hand, Farrell revealed that his father could not express feelings and always insisted that he and his siblings be tough. As a parent, he wanted to create what he did not have and wanted his children to feel love and express it.

Mike Farrell and Shelley Fabares at the Second Annual Commitment to Life' Gala on September 20, 1986 | Source: Getty Images


Farrell's first son, Mike, became an actor and a martial arts teacher, and his daughter, Erin, a costume designer, is working in Jesse Jackson's Los Angeles office.

"I am so incredibly blessed by the man I am married to."

Shelley Fabares and Mike Farrell at the 26th Annual People's Choice Awards on January 9, 2000 | Source: Getty Images



In 1994, Fabares fell and broke all the ribs on the left side of her body. After treatment, the doctors asked her to do a follow-up with her doctors.

Test results revealed that her liver counts were 'off the charts' during the follow-up. With medications, things seemed better until after five years when she had sudden and severe bleeding in her esophagus.

Mike Farrell and Shelley Fabares at the 10th annual Memory Walk to benefit the Alzheimer's Association on October 5, 2002 | Source: Getty Images


Fabares recalled that she was ill, and the doctors informed her that she needed a transplant because the episode was linked to progressive liver failure.

While waiting for a donor, Fabares said she was exhausted for the most part, but thankfully, she was not in pain and could sleep most of the time.

After 22 months of waiting, Fabares got a call on October 23, 2000, that a liver was available for her, and she had a successful transplant.

Promotional portrait of Shelley Fabares for the movie "Hold On!" circa 1966 | Source: Getty Images


She further revealed that the experience changed her, becoming a different person. She said,

"I am so incredibly blessed by the man I am married to. I was so very ill for such a long time, and we didn't know what was wrong, but he was with me every step of the way - accompanying me to every doctor's appointment."

She called her husband a monumental man as she never knew how she could have survived without him. Fabares was also grateful for what she had learned about herself and life. She is also thankful for her husband because she has gained so much.


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