Phil and Brynn Hartman had a brief marriage that ended in death. Brynn Hartman killed Phil Hartman, and later herself, after a tumultuous relationship filled with fury and jealousy.
Brynn Hartman, born Vicki Jo Omdahl, had dreams of becoming an actor. But her husband, Phil Hartman, landed a series of successes that fueled her jealousy as she struggled to land bit parts. Phil Hartman was immortalized in Saturday Night Live and NewsRadio. Brynn Hartman, meanwhile, played a waitress on North and had two brief appearances on Third Rock from the Sun.
Hartman earned the nickname “Glue” on SNL.
“He kind of held the show together. He gave to everybody and demanded very little. He was very low-maintenance,” SNL creator Lorne Michaels told PEOPLE.
His story is being told again in an episode of ABC’s 20/20 airing Friday, May 1, 2020 at 9 p.m. EST.
Here’s what you need to know:
Brynn Hartman Was Born Vicki Omdahl in a Small Minnesota Town
Brynn Hartman was a small town girl with big dreams to make it as an actress in Hollywood. She was born Vicki Jo Omdahl in a small town in Minessota, the daughter of an engineer and retail shop owner, on April 11, 1958, according to her memorial on Find a Grave. She was “an average student growing up in an average family,” the memorial said.
She was one of four children growing up in the northern Minnesota home, her brother, Greg Omdahl, told ABC News. He said that their childhood was idyllic, and Hartman was known as the fun sibling, but maybe a bit of a troublemaker.
“She was always the instigator of fun,” Greg Omdahl told ABC News.
Vicki Omdahl dropped out of high school, and married Douglas Torfin, a telephone operator in her home town of Thief River Falls. The two were soon divorced, and she began modeling in Minneapolis. With plans to further her career, she moved to Los Angeles to become a model and an actress. She became a swimwear model for Catalina and went to acting auditions.
Brynn & Phil Hartman Met on a Blind Date & He Thought She Was His ‘Dream Girl’
Phil Hartman met Brynn Hartman – then Vicki Omdahl – shortly after his divorce from Lisa Jarvis. At the time, Brynn Hartman was a Catalina swimsuit model. They met on a blind date in 1986, according to PEOPLE. By 1987, they were already married.
“He had never had a ‘babe’ before, and she was it for him,” a friend who knew the couple in their early days told PEOPLE. “He married his dream girl.”
As Hartman’s acting career exploded, so did Brynn Hartman’s insecurities. Brynn’s friend, Suzan Stadner, told people Brynn “felt intimidated by Phil. He was this confident guy on the way up.”
Meanwhile, Brynn Hartman was struggling with a drug addiction.
“She had a problem with cocaine,” her brother, Greg Omdahl, told ABC News. “She did too much cocaine.”
He said he encouraged his sister to get help.
“I talked her into going through treatment,” he said.
Brynn Hartman pursued plastic surgery, in part to further her dream of acting, and in part at her husband’s beckoning. He said her face was too round and her chin was not square enough, PEOPLE reported. Her plastic surgeon described her as “very insecure.”
“She wanted to be this perfect wife of a Hollywood actor,” he said.
Still, Brynn Hartman only managed to land bit parts in a TV show and a movie. She played a waitress in the movie, North, in 1994, and appeared on two episodes of Third Rock from the Sun in 1998, according to her IMDB profile. She would physically abuse her husband before she shot him to death, the profile said. He would show up to work with scratches on his face and spend the night on his houseboat.
“Brynn had a temper which led to bitter arguments with her husband, as she became more jealous of his success, even as her identity as a person became more suppressed, heightening her sense of failure as an actress,” her Find a Grave memorial said. “Brynn would turn to alcohol and drugs, including cocaine, for relief. Brynn would have several trips to rehabilitation centers to get her off of drugs. Due to her fears of privacy invasion by celebrity fans and crazy stalkers, Brynn would purchase several handguns, and hide them around the house.”
The night of their death, Brynn Hartman used drugs, and she and Phil Hartman got into an argument. He said he would leave her if she used drugs again. She started drinking, and at 3 a.m., she entered their bedroom and shot her husband twice in the head as he slept. She drove to the house of her friend, Ronald Douglas, and confessed to him. He did not believe her, but he took the gun from her after she showed it to him. They drove back to the Hartman house, and Douglas saw the body. He called 911 to report the shooting at 6:20 a.m. Police arrived, and took Douglas and dthe children from the home. Brynn Hartman locked herself in the bedroom and shot herself. An autopsy report indicated she had consumed cocaine, alcohol, and the antidepressant Zoloft that evening.