Brynn Hartman was an actress and model who gained notoriety through her marriage to husband Phil Hartman. Born on April 11, 1958, she would start out life in the small Minnesota town of Thief River Falls. Hartman had the given name of Vicki Jo Omdahl. All that would change when she married her first husband, Douglas Iver Torfin.
After a divorce from Torfin, she would go on to work as a model. One particular shoot would introduce her to an actor and comedian named Phil Hartman. They would marry on November 25, 1987, and have two children within five years of the big day.
It was a tumultuous relationship full of allegations of abuse and infidelity. The chief antagonist for their troubles came in her constant bouts with drugs. Phil Hartman’s time with Saturday Night Live and subsequent rise in popularity only compounded the issues.
While maintaining a fragile relationship with her husband, she also tried another attempt at her own career in the entertainment industry. For the most part, the attempts failed as she only got small roles in Third Rock from the Sun and North. Turning 40 in a business that seems to search for youth made it even more difficult for her to find roles.
Her marriage would come to a violent conclusion when Hartman would not only murder her husband but commit suicide only a few hours later. Once she had committed the crime, Hartman would then go to visit a friend and ask for help. When they returned to the home, she locked herself into the same room where her husband’s body lay, point the gun at her own face, and ended her own life.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Brynn Was Not Phil Hartman’s First Wife
Phil Hartman was married twice before meeting his third wife. Before Brynn, there was his first wife Gretchen Lewis and second wife Lisa Strain. The latter would have her own troubles with Brynn as she noted in the book You Might Remember Me: The Life and Times of Phil Hartman. It all came to the head after she learned from her ex-husband that he had become a father. In the book, she recounted the incident where, after sending a congratulatory card to the new parents, she was met with an angry letter from Brynn. According to Strain, Brynn threated to “rip my eyes out” among other things.
When Hartman was informed of his wife’s letter to Strain, he took some of the blame for the event. In a conversation with Strain, he said that Brynn became upset after asking if Lisa was his soulmate. When he answered in the affirmative, the situation only set off the jealousy that Brynn was known for during the marriage.
Hartman first wife, Gretchen Lewis, didn’t seem to have much of a relationship with Brynn. Lewis spoke about her marriage to Hartman during Miami Beach Senior High’s 40th Anniversary Weekend. “We lived in Malibu, were married for five years and living quite the “Rock ‘n Roll” life.” Lewis said of their five years of marriage. After it was over, there seems to no further connection between the two.
2. She Had Two Children With the Comedian
Brynn Hartman came from a family of four children, so it was only natural that she would want a large family of her own. In 1988, would have her first child with Hartman—a son named Sean Edward. Their second child, Birgen Anika, followed in 1992. Writer Mike Thomas commented on this issue even becoming a problem for the couple, “might have liked the idea of fatherhood a bit more than actually putting in the hard work that fatherhood requires. Because he was always working. And Brynn was resenting him more and more because of that.”
After their deaths, the two children went to live with Brynn’s sister and her husband. Settling into a new life in the midwest was a far cry from the life they had known. Still, Brynn’s brother Greg Omdahl says, “they grew up as loved children.”
Now, the children are all grown up and pursuing their own paths. It was stated in Phil Hartman’s will that the estate would care for the children if they met certain the conditions. The big one being “if and only if a bachelor’s degree was obtained from ‘a four-year university accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges or some comparable nationally recognized organization.” Both seem to live very private lives with Birgin more active on social media. Her only recent media appearance was to represent her father at Saturday Night Live‘s 40th-anniversary event.
3. Some Family and Friends Believe Drugs Were a Factor in the Murder/Suicide
It was well documented that Brynn had issues with drug addiction that dated back to the 1980s and her first appearance in Hollywood. The battle would be something that plagued her until the murder/suicide. It even led to the allegation that comedian Andy Dick had something to do with her last relapse.
Addressing the theories, about giving Hartman any drugs that could have led to her mental state, Dick was adamant. “She was already in relapse mode, which I didn’t even know she had a problem [with] at all in the first place,” The comedian said. Adding to the speculation, he did admit to giving her cocaine at a Christmas party.
Prescription drugs may have also played a factor in the decision to kill her husband and herself. The family actually sued the makers of anxiety drug Zoloft about side effects that could have diminished her decisions.
4. Brynn Made an Appearance Alongside Husband Phil on The Howards Stern Show
While there are plenty of still photos and videos from premiere events, there are not many interviews with Brynn herself. The most notable in this case came when Stern was interviewing her husband. The one segment interaction gave viewers a glimpse into the often private couple.
During the interview, Phil Hartman was candid about a range of stories from his life—including his previous marriages and overall relationships with women. For her part, Brynn spoke to Stern about meeting her husband before his name hit. Her feeling that “loved him for him,” was echoed by her husband. On her time as a model, she revealed that she never did nude modeling, instead focusing on swimwear.
Brynn also mentioned an interest in Stern and how she subjected her then 5-year-old child to his daily radio show. Without knowing about the marital issues the couple was experiencing, Stern proceeded to make a few jokes about infidelity on Brynn’s part and also questioned Phil earlier in the interview about his own “temptations” with people around him.
5. She Tried to Acting
When Hartman first came out to Hollywood, she was in search of a career in acting. Those dreams quickly shifted when she began getting modeling opportunities. The most notable of those modeling projects would ultimately introduce her to Phil Hartman. According to her brother Greg, Brynn was even interested in trying out for Hee Haw.
After marrying Phil Hartman, Brynn settled into motherhood. Over time, she began to play around with the idea of trying acting again. Those dreams would somewhat come to fruition when she gained a small role of a waitress in the 1994 film North. The part didn’t seem to ignite a larger filmography and she had only one remaining credit in addition to the film.
Her last appearance on-screen would be on the NBC series Third Rock from the Sun. Over 4 years removed from husband Phil’s departure for Saturday Night Live, the role gave Brynn little to do, for both part 1 and part 2 she is listed as playing the role Venusian #1.