My Sister Sam’s Pam Dawber lands the Sexiest Man Alive — Moonlighting‘s Mark Harmon
Sister Sam’s star covets TV success and her secret life with the Sexiest Man Alive
There is an undeniable camaraderie on Warner’s Soundstage 29 in Burbank, where My Sister Sam is taped.
Series star Pam Dawber, whose pixieish beauty actually seems to have grown rather than diminished with age, is sitting with the rest of the cast, listening to actor David Naughton read horoscopes from the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. He saves Dawber, a Libra (10/18/52), for last. Among other pronouncements, Naughton reads that “trips can develop suddenly.”
This merits a crack from co-star Jenny O’Hara. “Hey,” she tells Dawber, “maybe that means you’ll get out early and go cook dinner for what’s-his-name.”
You don’t have to be psychic to know what’s-his-name’s name. It’s Dawber’s fiancé, Mark Harmon, 35, dubbed the Sexiest Man Alive by this magazine in 1986 (and still the reigning champ until you, the readers, clamor for a replacement). Her colleagues don’t have to rub any New Age crystals to know what Harmon (and My Sister Sam) means to Dawber.
After emotional problems, a post-Mork & Mindy career slide and what she calls “a bad love affair here and there,” Dawber, at 34, has reached a threshold in life, and she’s damned glad to get there. Of course, it’s a little hard to tell that from her public comments, because few exist.
Since Dawber and Harmon met last March at a party given by a mutual friend, neither has discussed their relationship. But even the most discreet lady can slip once in a while, and a woman in love can be forgiven. Their silence, says Dawber, is 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.”
She also acknowledges that silence has a price. Because she and Harmon are one of Hollywood’s most reclusive couples, rumors about them are rife. For example: They just broke up. “You mean there’s a story that we broke up?” she asks. “You’re kidding! It’s hysterical how starved people are for poop.”
How about the one that says they’re secretly married? “It must have been a slow news week,” she remarks. “Why would we be secretly married? What would be the point?”
You can make a case for Dawber and Harmon being TV’s most-ogled twosome of late. Harmon, formerly St. Elsewhere’s philandering plastic surgeon, is finishing a month-long stint romancing Cybill Shepherd on Moonlighting; he plays an astronaut whose shirt takes off more than he does.
Meanwhile, Dawber has held her popularity with TV viewers: My Sister Sam, in which she plays a freelance photographer whose teenage sister moves in unexpectedly, has hovered around the Top-20 mark since its debut on CBS last October. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Sam is sandwiched between Kate & Allie and Newhart on Monday nights.
Though she already keeps more than a toothbrush at Mark’s nine-room rustic Pacific Palisades retreat, Pam is a bit misty-eyed about moving. Fetching a drink from her fridge, she looks at her vintage radio and collection of salt and pepper shakers and sighs, “I’m going to hate leaving my kitchen.”
As she downs a glass of fruit punch, Dawber is reminded of a list of requirements she once said she wanted in a man, including strength, intelligence, independence, sensitivity, sensuousness, warmth and a sense of humor to top it off.
Guys fitting that description aren’t exactly falling off the trees like ripe avocados, so does Harmon come close to filling the bill? “Well, I guess so,” she laughs, then delivers her fruit-punch line. “He’s fabulous.”
Written by Fred Bernstein, reported by James Grant