Canadian-American actor, comedian, playwright, and graphic designer Philip Edward Hartman (September 24, 1948–May 28, 1998). Hartman’s family first came to the United States from Canada when he was 10 years old. He designed album covers for bands like Poco and America after earning a degree in graphic arts from California State University, Northridge. Here you will read about the reason for Phil Hartman’s death and other details.
After meeting Paul Reubens in 1975, he joined The Groundlings and collaborated with him on creating the character Pee-wee Herman. Hartman appeared as Captain Carl on Reubens’ Pee-Playhouse wee’s and co-wrote the film Pee-Big wee’s Adventure.
Hartman became a regular on the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live (SNL) in 1986 and remained there for eight seasons until 1994. Since he was always there to help the other actors on SNL, he earned the nickname “Glue” and a Primetime Emmy Award in 1989 for his efforts.
After deciding not to return to SNL, he found success in 1995 with his role as Bill McNeal on the sitcom. In addition to providing the voices for several Simpsons characters, he also appeared in the films Houseguest, Sgt. Bilko, Jingle All the Way, and Small Soldiers, among others, in supporting parts.
Phil Hartman Early Years
On September 24, 1948, in Brantford, Ontario, Philip Edward Hartmann (he dropped the n) was born. His father, Rupert Loebig Hartmann (November 8, 1914-April 30, 1998), sold construction supplies, and his mother, Doris Marguerite (July 17, 1919-April 15, 2001), was the fourth of eight children. They were devout Catholics. “I think I didn’t get what I wanted out of my family life, so I started seeking love and attention elsewhere,” Hartman says of his childhood.
When Hartman’s family emigrated to the United States, he was ten years old. The family moved from Lewiston, Maine, to Meriden, Connecticut, and then to the West Coast, where he attended Westchester High School and was known as the school’s resident jokester. He then studied art at Santa Monica City College, but he dropped out in 1969 to become a roadie for a rock band.
Phil Hartman’s Career
Hartman, a graphic artist who sometimes worked alone, would entertain himself by engaging in “flights of voice fantasies.” In 1975, he attended The Groundlings’ nighttime comedy classes in California to find a more social outlet for his talents. He decided to join the cast while watching one of their performances. His debut film role was in Brian Trenchard-Stunt Smith’s Rock (1978), an Australian movie set and shot in Los Angeles. Hartman joined The Groundlings officially in 1979, after spending several years studying with the group and paying his way by developing the logo and merchandise.
There, Hartman met Paul Reubens, a fellow comic with whom he would frequently work. They worked together to conceive the character of Pee-wee Herman and produce the stage play that would eventually premiere on HBO as The Pee-wee Herman Show in 1981. In the show, Hartman portrayed Captain Carl, a position he later played on Pee-Playhouse wees for kids.
Cameo appearances by Reubens and Hartman can be found in the 1980 film Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie. In addition to writing the script for Pee-Big wee’s Adventure and making a cameo appearance as a reporter in the movie, Hartman was an integral part of the production.
Phil Hartman’s Personal Life
In 1970, Hartman wed Gretchen Lewis, although the couple split up in September of the following year. In 1982, he tied the knot with real estate agent Lisa Strain; their marriage lasted three years. In an interview Strain claimed that Hartman was an introvert in real life and “would emotionally disappear—he’d be in another universe. You went insane due to your passivity.”
Brynn Omdahl (born Vicki Jo Omdahl, April 11, 1958 – May 28, 1998) was a former model and aspiring actress whom Hartman married in 1987 after meeting her on a blind date the previous year. Sean and Birgen Hartman were the couple’s offspring. It was reported that she felt threatened by his success and frustrated that she could not establish her own, but they both still wanted to be married.
Those close to him say she was possessive and aggressive, even writing a letter to his ex-wife threatening to “tear [Strain’s] eyeballs out” if she ever spoke to him again. Hartman seriously pondered leaving the marriage by retiring.
Hartman tried to get Brynn’s roles in films, but she developed an addiction to drugs and alcohol and checked into treatment multiple times. He took the kids and sent them to stay with friends and family more than once when she had an outburst under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Phil Hartman’s Death
Producer and writer Christine Zander were “in a good frame of mind” when she met Hartman’s wife, Brynn, for drinks at the Italian restaurant Buca di Beppo in Encino, California on May 27, 1998. Brynn got home, got into a “heated” dispute with Phil, and then went to bed. In the early hours of May 28, 1998, before 3:00 a.m.
PDT, she entered his bedroom and fatally shot him three times with a Charter Arms.38 caliber handgun: once in the head, once in the throat, and once in the upper chest. A man of 49 years of age. She was on Zoloft, a heavy drinker, and a recent cocaine user.
Brynn then got in her car and drove to the house of her friend Ron Douglas, where she told him the truth about the murder. Once they had returned home in their respective vehicles, she had contacted a second friend to whom she had made her second confession. At 6:20 a.m., after discovering Hartman’s body, Douglas made a 911 call. When police arrived, Douglas and the Hartmans’ two children had barricaded themselves in the bedroom. She shot herself shortly afterward in an apparent act of suicide.
According to the police report, Hartman’s death was the result of a “domestic disagreement” between the two of them. In the words of one of Brynn’s friends, “she got attention by losing her temper.” A reporter learned of the Hartmans’ marital issues from a neighbor. But actor Steve Guttenberg remarked, “They always seemed to be well-balanced, and they were a pleased marriage.”
Phil Hartman’s Legacy
According to reports by Don Ohlmeyer, Hartman “was endowed with an exceptional talent for generating hilarious fictional personas that audiences could relate to and enjoy. As attested to by anyone who had the privilege of working with him, Phil was a man of immense warmth, a true professional, and a devoted friend.”
Steve Martin called Hartman “a deeply humorous and pleased person,” and Guttenberg was stunned by the news of his passing. He got a call from Matt Groening. “He was one of those men who was a dream to work with,” stated director Joe Dante. I cannot imagine someone who did not enjoy his company.”
According to writer Dan Snierson, Hartman was “a fairly regular guy, respected by everyone he worked with” and “the last person you’d expect to read about in sensational headlines in your morning paper.” Hartman was named the most excellent Saturday Night Live performer of all time by Maxim and the 87th greatest television star of all time in 2007.
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