When demons return...
Tinseltown’s always been a place where fortune, fame and fairytale dreams are made.
Grammy-winning writer, and impressionist Phil Hartman, 49, handled fame well. His beautiful wife, Brynn, 40, and he lived in the modest suburb of Encino, on the outskirts of Los Angeles. With their two kids, they seemed to have it all.
Talented mimic, Phil, frequently voiced on The Simpsons and co-wrote the hit Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. He’d won a stack of awards and many more personal accolades.
Close friend and actor Steve Guttenberg described Phil and his wife as ‘a very happy, well-balanced couple’.
But his career success wasn’t matched by his track record in marriage.
Brynn was his third wife. When they met in the 80s, Brynn, a former model, was also an aspiring actress.
But as Phil’s career rapidly took off, being a wife and mum took centre stage for Brynn. While she never let go of her dreams, she was feeling increasingly insecure. She’d had small acting roles, but they hadn’t led to anything.
She did land a cameo on Saturday Night Live though. The opening credits featured Phil facing his lovely wife. But to add insult to injury, her back was to the camera.
She’d battled in the past with addiction. Had been in rehab over drink and drugs. By this time, she’d been clean and dry for years.
But, gradually, the old demons rose to haunt her. She slipped off the wagon. Was prescribed an antidepressant. But her paranoia increased with drink and drugs.
Fearful that her family might be targeted by celebrity stalkers, Brynn invested in several guns. Tension was building in the marriage too.
On 28 May 1998, Brynn met up for drink with a friend – a producer and writer. Brynn was ‘in a good frame of mind,’ the friend claimed.
At 2am Brynn went home.
The children were asleep. Phil was angry she’d been drinking. He’d already told her if she went back to booze and drugs, their marriage was at risk. He went to bed.
Just before 3am, Brynn opened Phil’s door. In her hand, she held a 38 caliber handgun. As he slept, she pumped three bullets into Phil’s head. He died instantly.
Brynn then drove to her friend’s house and confessed to the murder.
Officers were soon on the scene, found the body and led the two children outside.
Brynn had barricaded herself in her bedroom. As cops led the children outside, a single shot was fired. Brynn had shot herself with a bullet through the brain.
Hollywood was stunned. How could this happen to the perfect family?
Tests showed that Brynn had mixed cocaine and alcohol and the antidepressants that fateful day.
A relative filed a wrongful death suit against the company who manufacture the antidepressant. He claimed Brynn didn’t know they could potentially have violent and suicidal side-effects if mixed with drink or drugs.
The makers settled out of court. But nothing could bring back what seemed to be one of Hollywood’s happiest marriages.
By Rachel Tompkins