49 year old Phil Hartman was a beloved Emmy-winning comedian and actor. He was the voice of several characters on The Simpson’s, including Troy McClure; Phil was also on Saturday Night Live from ’87 to ’94, along with NewsRadio, among many other things. Brynn Hartman had been married to Phil for ten years; she, too, was in show business, as an actress and model – though she was never anywhere near as successful as her husband. The couple had 2 children, a 9 year old boy, Sean, and a daughter named Birgen, 6. Together the family lived in a beautiful Encino, California home. But success and money doesn’t necessarily equate happiness, and there were some serious problems within the marriage. It was increasingly rocky, and that is especially true of the couples final 5 months. Brynn had a long history of drug and alcohol dependency, though cocaine had been her downfall since the early 80’s. She had gotten clean and stayed that way for much of the marriage, but that didn’t solve her problems. The woman was terribly depressed and suffering from low self esteem, along with feelings of jealousy towards her husband; being relatively unknown whilst Phil’s career soared hadn’t helped the situation. She’d wanted some of the spotlight for herself, and she’d believed that her appearance must’ve been the problem. During her clean years, friends say Brynn traded her substance abuse addiction for multiple plastic surgeries. She was absolutely obsessed with obtaining a perfect appearance, and no matter how many surgeries she had, it was never good enough. Phil tried to get his wife acting/modeling jobs, she just never received the fame she desired- and coming up on her 40th birthday wasn’t helping matters.
Then Brynn went out one night with a friend named Andy Dick; the comedian had worked with Phil on NewsRadio. There was cocaine- all those years of sobriety down the drain. This caused major issues within the marriage; Phil was not cool with the drugs abuse, at all. The couple were fighting often, and Phil confided in a few friends that Brynn had physically attacked him more than once. It looked like divorce was inevitable, Phil wanted a separation if Brynn couldn’t get her act together. The woman knew she needed help; she went for a stay in Promises, a rehabilitation center in California, but couldn’t kick her demons this time. She actually had an appointment to be admitted again the following week; sadly for these two, next week would never come.
On the evening of May 28th of 1998, Brynn went out for drinks at a restaurant called Buca di Beppo with a girlfriend, Christine Zander. Once back home, things became heated again between the married couple- he gave her an ultimatum, clean up or else. After the argument, Phil called it a night. Sometime between 2 and 3 am, Brynn snuck into their closet, retrieved a .38 Smith and Wesson from a lock box, then carefully crept to her side of the bed while her husband was peacefully sleeping. At close range, less than 2 feet away, she shot Phil 3 times: once in the neck, another bullet hit his arm and chest, and a third traveled through the bridge of his nose.
At 3:30 am Brynn called a buddy named Ron Douglas. She explained that Phil was out for the night, but he’d left her a note saying he’d be back later and he loved her. Was this a feeble attempt to get away with murder? Ron told Brynn he was going to sleep and he suggested she do the same. Less than a half hour later, a wasted Brynn was beating on the man’s front door.
Once inside the home, Brynn confided again and again that she’d killed her husband; Ron didn’t believe her- not until she pulled the murder weapon from her purse and handed it to him. Ron placed the firearm in a handy plastic grocery bag, and around 6 am he agreed to drive over to check on Phil and the children who had been sleeping in a nearby room. 911 was not notified until after he caught a peek of the actor’s lifeless body, around 6:20 am.
As Ron was on the phone with a 911 operator, Brynn snuck back into the room with her husband. She barricaded the door, retrieved a different firearm from that closet, lay down next to Phil’s corpse, and shot herself through the right eye.
Children Birgen and Sean had been asleep in the next room throughout the entire thing. Sean heard what he then believed to be a door slamming, but he was spared any visuals. After their parent’s deaths, the siblings were sent to live with Brynn’s sister and her husband in Wisconsin. They are reportedly doing well, and received their inheritance sometime after the age of 25.
Toxicology tests would later reveal that Brynn had cocaine and Zoloft in her system at the time of death, along with a blood alcohol level of .12. In 1999, Brynn’s brother, Gregory Omdahl, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the doctor who gave his sister samples of Zoloft; he’s also tried suing the drug’s manufacturers. I’m not real sure what happened with that.
As far as blame goes, people often need a living target. Andy Dick has served that purpose for many people; much of Hollywood turned their backs on him after all this, his career suffered. Had Andy not offered drugs to a known recovering addict, Phil may still be alive. Andy Dick says he’s not to blame, Brynn was a grown woman responsible for her own actions.
Phil Hartman’s remains were cremated and sprinkled over Emerald Bay on Santa Catalina Island, as he wished. The Simpson’s did a memorial episode for the fallen star, and recently there was a Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special. Phil and Brynn’s daughter, Birgen, attended the event with her fiance. She’s beautiful.
If anyone’s interested in the complete autopsy, here’s the report.
Scroll to the bottom and click the link.