Don’t you just love those enduring celebrity couples who could almost be mistaken for normal people?
“I don’t know, I’m the third wife, so three times is a charm maybe,” Lisa Rinna quipped last year on Live With Kelly and Ryan when asked what the secret was to her lasting marriage to Harry Hamlin. “So I think it’s just because it’s me!”
The couple will celebrate 22 years of marriage on March 29, and they were together for almost five years before they tied the knot, so… that reasoning is perfectly sound.
“We’re so opposite,” Rinna continued. “We have nothing in common—and I truly mean that. Like, zero…He’s into rockets and astrophysics. I’m into shopping.”
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star has parlayed her love of stuff into some successful businesses, mind you, but both she and Hamlin have insisted on multiple occasions that being so different—and respecting each other for it—has really helped keep them afloat through two kids, career ebbs and flows and all the other obstacles folks come up against in a marriage, let alone a Hollywood marriage.
“Lisa is a master of social media and pop culture,” Hamlin said recently in the Winter 2018 issue of LaPalme magazine. “My real interests are the political and scientific. Listen, we put a lot of time in therapy and talking and reading books and trying to figure out how to create a foundation for a family.”
While Hamlin may be the one most approaching marriage like a science, both he and his wife are fully invested in unlocking the secrets of their own private universe.
Denise Truscello/Getty Images
“I think one of the most important things is communication…and being able to talk about sex!” Rinna, co-author of The Big, Fun, Sexy Sex Book, told Star in 2013. “It’s why I came out with my book. It is such a crucial aspect in a relationship and it’s something that some couples slowly forget to acknowledge as much as they did at the beginning of their relationship. Harry and I have been together for over 20 years, but we still have to make it an effort to talk about it and have discussions. I think that’s something most couples forget to do, or put on the back-burner in a marriage.”
These two sometimes don’t even wait until they’re behind closed doors to discuss it. “We listen to each other,” Hamlin told Andy Cohen when the Watch What Happens Live host asked about their strong relationship in 2013. Rinna countered, “No, I give you good blow jobs.”
Well, she did have a book about sex to promote.
But overall, Rinna observed to Star, you see a ton of failed marriages (in show business and everywhere else) because a lot of couples just don’t realize what they’re getting into.
“I think marriage isn’t taken as seriously any more, and that is so strange to me,” Rinna said. “It’s something that I know Harry and I both take very seriously and cherish it. Many young couples think they are ready, they have the big celebration, and then reality hits. You need to be fully committed and ready to give that person your everything, or else it’s just not going to work. Harry and I feel very blessed to have met each other and be so attracted to one another. That’s important!”
Hamlin—who as a son of Saturn V co-designer Chauncey Jerome Hamlin Jr. really is all about rocket science—was fresh from his star-making run on L.A. Law, as well as a 17-month second marriage, when he met Rinna, who had just joined Days of Our Lives in 1992.
Hamlin, People‘s Sexiest Man Alive in 1987, is 12 years older than Rinna—and in addition to being twice-divorced was already the father of a son, Dimitri, who lived primarily in Europe with his mom, former Bond girl Ursula Andress. (In it’s-a-small-world news, Rinna’s newest RHOBH co-star, Denise Richards, recently married Aaron Phypers—who, like Hamlin, used to be married to Nicollette Sheridan.)
Rinna and Hamlin’s first date, in early 1993, was at Toscana in Brentwood (which is still there, a small miracle in itself) and the waiter supposedly told them right then and there that he could tell they were soul mates.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Rinna said in 2009, reflecting on the age difference. “I have never been attracted to younger guys. I haven’t dated them, let’s say.”
And with Hamlin, opposites had attracted all along. “He has what I need and I have what he needs.”
Roxanne McCann/Getty Images
They got married in front of 150 guests in the backyard of their Hollywood Hills home on March 29, 1997. Pal Kenny G. composed and performed a special song to accompany Rinna down the aisle. Dimitri, then 16, flew in to be his father’s best man.
“He talked about how Harry is his best friend, and how much he loves Lisa and how well-suited they are as a couple,” a friend of the bride and groom told People at the time. “You could hear people going, ‘Awww!'”
Rinna was in the middle of her two-year run on Melrose Place when she became Mrs. Harry Hamlin, and when that was done they welcomed their first daughter together, Delilah Belle Hamlin, in June 1998. Her sister, Amelia Gray Hamlin, was born in June 2001.
Jean-Paul Aussenard/Getty Images
“We do everything and talk about everything. We’ve been together now for 23, going on 24 years—that’s a long time,” Rinna told Bravo’s Daily Dish in 2015 after her first season of RHOBH. “And his respect and his opinion means everything to me, and I think vice-versa. And we work together as a team.”
Including in 1998, when Rinna posed nude for Playboy while six months pregnant, with a fully clothed Hamlin alongside her.
“He’s very supportive; he thinks it’s great; he thinks it’s beautiful,” Rinna told CBS News at the time. Of course, “It wasn’t an easy decision. We had to talk it through, definitely.”
“I think pregnant women have a glow about them that’s extraordinary,” Hamlin told the Los Angeles Times. “She was absolutely gorgeous as a pregnant woman. Of course, it’s extremely tasteful, and there’s certainly nothing exploitative or prurient about it. Those kinds of pictorials in Playboy—so I’m told because it’s not a magazine we have around the house—they are usually done very stylishly.”
Playboy was just the tip of the iceberg. In the late ’90s and ’00s, the couple started working together regularly, co-starring in some impeccably titled TV movies, such as Sex, Lies & Obsession and Bratty Babies. Rinna guest-starred on Hamlin’s sitcom Movie Star. She did Dancing With the Stars‘ second season and he competed on season three. They memorably played the parents of Jason Dohring‘s Logan on Veronica Mars, earning them new cred with the UPN/CW crowd. They even did Chicago on Broadway together in 2007, Rinna playing accused murderess Roxie Hart and Hamlin her tap-dancing lawyer, Billy Flynn.
Rinna recalled in an interview going through an extensive audition process to prove she had the singing and dancing chops to handle the role, while, pointing to Hamlin, “they didn’t even ask him if he could sing.” She said, “I worked harder getting this job than almost anything I’ve ever done in my life. And he just gets, like, ‘C’mon in.'”
“They figured that you’d be so good that it wouldn’t matter what I would do,” Hamlin replied sweetly.
And how were the couple coping, spending hours in rehearsal together, performing and then going home together at the end of the night, where two young kids awaited?
“We’re good about giving each other our space,” Rinna said. “I think you have to have a balance, obviously. If you’re together too much you drive each other crazy. We’re just like anyone else.” Hamlin added, “We’re great. As long as I stay off her toes.”
Rinna posed for Playboy for the second time 2009, again with her husband’s blessing (“If he had felt really strong against me doing it, I wouldn’t have done it,” she told the Edmonton Journal), and started writing books, including a novel, Starlit, that was published in 2010. The couple also ran two Belle Gray boutiques (after their kids’ middle names), before Rinna started selling her own clothing line on QVC.
“We share the responsibilities,” she told the Edmonton Journal when they were in the retail business. “He’s really good at business and really good at fashion.”
But for awhile, Hamlin—a three-time Golden Globe nominee for LA Law—wasn’t feeling particularly fulfilled by his acting career.
“Harry had some rough years of not working as an actor, which is his true love,” Rinna admitted on Bethenny Frankel‘s talk show in 2013. “And as you all know, if your man’s not doing what he loves to do, that’s hard.”
“Regarding the acting thing, I went zero to 60 out of acting school,” Hamlin told LaPalme. “I did four or five motion pictures. I acted in some controversial films. Then I did LA Law — the game-changer of my career.” When that was over, “the choices became more limited after that…People came to see me that way, as one kind of actor—a guy wearing suits and ties.”
As these things tend to be cyclical, Hamlin experienced a renaissance after 2010, getting an arc on the popular cable drama Army Wives, then a recurring role on Showtime’s Shameless and then he appeared on seasons six and seven of Mad Men (still wearing a suit and tie, but at least with a stylish retro cut in the most critically acclaimed show of the decade), earning an Emmy nomination for guest actor in a drama.
“It was so exciting to be standing next to him and him getting all these accolades,” Rinna told Frankel. “It brings tears to my eyes because we’ve had some rough times—financially and emotionally. It was such a proud moment. It gets me.”
Todd Williamson/Invision for AMC/AP Images
With the Emmy nomination came a brand new round of recognition for the veteran star.
Asked about being frequently referred to as one of Hollywood’s more persevering actors, Hamlin told the Los Angeles Times in 2013, “I’ll take that. I’m very lucky in that my career has never gotten to the point that I could sit back and rest on my laurels and buy a big boat or a plane and get fat. I’ve always had to stay reasonably lean and mean if I wanted to continue working.”
Hamlin also said, “Not only do I have the family and the acting career, but I also have several other projects that are ongoing that I spend a lot of time on, and I write at the same time. I spend a lot of time reading now. I have no set schedule, and I find that I have plenty of time to do all of the things I need to do. And also plenty of time to relax. There’s a strong influence in this country to keep going all the time and accomplish so many things before you die, I guess. I’m not sure exactly what the point of all that is, since a lot of people wake up having done all that stuff and go, ‘What happened to my life?’ I think I’m very blessed. How else can I put it?”
In 1998, Hamlin—a Yale graduate who was accepted as a Fulbright scholar but passed on studying Shakespeare in London when he was offered his first movie role in 1978—co-founded Tri-Alpha Energy, a clean energy company that’s looking to solve this planet’s pressing need for sustainable energy solutions by harnessing the power of nuclear fusion.
“I will never buy another internal combustion engine car,” Hamlin, who needless to say was an early Tesla enthusiast, said on Fresh Dialogues in 2014.
“The big picture is that the appetite for energy globally over the next 50, a hundred, a thousand years is only going to increase exponentially,” Hamlin said. “My vision is to go back to Einstein’s famous equation e=mc² and mine that to its fullest extent to find out how we can use that equation—and use what we know is true” to end our dependence on fossil fuels.
He even gave a TED Talk about being a futurist in 2017, laced with references to the 1981 cult classic Clash of the Titans, in which he starred as the warrior Perseus.
“They’re going to change the world—they’re going to save the world, first of all,” Rinna said adoringly about her husband’s venture on Live With Kelly and Ryan last year.
With everything going so well, though, why tempt the fate with what has driven a wedge between so many couples over the years?
Going on a reality show, that is.
Rinna joined The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which is returning for its ninth season tonight on Bravo, in time for season five—but, as she has said many a time, it wasn’t a decision she made without her husband being fully on board.
“Like everything in life, it’s all about timing,” she told E! News in November 2014. “It’s funny, when I went on to Melrose Place it was year five. This is year five of Housewives…To be honest with you, after talking about it with my husband, it’s been a really great gig for me. It felt right, to be honest with you…and I like an adventure, I was looking for an adventure.”
“She came to me and she said that they had asked her to do it, and I said, ‘If you do it I’m going to call my divorce lawyer,'” Hamlin joked in 2016 during an IMDb Asks Q&A. “‘I happen to have a divorce lawyer in my phone. And as long as I don’t have to be on it, you can do it.'”
Nicole Weingart/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Image
He’s proved to be a very good sport, though, hosting all the Housewives at a home BBQ (he cooks, too!) and standing by his wife when the feuds took a turn for the wine-throwing. Perhaps the most explosive exchange between Lisa and a fellow Housewife remains when Kim Richards implied at dinner one night in Amsterdam that Rinna and Hamlin had a certain skeleton in their closet.
“I call them desperate housewives around the house,” Hamlin told IMDb.
“…[W]hat I learned is I am fiercely protective of my family,” Rinna told us about the wine-splashing, glass-smashing exchange with Kim.
Asked recently on WWHL what she had done on RHOBH so far to embarrass her husband the most, Rinna said that inquiring minds would have to ask Hamlin. (Who is paying attention. While getting ready to shoot the season eight reunion, Rinna tweeted, “Gearing up for the season eight RHOBH reunion last year. I just said to HH ‘What am I going to do at the reunion this year?’ He said ‘You’re never going to top that ONE TEAR so just have fun.'” That was in reference to her single-tear response to Kim returning the stuffed animal Rinna bought for her grandson.)
Joe Scarnici / Getty
“I don’t think I’ve embarrassed him,” she added. “Saying that he likes a full bush?” Andy Cohen offered. “No, he loves—that doesn’t…” “That’s called bragging, Andy,” Kyle Richards interjected.
“I may have done things that make him shudder,” Rinna acknowledged matter-of-factly, “but I don’t know if I’ve embarrassed him.”
Hamlin, in fact, appreciates Rinna going to great lengths to defend his honor on the show.
‘I think [Kim] implied that I’d done something out of the marriage, Lisa went ballistic over that,” he told LaPalme, recalling the 2015 blowup. “I was very proud of her. I wonder what I’d do in that same position.”
Rinna told Star back in 2013, “I think what I do really well is that I’m able to speak my mind. I’m not afraid to express what I’m thinking and I’m not afraid to back down.
“I think Harry really respects that about me and likes that I stand up for myself. No matter what anybody says, marriage is hard and it takes a lot of hard work. When you take that vow, it’s a huge responsibility you’re taking on and you are agreeing to compromise and give and take. But giving up has never been an option for us. We make it work.”
“I’m not always the easiest person to support,” Rinna acknowledged to the Daily Dish in December 2015. “I do some crazy things—I put my foot in my mouth, I get myself into some trouble, and that husband of mine just will support me and hold my hand and pick me up. He’s just the most amazing being. I’m so lucky to have somebody who loves me… but he loves me unconditionally. The same thing [on my side], I love him unconditionally.”
And some things don’t have to change.
“We’re still firing on all cylinders after 26 or 27 years,” Hamlin mused to LaPalme. “It simply comes down to: we really like each other—and—we’re complete opposites. We never get tired of each other’s stories.”
“We are crazy about each other,” Rinna told Andy Cohen a year ago, “and you can’t create that, you can’t make it—it either is, or it isn’t.”
(E! and Bravo are both members of the NBCUniversal family.)