Their storybook romance could have been scripted by the Brothers Grimm: Dorothy Hamill, America’s skating sweetheart and pixie-faced Olympic Gold Medal winner, falls in love with Dean Paul Martin, the dashing son of a movie-star father. But barely 21 months after their old-fashioned Hollywood church wedding (with a guest list ranging from Frank Sinatra to Jimmy Connors), their marriage has lost its magic. Dean, 31, has moved out of their Benedict Canyon home, and Dorothy, 27, sadly and somewhat cryptically confirms that the two are calling it quits: “We are still the best of friends, we still love each other and the divorce will be amicable.” “There was no dramatic confrontation, there was no other woman,” reports a friend. “He told her it was nothing she had done, that he had to make a move in his life.”
Mutual friends also hint the couple’s light-years-apart backgrounds may have been too much to overcome. Born in affluent Riverside, Conn., the daughter of a Pitney Bowes executive, Dorothy was raised in conservative, family-oriented surroundings, and, by her own admission, led a “very sheltered life.” As the son of Dean Martin and his second wife, Jeanne, Dean Paul was reared on Hollywood glitter. A minor rock star at 13, he later dabbled in auto racing, had a brief tryout with the now defunct World Football League and played for a time on the professional tennis circuit. He is also a pilot with California’s Air National Guard. His first marriage, at 19, to actress Olivia (Romeo and Juliet) Hussey, lasted four years. (They have a son, Alexander, 10, who lives with his mother in L.A.’s Hancock Park.)
Martin and Hamill met shortly after her 1976 Olympic victory, introduced by Desi Arnaz Jr. Early on, Dean Paul gave the couple only “a 50-50 chance of making it,” adding that “whatever problems we’ve had in this relationship have come from not being together.” Professional rivalry may have been a problem as well. Dean Paul, who wants to act, received mediocre reviews for Players, the 1979 tennis flick in which he debuted opposite Ali MacGraw. He has a small part in the upcoming Heart Like a Wheel but little else on the horizon. Meanwhile, Hamill is flourishing with the Ice Capades, TV specials, an autobiography due out this fall and a planned skating tour of Japan early next year.
Whatever shattered the Martin-Hamill marriage, the unhappy ending has saddened their friends. “They were the all-American couple,” observes one. “It’s simply a case of loving each other but not being able to live together. That isn’t such an oddity.”