I would never get a picture. I am not sure why. I just didn’t want to bother them. I have had the pleasure (some were more pleasurable than others) of meeting just about every single person I watched on television as a kid. In a previous life, I was a talent executive.
I rarely feel compelled to talk about, much less write about this period of my life, but last night as my husband and I were driving home from dinner “Larry Hagman has died” blurted out of the radio. I was stunned, but not completely shocked. I knew he had been battling cancer.
This morning, while on my yoga mat, this memory kept playing out in my mind like it was yesterday.
“Move over, Darlin’,” he said, as he slid into the golf cart.
I was sitting in a golf cart on the passenger side waiting for someone who knew how to drive the thing to take me to the set at the Ewing house when J.R. himself got in and asked me to drive. I had driven a golf cart before, but it had been a long time. To be frank, it was not my job and I was fairly certain I was not supposed to just drive off in it, but I did.
“Do you want me to take you to the set?” I asked.
“No, let’s drive up here. You ever been to Texas?” Larry asked.
“I’m from Texas,” I said, “but this is my first visit to Southfork.” After all, you didn’t tour Southfork if you grew up in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, which I did. But, I was a huge fan of the show. In the early eighties, when you told someone not from Texas that you were from Dallas, they would often ask you if you knew J.R. I would always roll my eyes and say something like, “Yeah, just had him for dinner on Sunday.” I never understood why people would ask that, but they always laughed when they did.
Larry’s face lit up when I said I was from Texas. He commented on the fact that I had no real distinguishing accent and without a beat I was in full Texan. I told him it came out when I wanted it to or when I was drinkin’. He laughed and said, “I used to drink.” That made me laugh.
We went on to have a pretty funny discussion about the state of bad southern accents on television. We agreed that Texas does have it’s own accent, not to be confused with the deep south. He thought it was funny that I practically made a federal case out of the issue while attending The Boston Conservatory.
We drove up this long path of trees on the way to the set. It was definitely out of the way, and I was nervous I was going to get in trouble for making him late. I told him if someone yelled at me for roaming off with the golf cart that he was going to have to cover for me. He said, “No one is going to yell at you for hangin’ with me.” I knew that was probably true, so I relaxed and just let the moment play on. He continued talking, telling me about how all of these trees were just planted when the show started. As we drove down the dirt road, they were incredibly tall, lining the path on both sides, providing a massive amount of shade.
He talked about the history of Southfork like it was his home. All sorts of tidbits, I can hardly remember now. The thing I remember the most was wanting to bottle his energy and his zest for life. It was infectious.
We drove around another stretch of land and I told him I met “Daddy”. “Jim Davis?” he asked. Yes, I had. When I was about eleven or twelve I went to the wholesale mart with my grandparents. At the time, they owned a store called Merrill’s Western Wear. Jim Davis was at the wholesale mart walking around in a ten-gallon hat. I have no idea why, but I went right up to him and told him J.R. needed to be spanked. He laughed and said he thought so too. This made Larry really laugh.
As I pointed the golf cart towards the set, we were talking about Texas. I told him how when I left Texas I could not run fast enough, but now I just wanted to stay and smell the air. The grass. Watch the sun set. Listen to the thunder. I missed it. Even the heat. He said, ‘I know what you mean, but Texas is a state of mind.” He laughed and shot me that famous shit-eating grin.
I jerked us to a stop in front of the set. He laughed again, and said, “Did you ever drive one of these things?”
“Not lately. I’m not even supposed to be driving it. I’m the talent executive.”
“Well, it’s a good thing,” he said, “You’re not that good at it.” My lack of golf-cart navigation was not lost on him. I’m glad he saw the humor. He had a great sense of humor.
Though I met Larry several times, and had many beautiful conversations with his wife, Maj (seen over my Dad’s shoulder in the picture above), this was our only extended personal interaction. I would not trade it for a picture. It’s a picture I will always have in my mind. I am quite certain he forgot about it within minutes of it ending, but I will treasure it always. He was a class act.
The picture above is my father and Larry at the TV Land Awards when Dallas was honored. He got a picture. I managed to get him hooked up right next to the Dallas table. He met Larry, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy. He had a great time, as you can tell from the giant grin on his face.
I loved working on Dallas: The Return to Southfork with Michael Levitt and Henry Winkler. It was a lot of fun, and honestly some of the most down to earth people I have ever met. I have lots more stories, like Ken Kercheval taking me to eat the most awesome grilled pimento cheese sandwich ever, but today is reserved for Larry. May he rest in peace.