When I was a little girl, I started watching Dallas on Friday nights with my mom. I can remember loathing that The Dukes of Hazzard a really ridiculous car bang up show came on first. My brother, Curt loved cars, so of course we had to watch it. But then, there was Dallas. I didn’t understand it, but I loved it all the same, and I really followed JR and Sue Ellen. I just wanted them to get back together and they were always separated or she was drunk. J.R.was always cheating on her. Oh, it was evil, but interesting. I even made up a game that I called “Dallas.” I’d make my friend come up the stairs and catch me cheating on her. I would be J.R. and she would be Sue Ellen. Don’t laugh. I really did this.
By the time I was a teenager and Dallas was still on the air, I’d stopped watching. Teenagers don’t sit home with their mom’s on Friday night! So I barely noticed when the formidable show went off the air in the early nineties. But I was always interested in Larry Hagman, because he seemed so charming and likeable and yet he was a scoundrel. He was, it seems to me, a little like my own dad. He even looked very similar to my dad and they had the same initials. J.R. — and my dad is Jack Rohrman, so his initials are J.R.
My dad and mom were divorced by the time I was five. So I didn’t see my dad so much — on weekends — sometimes. He remarried when I was 6. My dad lived large. He and my step mom went on long, very fancy and exotic vacations. In fact, they still go on fancy, interesting vacations. Bhutan — who goes to Bhutan? Thailand, Ireland, Russia, Cuba…places I couldn’t even imagine going. Whether it was true or not, my dad seemed rich. He drove a blue Mercedes. He had and he still has a style about him that is unique. He is handsome, like J.R, but my dad J.R. lives in the wine country, so he drinks wine and has a hot tub instead of oil wells. He is a scoundrel, but loveable. He was a lot like J.R and like Larry Hagman. Perhaps, only now as a grown up, do I understand that possibly I liked Dallas so much because watching the show was like getting to spend time with my dad.
Out of odd fascination, I was excited when Dallas returned in 2012. I watched every episode. And even though he was an old dinosaur, I loved it that Larry Hagman reprized his role as the scheming, smart, J.R Ewing. He was back! Somehow, even though he was really old and had very long eyebrows, he was still so charming. Overall the show grew on me, and I’ve enjoyed watching the very last of J.R. in season 2. I think the producers did an apt job of keeping his memory alive. The more I read about Larry Hagman and this role — the one of J.R., the more it seems to fit. He went out, just the way he’d want to — wearing a ten gallon hat and shrouded in mystery…at least in TV land. Real life is sometimes not as much fun.
It was odd, but I cried when I first heard that he died. I mean, I know that I liked Dallas when I was kid, but I didn’t know Larry Hagman. His death really shouldn’t make me cry. But there I was, reading about his life and tearing up, for about a week before, well, other horrible things happened in the world.
The weekend that Larry Hagman passed away, we were visiting family in D.C, and it was very difficult for me to get a minute to myself to catch any news on the TV about his passing. Finally, I just turned on the TV and my little three-year-old happened to be in the room with me. I didn’t care, I really wanted to see the news about Larry/J.R.
When his picture popped up and the newscaster’s described his life in passing, Maya, my three-year-old, saw his picture on the screen and said, “There’s Gompo! Why is Gompo on the news?” Gompo is what she calls her grandpa, my dad. It was unexpected since, I’m sure I hadn’t mentioned anything about Dallas or my dad to her. These were my secret thoughts. I was touched, and felt a sense of redemption and deep understanding from such a special place: my daughter. I suppose his death made me cry because it reminded me of a special time when I was a little girl. Maybe it also reminds me of my dad, and how much I looked up to him. If he was all good, he’d be a little boring. And let’s face it, J.R. was never boring.