The Dallas Decoder Guide to Summer Entertaining

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Boys of summer

Planning a party this summer? If you want to host an affair your guests will never forget, follow these tips from the Ewings of “Dallas.”

Who’s he to disagree?

Who’s he to disagree?

Grill, baby, grill. Backyard bashes are all about firing up the grill, but you know what else is fun? “Grilling” your guests. No one knew this better than cousin Jamie Ewing (Jenilee Harrison), who decided the 1986 Southfork barbecue was the ideal setting to quiz her husband Cliff (Ken Kercheval) about his scheme to snag her shares of Ewing Oil. “You know, Cliff Barnes, you are the sorriest excuse for a man that I have ever met!” Jamie exclaimed. J.R. (Larry Hagman), watching from the crowd, piped up: “Well, I’ll second that!” Of course, whatever you do, never allow your guests to grill you. When J.R. began selling cut-rate gasoline in 1982, Cliff, Jordan Lee and the other members of the cartel got together and stormed the Ewing barbecue to find out how long J.R. planned to undercut them. You knew things were getting ugly when Miss Ellie had to intercede and order the mob to “go home. Go home, all of you!” Poor Mama. I bet no one had a chance to sample her chili before the party broke up.

Dallas, Fern Fitzgerald, Jenilee Harrison, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Marilee Stone

Slap shot

Don’t forget the fireworks. Are you planning your party on a budget? Instead of spending a fortune to hire a band or a DJ, be like the Ewings and entertain everyone by picking a fight with one of your guests. At the 1979 Ewing Rodeo, J.R. slapped his lawyer/protégé Alan Beam after J.R.’s sister-in-law/secretary/mistress Kristin claimed Alan insulted her. “I don’t know how you treat your women up north, but down here we respect them!” J.R. fumed. (Disclosure: J.R. and Alan’s fight was staged.) Later, at the 1984 Ewing Barbecue, Jamie spotted hot-to-trot Marilee Stone (Fern Fitzgerald) pawing J.R. near the Southfork swimming pool. Jamie confronted Marilee and compared her to a whore, which prompted Marilee to call Jamie a “filthy mouth brat” and slap her. Jamie responded by pushing Marilee into the water. J.R. was livid. “You’re not a Ewing, you’re a troublemaker!” he screamed. Oh, J.R.! Doesn’t he know that pushing someone into the pool is the best way for a Ewing to establish his or her bona fides?

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy

Partied out?

Surprise! Parties are for surprises, but make sure they’re happy ones. This is something Bobby (Patrick Duffy) learned the hard way. At the 1978 Southfork barbecue, he happily announced Pam’s pregnancy, only to watch her suffer a miscarriage later that day. Four years later, the Ewings threw a barbecue to welcome Jock home from South America and to introduce him to his new grandson Christopher, whom Bobby and Pam had adopted during the old man’s absence. Unfortunately, Jock’s helicopter crashed en route to the party. Later, Bobby’s new pal Lisa Alden proved a real killjoy when she showed up with a lawyer at the 1987 barbecue and revealed she was: a) the sister of Christopher’s biological father, Jeff Farraday; and b) suing Bobby for custody of the boy. Bobby’s bad luck continues: The 2012 Southfork barbecue was ruined when his new daughter-in-law “Rebecca” confessed she and her brother Tommy were scamming the Ewings. Geez, no wonder Bobby didn’t host a barbecue this year.

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Master of the game

Get your game on. No summertime celebration is complete without games, whether it’s a few rounds of croquet, horseshoes or simply tossing around a Frisbee. You know what else is fun? Playing mind games with your no-good, cheating louse of a spouse. For this lesson, we have Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) to thank. She spent the 1979 Ewing Rodeo flirting with handsome cowboy Dusty Farlow, mostly to get J.R.’s goat. Six years later, when J.R.’s latest mistress Mandy Winger showed up at the Ewing Rodeo, Sue Ellen pulled her aside and urged her to dump J.R., although Mandy wasn’t interested in this advice. (Sue Ellen’s memorable retort: “Isn’t it strange how the mistress always thinks she’s smarter than the wife? If she’s so smart, why is she the mistress?”) Later, when Sue Ellen discovered J.R. was cheating with Kimberly Cryder, she invited her to the 1987 Ewing Barbecue and pretended everything was hunky-dory. J.R. didn’t know what to make of his wife’s odd behavior — which is exactly how Sue Ellen liked it.

Dallas, Dallas: The Early Years, David Grant, Digger Barnes

Digger on the trigger

Remember: Safety first. Are there people in your life who are trying to kill you? If so, you should probably do something about that. Frankly, this is something the Ewings never quite grasped. People were always showing up at their shindigs looking to inflict bodily harm upon them or their guests. It began in 1951, when Digger Barnes (David Grant) turned up at a Southfork barbecue and pulled a gun on Jock. History repeated itself when crazy old coot Dandy Dandridge crashed the 1987 Ewing Barbecue and tried to shoot Cliff. Perhaps the most tragic safety violation occurred when Lucy and Mickey Trotter had a cookout on the Southfork patio while J.R. and a drunken Sue Ellen were fighting in the living room. Sue Ellen grabbed J.R.’s keys and took off in his Mercedes; Lucy ordered Mickey to jump into the car to try to stop her, which he did, only to suffer massive injuries when the vehicle was struck by J.R.’s revenge-seeking enemy Walt Driscoll. On second thought, maybe the real lesson here is this: Never take orders from Lucy Ewing!

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson

He started young

Summer is for loving. Parties are good places to make a love connection, which is something the Ewings know all about. Southfork soirees have seen J.R. flirting with country singer Garnet McGee, oil heiress Holly Harwood flirting with Bobby, and Lucy flirting with camp counselor Peter Richards. The barn is an especially popular spot for a romantic rendezvous: Lucy went there with Jimmy Monahan, Pam and Cliff’s cousin, while Sue Ellen went to the barn with both Peter and Dusty (although not at the same time, thank goodness). But you know who macks the most at Ewing parties? Little John Ross. At the 1983 barbecue, he sidled up to Charlie Wade to see if she would come with him to get a hot dog. Four years later, he was still chasing Charlie, this time hoping she’d take a break from the barbecue to go riding with him. Flash forward to 2012, when on-again, off-again lovers John Ross and Elena (Josh Henderson, Jordana Brewster) rekindled their flame at — where else? — a Southfork cookout.

Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Janine Turner, Leigh McCloskey, Lucy Ewing, Mitch Cooper, Susan

Heel, honey

Dress to impress. Every host wants to make a good impression on his or her guests, so when choosing an outfit for your party, be sure to pick the most impractical clothing you can get your hands on. If you’re a Ewing man, this usually means wearing cowboy boots, dark denim jeans, a vest (preferably heavy leather) and a light colored, long-sleeved western shirt that will show off every ounce of perspiration your body produces under the blazing Texas sun. (Rose-colored sunglasses are also a must, but only if you’re J.R.) Ewing women prefer knee-high boots, long dresses and tight, upswept hairdos that won’t move an inch, no matter how hard the mighty Texas wind blows. (Also: When it comes to turquoise jewelry, there’s no such thing as too much.) Of course, if you’re a Ewing woman and you’re hosting a pool party, you’re allowed to wear a bathing suit — and the more revealing the better. Just make sure you pair your teeny bikini with the highest heels you can find. Ewing women never go to the pool without their heels. Never.

Dallas, Fern Fitzgerald, Marilee Stone

Stone cold

Stay cool! With all this fightin’, feudin’ and flirtin’, your guests are bound to work up a sweat. So if you have a pool, by all means open that sucker and let everyone in. It really is the best way to help your guests cool off. Just ask Marilee.

What have the Ewings taught you about summertime entertaining? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Decoder Guides.”


  1. Jennifer Irons says:

    With all this craziness(in a good way) going on at the Ewing BBQs, no wonder Dallas was so much fun to watch and still is!! I hope Season 3 brings back these SF BBQ parties so we can see maybe John Ross or Christopher end up in the pool!!

  2. With the show airing in the winter and early spring now, the barbecue might not feel seasonally appropriate, but I hope they find a way to have one anyway. Lots of great memories!

    • Very true, although during the original series, the barbecue episodes usually aired in December. I kind of thought of them as “Dallas’s” version of a Christmas episode.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Why images are not clickable anymore?

  4. Dan in WI says:

    Including something like this (regularily), cocktail hour/Ewing dinner or the Oil Barrons Ball would help tie the new show to the old. This is exactly the type of tradition that should continue. Of course it is harder to shoehorn these kinds of things into the 10-15 episode seasons that make up so much of orginal cable TV…

    • Dan, I’m with you. I think continuing traditions like the barbecues and balls would be a good way to connect the new series to the old one.

  5. Oh so creative! That was a really fun article. PS going to practice Sue Ellen’s mind game expression for my next bout of psychological warfare with whomever. That’s a 5-star expression she’s got in that picture!

    • Thanks, Team Sue Ellen! For that picture, I worked extra hard to capture Ms. Gray’s expression at precisely the right moment. I had a feeling you, Nora and the rest of the Sue Ellen fans would appreciate it.

  6. john silver says:

    Why images are not clickable anymore?

  7. I’m inclined to convert my bourbon & branch to a mint julip whenever at a Ewing Barbecue. Gosh I wish I was sittin’back with brother J. R. right now drinkin J. R. Ewing bourbon & learning about Jock Ewing tactics for business.

    R. J. (Rory John) Koopmans
    President, Ewing Oil Co. Ltd. Canada

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