Listen Up! Texas Monthly Podcast Dives Deeper Into ‘Dallas’

Larry Hagman, Linda Gray

Story behind the story

Texas Monthly has a new gift for “Dallas” fans: a two-part podcast from Max Marshall, the writer whose sweeping oral history of the series appears in the magazine’s October issue.

Marshall gives listeners the story behind his story, including how he came up with the idea for the article, how he was a non-fan who became seduced by the “Dallas” mystique, and how he has come to see the series as a kind of living thing that changes with the times.

You’ll hear moving and candid comments from Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray and Charlene Tilton. You’ll also hear from lots of other folks, including Leigh McCloskey, Roseanna Christiansen (!) and even yours truly (although I shudder to think that’s what I really sound like).

The podcast is available on Texas Monthly’s site. You can also download both parts from iTunes. Happy listening.

Making History: Texas Monthly Tells the Story of ‘Dallas’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Jim Davis, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Texas Monthly

Bigger than Texas

Texas Monthly marks “Dallas’s” 40th anniversary with a big, sweeping oral history of the series.

The article, written by Max Marshall, boasts a huge cast, including David Jacobs, Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray, David Paulsen, Kristina Hagman, TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz and virtually everyone else you can think of (even me!). There are also several rare behind-the-scenes photos and lots of fresh insight into the show, its role in shaping television and its place in Texas culture.

Read it for yourself at — and be sure to pick up a copy of the print version, which appears as the cover story in the magazine’s October issue.

‘Dallas’ Stars to Reunite for 40th Anniversary Fan Events

Charlene Tilton, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Steve Kanaly

Home again

Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Charlene Tilton and Steve Kanaly will headline two fan events in March to mark the 40th anniversary of “Dallas’s” debut.

“Southfork Fan Day” will be held Friday, March 30, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Southfork Ranch in Parker, Texas. This event will feature a meet-and-greet with the actors, along with tours of the ranch and its museum. Fans are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite Ewing for a chance to win prizes.

A “Dallas Fan Party” will be held Saturday, March 31, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas. This event will feature live entertainment from country musician Neal McCoy, food and drink, and interviews with the cast moderated by Jody Dean, a local radio host. There will also be “Dallas” trivia and prizes.

Tickets are $125 per person and include admission to both events. Tickets are on sale at

“Dallas” debuted April 2, 1978.

The events are sponsored by VisitDallas, a tourism group, and Southfork Ranch. The Feb. 1 news release has more information.

Will you attend the Dallas 40th anniversary fan events? Share your comments below and read more news from Dallas Decoder.

Happy Anniversary to Them (And to Us)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Linda Gray, Larry Hagman, Sue Ellen Ewing

Bottoms up

“Dallas” debuted 39 years ago today, while Dallas Decoder started on this day five years ago. How time flies!

To mark the occasion, I’ve added fresh images to our front page, and I plan to share some publicity stills from “Dallas’s” first season on social media throughout April. I also hope to get back to regular postings on Dallas Decoder sooner rather than later.

Thanks to everyone who reads this site and shares their love of the Ewings and the Barneses. I look forward to joining you to celebrate “Dallas’s” biggest milestone yet — its 40th anniversary — now just one year away!

Did you watch “Dallas” when it debuted April 2, 1978? Share your memories below and read more news from Dallas Decoder.

Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy to Reunite for ‘A Dallas Retrospective’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing Bourbon, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy

Family reunion

In case you haven’t heard: Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy will reunite for “A Dallas Retrospective,” a one-night-only panel discussion in which the stars will reminisce about all things “Dallas.”

The event will be held Thursday, March 23, at 8 p.m. in Dallas. The sponsor is J.R. Ewing Bourbon, which was introduced in 2014 and recently announced a new marketing campaign.

Robert Wilonsky, a columnist for the Dallas Morning News, will moderate the discussion.

“A Dallas Retrospective” will be held at the Winspear Opera House, which is part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center.

Ticket prices ranges from $29 to $49, plus handling fees. Tickets can be purchased online at, by phone at 214-880-0202 or by visiting the AT&T Performing Arts Center at 2353 Flora Street.

Will you attend “A Dallas Retrospective”? Share your comments below and read more news from Dallas Decoder.

A Holiday Wish for ‘Dallas’ Fans — and Everyone Else

Dallas, Kristina Hagman, Larry Hagman, LMaj Hagman

Naughty or nice?

What a year this has been, “Dallas” fans.

It feels like we’re all living in the show’s infamous dream season. Not the good part of that year — the first batch of episodes, which featured some of “Dallas’s” best-ever writing and direction and Linda Gray’s stellar performance as a down-in-the-gutter Sue Ellen. No, real life has become the latter half of the “Dallas” dream, when the series zoomed off the rails. The whole world has gone stupid.

That’s why I hope to write more about “Dallas” next year. This show has always been a form of therapy for me, and I need that more than ever these days. I miss critiquing the episodes, interviewing people involved with the series and generally sharing my love for All Things Ewing. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to resume writing regularly again — or what form that writing might take — but it’s time to get back to Southfork. I hope I can make that happen in 2017.

Until then, I want to thank everyone for sticking with me through this year of light posting. I also want to salute all my fellow fans for everything you do to honor “Dallas” on social media and elsewhere. Your dedication to the show amazes and inspires me.

So please enjoy this fun photo I found of Santa Claus casting a suspicious glance at ol’ J.R. (Larry Hagman’s wife Maj, who we sadly died this year, and his daughter Kristina are pictured, too), and please accept my wishes for happy holidays. Here’s hoping the new year will bring less dream-season-like absurdity and much more peace, joy and “Dallas” goodness.

The Dallas Decoder Interview: Kristina Hagman

Dallas, Eternal Party, Kristina Hagman

Kristina Hagman

“The Eternal Party,” a biography of Larry Hagman written by his daughter Kristina Hagman, was published last month. I interviewed her recently about the book and her memories of her famous father.

Let me start by expressing my condolences on the recent death of your mom, Maj Hagman. I enjoyed learning more about her in your book. She was a pretty resourceful woman.

She was a doer. Resilient, handy, innovative. She came up with all sorts of things.

For those who haven’t read “The Eternal Party,” can you talk about why you decided to write it?

I was hoping [the book] would instigate larger communication about my father — that other people would then share their stories, and lo and behold, that is just what’s happening. I’m hearing so much. It’s making the whole picture of my father so much more complete. As I put out my stories, people are coming back to me with their stories, and I’m getting a much more rounded knowledge of who my father was.

What sorts of things are you hearing?

My father used his celebrity to reach out to people, and when people contacted him, he often formed long-term bonds with his fans. He would communicate with people over decades. And then there is a story in the book about a little boy who was missing his dad during the Vietnam War and met Dad, who realized that this little boy needed a male father figure — someone to pay attention to him, to hold his hand. I think that may have been one of the very first times that Dad really understood that there was a healing power to celebrity.

I love that story because I suspect that’s how a lot of us saw your dad — like a father figure who came into our living rooms every week.

Yeah, and that’s how he said it. I was with him — I think I was about 8 at the time — and he took me aside and said, “I am in this boy’s living room once a week, but he can’t see his dad. How would you feel if you couldn’t see your dad?” He made it real for me.

Something I struggled with when I read your book is, I always feel like people of notoriety deserve their privacy too, and yet you reveal some personal information about your dad.

And about myself. I figured if I was going to be forthcoming with him, I was going to put myself out there too.

Kristina Hagman, Larry Hagman

Don’t worry

Did you struggle to decide what to disclose and what not to disclose?

You know, I read your commentary and your concerns that my father had never really talked publicly about his infidelities — that was a struggle for me to decide [to disclose]. But when I looked at telling the story of our family’s life, covering up that lie created such a big hole in the fabric of our reality that I had to not leave it out. It was part of the character of J.R. People who are famous often need a whole lot of love, and people who are famous don’t become famous alone. There’s a lot of people propping them up and helping them and giving them all that energy that they need. And my mom, as much as she wanted to, couldn’t give him everything.

You mention J.R. How much did your dad have in common with him?

Obviously, number one, they’re both Texans. Dad had incredible role models to draw off of, real Texans that were in his life, in his childhood. I think to be that good — because he was really good as J.R. — you have to bring a piece of yourself to it.

Something that struck me is J.R. struggled with his relationship with his father, and in real life, your dad had an interesting relationship with his mom [Broadway star Mary Martin]. Do you think he drew upon that when he was playing J.R.?

Certainly there were similarities in the competition of … wanting to be as good as your parents, or better. J.R. wanted to show the world that, “Yeah, I respect my dad, he was so great, but I’m going to be even better than he is. I’m going to take this to the next level.” And Dad loved and respected and admired his mother, but he was determined to take it to the next level.

The other thing that I find interesting is your dad had this reputation as a very carefree person, but he must have been a really hard worker too.

Oh, he was. Dad was incredibly disciplined. He used to use a reel-to-reel tape recorder to tape all of his lines. It was like a suitcase — that’s how big it was. And he developed a special technique where he would read the entire script — his lines, everybody else’s lines — and he’d go [makes a clicking sound], and then he would leave a blank spot. He would sort of say it in his head, and then he would read the line.


He spent hours and hours, every single day, no matter what state he was in, recording his lines, going over his lines, playing with them. When I was a young actress, he said, “Learn your lines backwards and forward. Laugh it. Sing it. Say that line with marbles in your mouth. Turn it into a joke. Say that line — even if it’s a funny line — as if you were going to kill somebody with those words.” And he would say, “You play with it until it becomes really comfortable and malleable.” He was incredibly disciplined.

Did he rehearse a lot?

All the time. He rehearsed over and over and over.

Did you ever rehearse with him? Did you ever read Sue Ellen or Bobby’s lines for him?

No, no, no. He worked with Linda [Gray] and Patrick [Duffy], right there on the set.

Speaking of the set: You made a few appearances on “Dallas” over the years. What are your memories of being on the show?

Some of Dad’s best memories were working with his mother. He was in “South Pacific” in London with his mom. And he thought it would be fun for us [to work together] — that we would relate to one another more. Even after I pretty much gave up acting, I would still come back to L.A. and do a day or two on the show with him, and so I got more of that intimacy of being his co-worker as well. That was a wonderful way of bonding.

Your final episode was the first segment that Linda Gray directed. Do you remember being directed by her?

Was that the masquerade party?

It was the episode after the masquerade party.

You know, frankly, the reason I’m not an actress is when I was doing that stuff, I was so nervous, I had stage fright. You know how everything goes blank?

Oh, sure.

I don’t remember too much except that Dad was there saying, “Breathe. Relax.” [Laughs]

Is that why you didn’t pursue acting full-time?

I was so terrified. I got a gig doing “Sound of Music.” I played Liesl. My mouth would get so dry that I’d have to put Vaseline on my teeth because when I smiled, my lips would stick to my gums. And at a certain point, after about three years, I realized that I didn’t have to do something that made me terrified.

Kristina Hagman, Larry Hagman

Be happy

Was your dad okay with that?

More than okay. I think that he really wanted me to have a family. He felt that family was the most important thing there is. He really wanted me to be a mom and he didn’t want me to have a career that kept me away from my children. So when I started full-time painting and making art, he really, really encouraged that.

He displayed your art in his homes.

Oh, always. Part of the reason that I became a painter, when I was a very young kid, my parents framed things I made and put them on the wall. I really encourage anybody with a kid who has some interest in making art that … taking the time to put it in a frame and show your friends — you can’t replace that kind of encouragement with any kind of class or grade that a teacher can give.

One of the sweetest pictures in the book is the shot of you and your dad in front of a garage-door mural you painted.

Yeah, I love that picture too.

So I have to ask: Your dad had so many great roles over the years. Did he have a favorite?

J.R., definitely. He loved playing that role and he loved the opportunity to do it for so many years, to hone it. Bar none. I think he also quite liked his role in “Harry and Tonto.” I think that that was possibly his most vulnerable, raw piece of acting that he ever did in his career.

What about you? Do you have a favorite performance?

I think it’s the “Harry and Tonto” one. My dad didn’t cry very often, and he pulled out the stoppers on that one.

So what is it like now, when you see your dad in a movie or a TV show?

Oh, golly, it does make me miss him. There are so many things I love about him. I love his voice. When his voice would be dubbed in other languages, they’d often put a very deep voice, but he had a barrel-like, funny, giggly — for a man, a somewhat high-pitched voice. Perhaps it’s the sound of his voice that gets me more than anything.

What do you see as your dad’s legacy? I feel like he helped invent modern television — we wouldn’t have shows like “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad” if there had been no “Dallas.”

Absolutely. I feel like the ensemble work with his other cast members is now something you see in so many shows. He was a great fan of “The Sopranos.” And he was very excited about the direction that television has taken since “Dallas.”

Did he see J.R. Ewing as a precursor to Tony Soprano or Walter White?

Yeah, I think he’d see these young guys and go, “Hmm, probably couldn’t have done it if I hadn’t done it first.”

And he always took credit for the “Friends” actors getting those huge salary increases too.

He really did think that everybody should have his due. If somebody’s going to make money off of his work, he wanted it to be him. [Laughs]

Kristina Hagman, Larry Hagman

Feel good

For an old hippie, he was a pretty shrewd businessman, wasn’t he?

Oh, yeah, he was, and it was a bit of a game for him. That was better than chess, better than poker, for him.

More parallels with J.R.

Probably. Oh, he loved the nuance, how to get the right publicity. He loved how to work with the public. He loved the attention.

Getting back to his legacy: I feel like your dad has never received the recognition that he deserved for “Dallas.” How he never won an Emmy, I’ll never understand.

Here’s an insider story about Dad and the Emmys. Like you said, he made it possible for other actors after him to get good money for their work. Dad had this idea that these awards shows make a lot of money and the actors don’t get paid for it, and he frequently complained about that. And maybe that’s why the Emmys never gave him an award.

Interesting. I wasn’t aware of that.

I think he didn’t attend them often because he said, “I don’t want to attend something and have somebody else make money off of me and my attendance.”

What a shame if that’s the reason he never received the recognition.

Who knows what the reason is? I’m certainly not on the Emmy committee.

The other thing that I really appreciate about your dad is that he had a concern for the planet. He was an environmentalist.

Definitely. And that was a reason to write the book, frankly. I really wanted people to know that J.R. was not just J.R., that Larry Hagman was an environmentalist.

So where, ultimately, do you feel your book fits into your dad’s legacy?

It’s called “The Eternal Party” because Dad wanted every day to be a celebration. Yes, there are difficult parts in my book, but there’s difficult parts in everybody’s lives. To me, the takeaway is: Living a good life is the greatest cure. Enjoying life, celebrating each day, no matter what kind of difficult things happen, that is the thing that I’d like people to walk away with most.

And that’s a great lesson.

Like he said: Don’t worry, be happy, feel good.

Share your comments below and read more Dallas Decoder interviews.

J.R. Ewing is Coming to Town this Christmas

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Hang in there, darlin’

You better watch out: J.R. Ewing is coming to town this Christmas.

Hallmark will honor Larry Hagman’s “Dallas” character with a keepsake ornament this holiday season. Sheree J. Wilson, who played April on “Dallas” and was a longtime friend of Hagman’s, posted an image of the ornament on her Facebook page today.

The 5-inch tall ornament depicts J.R. clutching a handful of cash and plays the “Dallas” theme music. It will sell for $17.95 and be available for purchase July 9, according to a post on Hallmark’s site.

The ornament joins a host of other officially licensed “Dallas” merchandise that has become available in recent years, including action figures, toy cars and housewares.

Will you purchase a J.R. Ewing Christmas ornament? Share your comments below and read more news from Dallas Decoder.

Should ‘Dallas’ Return? The Fans Say Yes!

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Come back, darlins!

Do “Dallas” fans want the Ewings back? You bet we do.

For the past week, Dallas Decoder has polled readers to see if they’d like to see “Dallas” return. Participants were given two choices: “Yes, the Ewing saga must continue” and “No, all good things must come to an end — even ‘Dallas.’”

Almost 4,500 votes were received. Approximately 97 percent fell in the “yes” camp.

This isn’t a scientific survey, of course, but it shows a lot of people would welcome another “Dallas” revival. (Each vote was limited to one IP address, so some fans may have cast more than one vote using multiple devices.)

After TNT canceled “Dallas” in 2014, producers tried to find the series a new home. These efforts ended after six weeks, although some fans continue to lobby online for “Dallas” to return.

Between those efforts and the results of this poll, perhaps someone in the TV business will take notice and finally bring back the Ewings?

Will “Dallas” return? Share your comments below and read more news from Dallas Decoder.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Dallas, Larry Hagman

Ho, ho, Hagman!

Before this holiday season ends, I want to take a moment to thank everyone who reads Dallas Decoder. Please know how much I appreciate your continued support.

I don’t get to write about “Dallas” as often as I once did, but this was a special year for me nonetheless. I posted my first one-on-one interview with Patrick Duffy in June, and then in September, I published a critique and oral history of my favorite “Dallas” episode, “Swan Song.” All three posts have been years in the making, so I’m glad I finally got to share them with my fellow fans.

I also got to chat again with Linda Gray and review her wonderful book, which was like an early Christmas present for all “Dallas” fans.

As always, special thanks go to the readers who leave comments on this site, as well as everyone who likes and shares Dallas Decoder posts on social media. I appreciate all your feedback and take great pride in the thoughtfulness and civility you bring to our online conversations.

I know many of us wish “Dallas” was still on the air, churning out new episodes. I continue to believe the show will return someday; “Dallas” is too special to disappear forever. Until then, let’s continue to share our love for the Ewings and preserve their legacy next year and beyond.