Weatherford should honor Larry Hagman
I am in East Texas, but I read the Weatherford Democrat. I was pleased by the newspaper articles discussing “Way to honor Hagman on city agenda Tuesday.” While street names and statue ideas are best discussed by the city and the organizers with their funding, one of the best ways to honor the great actor Larry Hagman is for Weatherford to “connect his name with the place” for visitors and tourism to the area. “Welcome to Weatherford signs” should also read: “Hometown of Larry Hagman – television’s J.R. Ewing.”
I saw Larry Hagman in person at his one-man show: “Confessions!” at the Cowan Center in Tyler on Nov. 10 – less than two weeks before he died Nov. 23. I was even privileged to ask him a question. His show was essentially a recapping of his extraordinary life. Mr. Hagman was obviously very proud of his boyhood town of Weatherford, since he showed video pictures of his parents (his mother was the famous Broadway actress Mary Martin, who is already honored in Weatherford), his grandparents, their house, the old courthouse and numerous other milestones of his life. Hagman joked about his popularity versus the popularity of his famous mother. He told of two separate occasions whereby one of them was “more famous than the other”; and visa-versa in another venue. True to form, Mr. Hagman quipped, “That’s Show-Biz.”
With Weatherford being in fairly close driving distance from the Southfork Ranch near Parker, Texas, I would urged Weatherford to seize-the-moment and indicate, via signage on Interstate 20, the number of miles to Southfork Ranch from Weatherford on a road sign with Mr. Hagman’s youthful picture wearing a Stetson cowboy hat and his trademark leering grin. Such a sign would have magnetic appeal and perhaps prompt travelers to stop and spend awhile in Weatherford.
I came to Texas (from my native Kansas) in large part to my admiration of the television show “Dallas” and Larry Hagman. The fictional Ewing family had its own “S.F.” Southfork cattle brand and I have my own “T-Star-J” livestock brand. I even recorded my brand at the Parker County Courthouse earlier this year.
Few actors are so memorable as Larry Hagman. Even fewer TV characters are so indelible in peoples’ minds as J.R. Ewing. I hope Weatherford honors Mr.Hagman/Mr.Ewing in a meaningful way and I almost hope that the TNT network can incorporate that into a storyline. It would be ironic to have Bobby Ewing (actor Patrick Duffy) deliver a eulogy on the show “Dallas” in which he mentions that his rugged, ruthless older brother watched a few “I Dream of Jeannie” re-runs in his golden years. That would really make things come full circle with “art imitating life.”
TV viewers (old and young) now equate Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing. Hagman didn’t just “portray” J.R. Ewing. Larry Hagman was J.R. Ewing. There is simply no replacement.
Weatherford can (and should) capture a spark of the mystique behind Larry Hagman/J.R. Ewing. Some celebrities have fleeting popularity. Larry Hagman / J.R. Ewing will have enduring popularity. The proof is he was still working (as the same character) 35 years after the original episodes began filming. A lifetime of achievement is certainly worth remembering his Weatherford roots.
James A. Marples, Longview, Texas