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J.R. Ewing Packs A Piece
And I Get Blown Away

HAT despicable oil baron, J.R. Ewing, the villainous hero of Dallas, is back and Iím headiní for the hills. Thatís because the one time I met Larry Hagman, the man who plays this slimy character, I got into so much trouble that CBS banned me from their press junkets.

It happened in 1985 when the country was going bananas with the Texan shenanigans on this racy primetime soap opera about the double dealing Ewings of Southfork Ranch that mesmerized a nation for 14 seasons from 1978 to 1991.

As television columnist of The New York Post, I was invited by the Television Critics Association (TCA) to the West Coast twice a year for two weeks of interviews with the stars and producers and preview the upcoming TV season.

In January 1985, after a full day of panel discussions, the CBS publicists rounded up a busload of journalists and herded us to the expensive and exclusive strip of sand called Malibu where we descended on Larry Hagmanís lavish digs. Heís considered honorary mayor of the beach colony.

His oceanfront hideaway on Malibu Colony Drive was secluded behind an iron fence, right next to Highway Patrol. Talk about privacy and securityóhe had it all.

We were a giddy bunch, so excited to touch shoulders with Americaís No. 1 television star on his own turf. Larry and his Swedish-born wife Maj opened their heavenly haven to host a meet-the-press reception for his Southfork denizens. Most came out ó Donna Reed, Priscilla Presley, Steve Kanaly, Ken Kercheval, Howard Kheel and Linda Gray.

The hosts graciously encouraged us to tour their abode at leisure. Some trooped through the ultramodern kitchen, a couple settled in the cozy living room to watch football on the giant screen TV, others ambled out on the deck for drinks.

Some of us gathered around Hagman before a roaring fire in the front room where he dispensed bons mots.

We asked, Do you give big business a bad name? "Big business deserves whatever itís called," he said.

"I donít collect jewels," he said. "People walk away with my hats. I donít care, as long as they donít smoke."

Larry has about 300 hats and 400 flags. "People send me hats and flags when they know I collect them. My wife says we should build a hat house."

When he visited the Soviet Union that year, he said heíd be more than happy to donate his salary to show Dallas there. "Itís about the power of capitalism and corruption and would be great for them. Instead they said not to bother. They said. ĎYou have women in big cars and big homes. We donít live like that here.í"

A few of us slipped upstairs to explore further. I stepped gingerly over a white bear rug in the master bedroom. There was the king size bed. Wow! I had to sit down.

The white pillowcase said it all: "Living well is the best revenge." That about sums up the philosophy of the warring Ewingsóand the Larry Hagman credo as well.

I fantasized how he would open his eyes in the morning and the first thing heíd see is the mighty Pacific. I was entranced by the wondrous sight of the awesome surf.

My eye caught a stack of books on the night table. There was his mom Mary Martinís My Heart Belongs. Of course. Also Shirley McLaineís Out on a Limb. And there was Nixon.

Why isnít the authorís name on the cover? I opened the book. Surprise! There was no author ó only a revolver!

Now thatís the Dallas style! That remained my exclusive discovery until I revealed this side of Hagmanís personality in The New York Post.

The story hardly stirred a ripple in Fun City. However it caused a corporate earthquake on the Left Coast that shook the suits at CBS.

At the next TCA gathering in L.A. I checked in with the CBS hospitality suite. I noticed a tense posse of sweaty execs huddling in the corner. High-strung heads were swinging in my direction. "There he is," one whispered.

The tension was palpable as a publicity flack broke from the group to confront me.

"Youíre not welcome here," he grunted as he gripped my arm and steered me to the door.

I was stunned. I couldnít believe I was being thrown out of a "hospitality" suite.

"Why are you doing this?" I asked in hushed tones, embarrassed in front of my TCA colleagues, not one of whom intervened or questioned why one of their own was being ejected from the CBS portion of the press tour.

With a sneer worthy of an Emmy, or at least a pay hike, he allowed, "Itís because what you wrote about Larry Hagman." The star had sent word that he wanted me disinvited from the guest list, and the timid network execs, quaking in their shiny suits, shamelessly surrendered.

Twelve years later he confessed to carrying a licensed gun and the press went ballistic. "Pistol-packing Hagmanís a son of a gun," screamed the New York Post. "Hagman shoots from the lip at New Orleans," chirped the New York Daily News. "Careful, He Carries" said Newsday which felt obliged to warn readers: "Donít get Larry Hagman mad. He carries a gun everywhere and heís not afraid to use it."

Hagman was in the Cajun city filming Orleans, a 1997 CBS series that expired in four months.

In a press conference in the Big Easy he revealed that he packs a licensed .22 because itís "a very dangerous town. People carry guns, including me."

He went on to reveal that he fired his weapon once. He was hassled on Sunset Boulevard by young people in a car. They demanded money and bumped into the rear of his car.

"I was really scared. And so I whipped out my pistolÖand pointed it out the window and shot off a couple of shots" and the kids drove away. Hagman said he doesnít show his gun in public anymore. "Now Iíd have been riddled with AK-47 shots."

It is 27 years since I first exposed Hagmanís gun. The rapacious Texas oilman J.R. has returned to Dallas. This time on TNT. We can expect the usual backstabbing and nefarious affairs to flare up in grand style. (I already got a taste of it.)

Larry, who turns 81 on September 21, and Maj now live in Ojai, California.

Am I still barred from the ranch?

I promise not to delve into the contents of his nightstand. Iíll bring my own book.


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