Authors: LARRY HAGMAN
SIMON & SCHUSTER
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Copyright © 2001 by Majlar Productions, Inc. f/s/o Larry Hagman
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Hello darlin’: tall (and absolutely true) tales about my life / Larry Hagman.
1. Hagman, Larry. 2. Actors—United States—Biography. I. Title: Hello darlin’.
PN2287.H17 A3 2001
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I want to thank first of all Maj Irene Axelsson Hagman, my beautiful wife of forty-seven
years. Without her cooperation, cajoling, and her memory I would never have gotten
this book out. With all my love and affection, thanks.
To Todd Gold, who has written many articles about me and was my collaborator on this
endeavor and great friend and ally.
And Teri Prather, my assistant, who had to put up with all kinds of nonsense from
me during the writing of this book.
And of course, to my liver donor, without whose
really, really, really
important contribution I would not be here to write this book.
veryone has a moment when life pulls a U-turn. Mine occurred in Weatherford, Texas.
It was the summer after my senior year of high school. I was seventeen years old.
Two years earlier, I’d left a comfortable liberal school or rich kids in bucolic Vermont
to be with my dad, a prominent lawyer in the small Texas town. I’d said I wanted to
work as a cowboy. That time had finally come. I had my hat, my jeans, my boots … everything
but a job.
My dad got me work in the machine shop at the Antelope Tool Company, a stultifyingly
hot Quonset hut where I made a tool used in oil drilling that a machine behind me
spit out at a rate a hundred times faster than I could make them by hand. Then I switched
to unloading 100-pound cement bags from railroad boxcars under the fiery August sun,
until the company’s owner transferred me to his house—theoretically a promotion—where
I was put to work digging ditches for sewer lines and a hole for his swimming pool.
But that was the toughest of all the jobs, and probably as close to hell as I’e ever
been. Shovels and picks were useless against the hard
ground. Every few feet, we had to blast it with dynamite. One sweltering afternoon,
as I leaned unsteadily against my shovel at the bottom of a ten-foot hole where guys
much older and tougher than me were passing out from the heat and the dynamite fumes,
I had an epiphany. The only horses I’d seen all summer were in the local rodeo. The
hell with trying to be a cowboy.
“I think I want to be an actor,” I told my dad.
Soon I was standing on my mother’s doorstep in New York. My mother was Broadway star
Mary Martin. It’s hard to imagine anyone not knowing who my mother was, but nowadays,
eight years after her death, I’ll meet young people up to twenty-five or thirty who
have no idea of the Mary Martin of
The Sound of Music.
and their eyes light up. They can tell me how old they were and where they were when
they watched it. When I tell them that Peter Pan was my mother, they light up but
then look incredulous. One eighteen-year-old girl said, “That’s impossible. Peter
was a boy. And anyhow, he never grew up.”
Such is the power of TV, and unfortunately they show
very seldom now. So perhaps there will be many more children who will miss her extraordinary
performance. Four of my granddaughters were watching the cartoon version of
and halfway through, one of them asked, “When does the real Peter Pan come on?”
The real Peter Pan worked some of her magic to get me started. She also gave me some
“Always know your lines. Hang up your own clothes. And try to be reasonably sober.”
* * *
In this book I’m going to describe how I did my best. A lot already has been said
about me. I’ve been described as the Mad Monk of Malibu, the kooky actor in the caftan
who led flag parades up and down the beach, didn’t speak on Sundays, and occasionally
roared up to the grocery store on a Harley while dressed in a yellow chicken suit.
no secret that I’m a recovering alcoholic whose life has been prolonged by a liver
It’s all true, but there’s more to say, lots more. Some of it’s funny, some of it’s
serious, and some contains the wisdom that comes from discovering that having it all
doesn’t mean you
have it all. In writing this book, I decided to throw all that mumbo in the gumbo,
to stir in the stories, the little-known details, and the lessons I’ve learned, and
I wanted to do it before I couldn’t remember it anymore or we destroy the planet,
whichever comes first.
I’m often asked how my liver transplant operation changed my life. Aside from saving
it, nothing changed. It confirmed what I’ve always tried to do—live my life as fully
as possible before the clock runs out. My happiness comes from being a husband, father,
and grandfather of five, not from stardom, which is a fluke. I starred in two very
successful television series. When people ask for my secret, I tell them it’s been
20 percent hard work, 80 percent luck. I think a lot of life comes down to that. If
you push too hard for something, it seems to retreat. If you hold on to something
too tightly, it manages to slip away.
So little is in our control. I was once asked what were the three luckiest things
that happened in my life, and I said, “Being born white, in the U.S.A., and in the
twentieth century.” Even with all the luck in the world, you can’t ignore fate. Sometimes
fate requires you to need a liver transplant. Other times all you need is a sense
of humor. The other day I was in a restaurant and two young girls, fifteen or sixteen,
came up to my table and asked if I was the guy who played Major Nelson in
I Dream of Jeannie.
When I said yes, one of them said, “You used to be really hot.”
Real life is a roller-coaster, full of spills and thrills. As I see it, I’ve spent
much of my life in the business of crowd control. Each night, millions of people are
at home staring at a box, and I’m inside it. If they weren’t watching TV, they’d be
outside rioting in the streets, breaking windows, and overturning police cars. I help
keep them sedated, and at the same time I help sell cars, aspirin, deodorant, and
feminine hygiene products. So far I’ve been pretty good at it. Hell, I even take
a little credit for helping bring down the Eastern bloc.
Memories are like money—you can’t take them with you, so you might as well share them.
Between the ages often and eighteen, I had a steamer trunk in which I kept all my
most valuable possessions. When I struck out on my own to make it as an actor, I left
it with a costume designer who had a large apartment in New York City. Ruth Morley
was her name. She kept that trunk for me until she died, and then I lost all trace
of it. All the stuff I’d collected was gone.
You don’t have to be a shrink to see that I’ve spent the rest of my life replacing
what was in that trunk with lots more shit. I’m a pack rat. Don’t raise the subject
with my wife. A few years ago we had six homes spread across L.A., Santa Fe, and New
York, and she explained it was for all the stuff I’d accumulated. She was only half
joking. I can’t throw anything out. I collect hats because I have to. Same with flags
and costumes. I have drawers and closets full of memorabilia. I can’t even remember
what memories are attached to most of this stuff, but it inspired a lot of stories
for this book.
or Bob and Melinda Wynn, it was a big night. Maybe the biggest. Bob was a Texas wildcatter
who’d made and lost fortunes and at the moment was flush enough for his wife to serve
as the chairperson of the Cattle Barons Ball, a cancer fund-raiser that was the hottest
ticket among the social elite in Dallas. Bob’s wife, Melinda, was exquisitely beautiful.
He wanted the best for her, from diamonds to clothes (like the Bob Mackie gown she’d
had made for the evening) to social status, which hosting the ball ensured.
Like so many of Bob’s endeavors, it appeared to be working. Everyone who was anyone
in Dallas was on the grounds outside of Southfork, the epicenter of so much sex, sleaze,
and scandal on television’s highest-rated series. It was exciting, like being on a
Hollywood set. Even better, a fleet of helicopters swooped in, circling overhead,
and then it began to rain money—one-hundred-dollar bills.