Fans flock to Southfork Ranch for informal Larry Hagman memorial

12/03/2012 9:56 AM

12/03/2012 10:13 AM

PARKER -- An estimated 1,500 people -- roughly four times the average daily number of visitors -- came to Southfork Ranch on Sunday to pay their respects to Larry Hagman, the Dallas star and Fort Worth native who died Nov. 23 at age 81.

The ranch, where exteriors of TNT's Dallas are shot, held an informal public memorial for Hagman, who played the conniving J.R. Ewing in both the current TNT version of the show and the CBS original that ran from 1978 to 1991.

Fans signed a guest book, as well as several loose-leaf pieces of paper that will be compiled into a book for Hagman's family. Many brought flowers, which were laid beneath and beside a large photo of Hagman as J.R. at the guest-book table.

The "Oil Baron Ballroom" at Southfork was festooned with Christmas decorations and lights, some of which wrapped around replicas of oil derricks. A slide show of Dallas photos played, and a DJ played such Dallas-appropriate music as Hank Williams Jr.'s This Ain't Dallas, which has lyrics that play off the TV series.

"To the man whose talents put entire states and cities on the map," read a typical entry for the memorial book. "To the man who made the most devious character lovable. To the man whose heart helped so many -- Larry Hagman, may you rest in peace."

Some of the messages were from fans who identified themselves as being from as far away as Scotland, Ireland and Italy. Southfork spokeswoman Jana Timm said that along with local media, reporters from Sweden and Australia had visited last week, another indication of the international popularity of the new Dallas and the original series.

Timm estimated that 1,500 people visited the ranch Sunday, compared with an average 300 to 400 daily visitors. The ranch, which is about six miles east of Plano and 25 miles northeast of downtown Dallas, offered free tours of its version of the Southfork Mansion, which is a designer's interpretation of what is seen on TV (interiors for the current series are shot on a soundstage near downtown Dallas).

"I watched Dallas during its heyday and went through all of the excitement of 'Who shot J.R.?'" said Alice Raple of Dallas, who had visited the ranch for special events but had never toured the mansion. "I knew that he'd had cancer, so knowing that he was battling that was a sorrowful event because of what he went through. And also it just kinda left a feeling like 'What's going to happen to the series?' "

TNT has said that the 15-episode second-season of the new Dallas will premiere Jan. 28.

Five episodes had been completed when Hagman died.

Many who attended had, like Raple, experienced the first Dallas when it aired. Some came with children who had never seen the first Dallas but were familiar with the TNT reboot.

"I grew up watching the show with my family. My mom and dad always watched it every Friday night," said Cindy Anguiano of nearby Sachse, who was there with her sons, Brandon, 8, and Ryan, 11, who watch the current version.

"I haven't been able to get [a DVD] of the original for them yet, but I plan on it."

Hagman's co-stars -- including Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray, who appeared in both the original and current Dallas -- couldn't attend Sunday afternoon's Southfork event because they were in Santa Monica, where a private memorial for Hagman was being held.

Southfork officials decided to put on the public memorial after receiving numerous requests from fans of Hagman, who also starred in I Dream of Jeannie and dozens of movies and TV-series episodes.

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