i Editor's Letter: Larry Hagman, we never knew you - but we thought we did


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The Independent Online


A retired general of my close acquaintance once told me that one of the toughest and saddest things about getting old was opening up the Daily Telegraph in the morning to read yet another obituary about some magnificent former warrior friend of his who had “shuffled off this mortal coil”.

Most of us, especially those who did not go through the war, don’t know too many people who merit an obituary - or at least get them, even when they do. Many ordinary people instead relate to famous people on a complex level as if we know them. Therefore, this weekend, there was sadness across the globe among (mostly) women of a certain age at the passing of Larry Hagman aka JR Ewing, his inimitable character from the Daddy of TV soaps, Dallas.

I write this without judgement, but it is a reality of modern living that many people see (or saw) more of JR, Sue Ellen, Bobby and Pam; or Krystle, Alexis and Blake; or Den, Angie, Rickaaaay! and Dot; or Ken, Deidre, Bet, Jack and Vera than they did some of their own family and friends. Dallas alone was in millions of people’s lives around the world for 13 years from 1978 to 1991 before being reprised for a new generation of fans earlier this year. Millions of Britons have been welcoming William Roache as Ken Barlow into their homes for 52 years. 52 years! Who else is still there after 52 years - other than the Queen and Brucie? Why, not even McCartney, the Stones or Fergie.

But you have to earn that right to people’s affections; to that rare place where a character is talked about as if a person. Once upon a time that would have been Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre or Miss Havisham.  My own version is using, as if they were real pearls of wisdom, aphorisms from the two Dons: Corleone and Draper,  and the inimitable wit of the other Larry (David). 

So, rest in peace, JR. Larry Hagman we never knew you - but we thought we did.