On paper, family reunions sound like a great idea. Unfortunately, as many of us know, the reality can be a very different experience. Just ask the folks who ponied up big bucks to attend the recent Dallas TV show reunion at Southfork Ranch.
Dallas follows the Ewings, a family of Texas-based oil barons. The clan is led by Jock (Jim Davis) and Miss Elly Ewing (Barbara Bel Geddes, later Donna Reed) but their company is primarily run by their sons; ruthless J.R. (Larry Hagman) and good-guy Bobby (Patrick Duffy). J.R. is married to the long-suffering Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) while Bobby is paired with Pamela (Victoria Principal), the sister of the family’s arch-nemesis Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval). Other key characters include spoiled niece Lucy (Charlene Tilton); ranch foreman Ray Krebbs (Steve Kanaly) and his wife Donna (Susan Howard); and Ellie’s second husband Clayton Farlow (Howard Keel).
The nighttime drama began as a CBS miniseries in April 1978. It became a weekly series on September 23, 1978 and soonafter became an icon that helped to define the 1980s. Dallas was a top-rated series for most of its 14 year run and closed out its final season on May 3, 1991. The show ended on a cliffhanger, with a despondent J.R. possibly having committed suicide. Viewers learned that the villain survived just fine when the cast reunited for the first of two reunion movies.
A few months ago, we reported that members of the cast would be reuniting for a big 30th anniversary barbecue at Southfork Ranch in Texas. The public was invited to attend for dinner, entertainment, a tour of the facility and the opportunity to meet Dallas stars Hagman, Gray, Duffy, Tilton, Kercheval, Howard, and Kanaly. Other castmembers scheduled to appear included Mary Crosby, Sheree J. Wilson, Audrey Landers, and Deborah Shelton. Well, as one might expect, a Ewing party is bound to have some mishaps.
Supposedly 2,000 people were expected to attend the function but many hundreds more showed up. Coupled with lots of disorganization, the end result was overbooking of reserved seats, mass confusion, and disappointment. A concert featuring Grammy-winning Asleep at the Wheel didn’t happen and neither did a promised cocktail hour with the cast. Some people who paid $1,000 didn’t get to meet the cast at all while others who paid $100 received far better access. There were many in attendance that felt they were ripped off, no matter how much they paid.
The event’s organizers and the Southfork ranch management company are blaming each other for the fiasco but the end result is that many fans of the series, including some who travelled thousands of miles, went away unhappy and mostly empty-handed — with the exception of gift bags that included unrelated items like aloe vera products and a keepsake shot-glass. Even many members of the media were not given the access to interviews that they were promised.
Jason Hardison, the event’s executive producer, says that his organization is working on finding ways to reimburse the attendees. He told AP, “I’m working on how I can make this up to the fans. They deserve that. They did not deserve this disappointment.”
Based on comments and feedback from visitors to the Dallas Observer and Ultimate Dallas sites, that hasn’t happened yet. No matter what reimbursement might be forthcoming, many fans missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet and greet members of the Ewing clan — a trick that’s worse than anything J.R ever devised. Stay tuned!