When we lived in Chicago, Dallas was one of our favorite TV shows. We got to see familiar buildings and places and we got to laugh while we explained to our Yankee friends how unrealistic it actually was. And it was also an entertaining show – I’ll never forget watching the “Who Shot J.R.?” episode with my dear friend Jeff. I ran across this story by a guy named Mark Evanier about Larry Hagman and thought it was pretty neat:

A few days later, Marty’s secretary Trudy phones and tells me, “Larry Hagman’s assistant just called. He wants to send you something to thank you. Is it okay if I give them your address?” I tell her it’s fine and I figure I’m about to get an autographed photo or a note or something. Two days later, a delivery man brings a large, cylindrical package to my door. It’s from one of the most expensive stores in Beverly Hills and I want to say it was Abercrombie and Fitch. Maybe it wasn’t but I’m going to say it was Abercrombie and Fitch.

Helping me open it — because she was there at the moment — was a young lady named Bridget Holloman, who was one of the dancers on Pink Lady. In fact, she provided one set of the legs Sid Caesar had ogled in that sketch. The box, we discover, contains a quite-lovely white Stetson-style cowboy hat. There’s also a handwritten note. It says, “Thanks for being one of the good guys” and it’s signed “Larry.”

What a nice, thoughtful gesture. I certainly wasn’t expecting anything from him, particularly something like this. But I don’t wear hats and I certainly don’t wear hats like this. Bridget, on the other hand does. She looks good in everything but she really looks good in this white Stetson except, of course, that it’s a size or two too big for her. Fortunately, the box also contains a slip that says that if it doesn’t fit, bring it back to the store and exchange it. I tell Bridget the hat is hers. “Take it back and get one that fits.” Three days later, she goes to do that.

I’m working at home when I get a frantic call from her — from a pay phone at the store in Beverly Hills. At first from her tone, I think she’s been mugged or beaten up or that something horrible has happened. “Calm down, Bridget,” I tell her. “Take a deep breath and tell me what happened.”

She takes a deep breath and says, like she’s telling me the Earth has been invaded, “It’s…it’s a fourteen hundred dollar hat!”

She says they cheerily took it back and told her she had a little over $1,400 in store credit. This is around 1983. That was even more money then than it is now and it’s a lot of money now. “What do I do?” she asks me. I tell her she can pick out another hat or anything else she wants or she can see if they’ll let her take some or all of it in cash. I say, “Maybe you can buy a pair of $20 earrings and take $1,380 bucks in change.” What she does is to buy a cheaper (and to my eye, almost identical) hat and take the rest in currency.

The almost-identical hat costs her under $200 and it makes a good point. If Larry Hagman wanted to send me a white cowboy hat, he could have spent $200 and I would have been perfectly pleased and impressed by the gesture. But he didn’t. He spent $1,400.

Bridget wants to give me the change or at least split it with me but it’s almost her birthday so we make a deal: She’ll keep the cash but for the next six months, whenever we go to a restaurant, she pays. I kind of enjoy that when our server brings me a check, I can point to the cute blonde lady and say, “She’s paying.” I get some awfully odd looks.

Larry Hagman was right. Life is so much more interesting when you can keep other people just a little off-balance. I’m sorry his is over. There may be other stories about him that paint him as another kind of guy but this is my Larry Hagman story and I’m sticking to it.