As an honorary Texan (that's what I call myself), I couldn't wait to get to Southfork Ranch to watch TNT's new "Dallas" at the the June 13 "Denim & Diamonds Gala."
I was born in Oklahoma City and that's where I've lived for much of my life. But for about five years in the 1970s, my family made its home in the Dallas-Ft.Worth metroplex. So I was living in the Dallas area when what I now call "classic" Dallas premiered in 1978 (Heck, I learned Texas history -- Sam Houston, the Alamo, Santa Ana et all -- in school before I learned Oklahoma history. I've come to find both fascinating).
From the start "Dallas" had all the makings of a prime time hit: Feuding brothers (the sweet, likable Bobby Ewing and the evil, ever-greedy J.R.); a class war (between the wealthy Ewings and the not-so-wealthy Barnes family); star-crossed lovers (there were many during the series run but the one that initially grabbed viewers' attention was the marriage between Bobby Ewing and Pamela Barnes); big business (The Ewings made their millions with success in the oil and cattle ranching industries); and last, a picturesque Texas spread called Southfork Ranch.
So when I was offered an opportunity to take a press trip to Southfork and a fun "Dallas" watch party, I happily accepted.
Hosted by the Plano Convention & Visitors Bureau, the "Denim & Diamonds" press trip included a tour of Southfork Ranch, where some scenes from classic "Dallas" and TNT's new "Dallas" were filmed.
But first reporters were treated to some other sites in Plano.
I thought downtown Plano was particularly fun with its eateries and antique shops and museums. Millerann Jockel, marketing manager for the Plano Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the downtown restaurants are eclectic mix including the Fillman Pub, Jorg's Cafe Vienna (which serves Austrian food) and the Urban Crust, 1006 E 15, which specializes in wood fire pizzas. Jockel said Plano residents and visitors enjoy the restaurant's rooftop bar where they often enjoy live music. Jockel said visitors are encouraged to get there early on weekends.
We had breakfast at another downtown eatery, Daisy's Barn & Grill, 1010 E 15, which offers a full breakfast (I had a really good Quiche Lorraine served with fresh fruit) but also offers lunch and transforms into a bar at night. The quaint establishment's owner Angela Murphy, a native of Italy, said she cooks all the cookies, pies and pastries Daisy's is fast becoming famous for. Daisy's is a fairly new eatery in Plano and Jockel said lots of people are hoping it succeeds since it offers breakfast for morning downtowners.
Our other stops in downtown Plano included Georgia's Farmer's Market, where customers shopped for fresh peanuts, shelled peas, fresh fruits and vegetables and other assorted items.
Recalling the farmer's market reminds me of another Plano stop -- Henry's Homemade Ice Cream.
I thought of Henry's because I had a wonderful dip of corn ice cream when we visited the ice cream parlor at 3011 Independence Parkway, Suite 215. The store's owner and operator Henry J. Gentry Jr. was giving a presentation to a group of senior visitors when our reporters' group visited his store so we took a look at the ice cream choices. In addition to traditional flavors like chocolate and vanilla, Henry's offered flavors like avocado, coconut and wasabi. My eyes gravitated to the corn ice cream and after trying a sample, I got a huge "kiddie" dip of the treat. The ice cream included bits of sweet corn and was creamy and delicious. I'm definitely a new fan of Henry's.
Becoming a "Dallas" diva
The restaurant and museum tours were a bonus since the press trip centered around the "Denim & Diamonds Gala" at Southfork Ranch, near Plano.
We were told that the informal dress code for the event would be cowboy chic so we were taken to Cavender's Boot City, 3317 N Central Expressway in Plano. Everyone was encouraged to choose some items to help make their cowboy chic outfit complete, compliments of Cavender's. One reporter from Los Angeles selected a nice pair of cowboy boots, her first. I chose a shirt with a Southwest pattern, a pair of nice jeans and jewelry to glam my outfit up a bit. I was pleased with the large selection of just about everything and regret not looking at the store's vast selection of cowboy hats.
By early evening, we were dressed suitably chic in Lone Star fashion and headed to Southfork.
The place did not disappoint. From a "Dallas" fan's perspective, it was truly surreal walking around the iconic Southfork mansion, watching people take pictures in the Ewing-themed rooms as they talked together and listened to live music. A highlight of the evening was taking a picture with J.R. look-a-like Greg Dickerson.
Dickerson told reporters that he is a Colorado doctor whose friends noticed that he looked an awful lot like that Larry Hagman actor portraying J.R. on TV's "Dallas." Dickerson, dressed in a white suit and cowboy hat, said he was initially ambivalent about accepting requests to impersonate J.R. so he wrote Hagman a letter.
Dickerson said he told Hagman that some people had told him that he looked a lot like him. The doctor said Hagman sent a one sentence reply: "Greg, you are a lucky guy."
"He was right," Dickerson said, laughing. "It's been a hoot, an absolute hoot."
Dickerson said he accepts gigs like the "Denim & Diamonds" event every now and then, and particularly events at Southfork, but he remains committed to his medical practice.
He helped serve as master of ceremony at the "Denim & Diamonds Gala" and was charming throughout.
His presence, along with other things that paid homage to "Dallas" made the event extra special. Guests were treated to a Texas-sized feast that included a Southern staple, sweet tea, and a fun mashed potato bar. I watched as people filled martini glasses with mashed potatoes that they topped with items like bacon, cheese and sour cream for their own unique "tatertinis." A large ice sculpture in the shape of an oil derrick stood out as guests of the Plano Convention & Visitors Bureau rushed to their seats in the Southfork event center.
Then everyone was seated, with fresh popcorn at hand, to watch the premiere of TNT's "Dallas" on a huge screen.
Typically I would have watched the premiere at home alone since my children don't know much about "Dallas" other than what I've told them. Watching the show with others who obviously knew something about the Ewings and their "Texas tea" was a thrill. The crowd cheered every time Southfork Ranch appeared on the screen and when Hagman's J.R. made an appearance on the show.
I'd like to see the new show succeed. It certainly has the makings of a hit, particularly if they can keep Hagman on board. He may be an octogenarian but he's still got that something that makes his J.R. light up the screen, in a bad/good way.
One thing that intrigued everybody for a few minutes was the timing of a storm. During the premiere, J.R. had been mute as various people spoke to him in his room at what essentially was a nursing home. Then, J.R.'s son John Ross (portrayed by Josh Henderson) told his still-silent father that he had found billions of dollars worth of oil on Southfork. John Ross said the oil is ripe for the taking but "Uncle Bobby" has banned drilling on Southfork land. The minute J.R.'s eyes sparkled with interest and he got a familiar gleam in his eye, we heard sounds outside that sounded like fireworks. Well, it wasn't fireworks, but a hail storm that seemed a lot like one that hit the Oklahoma City metro area a few weeks ago. We joked that as soon as J.R. returned to his (evil) business as usual, all hail broke loose.
Travel and accommodations provided for by the Plano Convention & Visitors Bureau (www.Planocvb.com).
Celebrate Freedom Concert sponsored by Dallas-based Interstate Batteries
Who: Amy Grant, Jars of Clay, Sanctus Real, Sidewalk Prophets, Jamie Grace, Kutless, The Afters, Michael James Band, For King & Country, Leeland, Hawk Nelson,, Chris August, Dara MacLean, Aaron Shust, Jason Castro and Johnny Diaz.
When: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. (after fireworks). Gates open at 8 a.m.
Where: Southfork Ranch, 3700 Hogge Road, Parker, Texas.
Cost: Free, but tickets are required for admission.
Information: Ticket information available at www.klty.com.
Plano Balloon Festival
When: Sept, 21-23
Where: Oak Point Park, 2801 E Spring Creek Parkway, Plano, Texas.
Information: (972) 867-7566; www.planoballoonfest.org.