No one lays down with JR!
Dallas - the series communicates like no other the image of the American dream, of money and power. Just like JR Ewing allias Larry Hagman. The actor came from nearby Fort Worth and was well known to the old oil families of Dallas, the Joiners, Crows and Hunts, who still have much influence in the city today. At the same time, Hagmann also acted as brand ambassador for the city.
Robin Hardy, driver at the limousine service Premier Transportation, once drove him around the area with his wife Linda Gray for a day: "The two were really like an old couple," he says with a laugh. He didn't need a bodyguard: “Nobody messes with JR!” The joke shows how much series and truth lie together.
The Southfork Ranch - between film and reality
The Southfork Ranch is not disappointing: the Ewing house is actually much smaller than on TV, the driveway is looped for the screen to look longer, and the pool is actually more like a bathtub. "You can only see how much fake it is," reports Joan Manganello, who has been guiding tourists around here since 1995.
Originally, the house belonged to the farmer JR Duncan, who had to sell it already in the 80ern because of the popularity of the series. Since then, the ranch has been a magnet for tourists from all over the world - with a merchandising shop, museum, tourist train and conference center.
Who shot JR?
Today, however, the film people are there. And the actors are wearing cowboy hats! It's been shooting here for two years - the new episodes of the series that have just started in Germany. In the US, they are already in season two and correspondingly great is the enthusiasm - especially of the female staff for the new, young male lead actor Josh Henderson, who also aptly comes from Dallas and plays the son of JR.
In a few weeks, JR's funeral will be on the schedule, but how it will disappear from the series after Larry Hagmann's death is a secret that not even the staff on the ranch know. The old marketing phrase “Who shot JR?” is in the room again.
Dallas is the location of the new series
Not only in the series, but also in reality, the old skaters have handed over the scepter to the young generation: the old series from the 80ers was largely made in California, only the outside recordings were shot in Dallas, explains Bre Peterson.
“The new series, on the other hand, is being shot entirely in and around Dallas, where the city also plays a major role. From the point of view of those responsible for tourism, she probably also likes the new series better because it presents Dallas much better.
TV series as an economic factor
Because the series is a true economic factor for the region: Only the Southfork Ranch has 300.000 visitors a year - and the number of visitors have increased significantly in the last year since the new series was broadcast, says Sales Manager Sally Peavy.
For a long time, the main characters have had houses in Dallas, the small-scale actors are recruited from the region anyway. Each series episode brings 2,9 million dollars through merchandising, hotels and restaurants - and taxes.
A campaign for JR's return
But it's not for nothing: When it became known that Private TNT was planning a new edition of the series, there was a regular campaign to get Dallas to Dallas, as driver Robin Hardy tells me.
200.000 is paying the city of Dallas for each season, as journalist Robert Wilonsky reports on dallasnews.com. And he has calculated exactly how much the city is investing, how much it hopes to get for it - and how hard it is to fight for every dollar, because there is always the fear that the series might, as in the past, be turned elsewhere.
There is also a piece of truth in every cliché
No wonder, then, that you do not really know how to deal with the hate-like stereotype. Apparently, the city, together with the series, has managed to make the transition to a younger, more modern image without breaking with tradition.
However, that the cliché of oil magnates and cowboy hats will continue to live in this way for a while in the minds of those responsible for tourism. There is a piece of truth in every cliché. A difficult balancing act.
Dallas - a piece of cultural history
Almost everyone, at least if they are over 30 and from West Germany, has a smile on their faces when I tell them that I will visit the Southfork Ranch. "Greet the ghost of JR," someone tells me, alluding to Larry Hagman's death last fall.
This shows across all layers, how much the TV series about the Texas oil baron is a piece of cultural history - and how formative for our image Dallas.
No one is wearing cowboy hats!
For Dallas itself, with over 1,2 million inhabitants after all, the ninth largest city in the US, but the series is more of a burden, says Bre Peterson from the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Bre is in her mid-20s and has not seen the big time of the series. For her, Dallas is simply a city where you can live well: "The oil industry is no longer as important as other industries, no cowboy hats except JR and we have a lot of culture here," she says and points out to me that the city will also advertise the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's murder this year.
14 billion dollars were invested
You want to believe her. After all, $ 14 billion was invested in the city - including the construction of a 275-square-kilometer arts district with museums and theaters. The Perot Museum opened in December alone cost $ 185 million. 26 million visitors come to the city each year, most of them for business purposes.
The money comes not only from the public, but also from private sources. “In development”, as the press material summarizes generously. A $ 5 million marketing campaign was launched in the fall. Even though there are more alternative corners like the Bishop Arts District in Dallas, you can practically see the city's wealth. And the clichés practically jump at you.
Join the old and the new Texas
In the newly opened restaurant Stampede 66, owner Stephan Pyles, described by the New York Times as a genius of the kitchen, wants to combine old and new Texas. You can see that from the wire-horse heads that are hung up for decoration.
Walking from table to table and visiting the guests personally is part of his good tone: “I grew up in a truck stop in West Texas and wanted to reflect this atmosphere in my restaurant,” he tells me. The food is basically Texan, but at a slightly higher level, he explains his very successful Concept.
The American Dream: From Taxidermy to Millionaire?
My Ethiopian taxi driver also lives the American dream here: Before he came to Dallas three months ago for his wife, he lived in Frankfurt am Main for four years. Now he lacks German cosiness: "Everything goes much faster here than in regulated Germany - but not necessarily better," he says.
He got his taxi license in just 4 days - impossible in Germany. Finding the destination with the navigation device doesn't really work, he has to ask a colleague for directions, but his personal goal is already certain: "If you are clever, you can quickly make a lot of money here!"
Just like JR Ewing, who, together with Dallas, is an important economic factor for the city. And so it will be in the second part.
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