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In his heyday, Larry Hagman was the biggest television star in the world, portraying the manipulative and ruthless oil baron JR Ewing in the kitschy Dallas soap.
Jason O'Toole, 18 Jul 2008
made him an international celebrity thanks to its 13 year lifespan and worldwide viewing figures that have yet to be matched.
But Hagman is as famous for his vices as for his thespian chops. Listening to his stories about his formative years, you get the distinct impression that his hell-raising would put Richard Harris and Peter O’Toole to shame. In fact, Hagman’s drinking spiralled so out of control he needed a liver transplant. His lifesaving operation was even referenced in an episode of The Simpsons entitled ‘Kidney Trouble’. In it, Homer’s father is waiting for a new kidney, but the doctor informs the family: “Larry Hagman took it. He’s got five of them now! And three hearts. We didn’t want to give them to him, but he overpowered us.”
Hot Press caught up with Hagman at his suite in the K Club in County Kildare during his recent visit to Ireland to appear at the Punchestown Races, along with the actress Linda Grey, who played his wife Sue Ellen in Dallas, as guests of Newbridge Silverware.
Interviewing Hagman is an interesting experience, as he likes to punctuate almost every answer with a question of his own, especially when discussing alcohol and drugs – two subjects he appears genuinely keen to discuss. He is unapologetic about the fact that his attitude to drugs is hugely unconventional.
Hagman says he “got high hundreds of times”. He has tried almost every substance going, save for one.
“I never tried heroin,” he confirms. "I never wanted to. I think marijuana was my favourite, certainly. LSD. And mescaline. Mushrooms. Ever tried a mushroom? It’s very illuminating. All these things are steps in the direction of self-awareness.”
It’s unusually refreshing to meet a celebrity – particularly such a classic American iconic figure like JR Ewing – who speaks his mind about drugs.
“I’m 76-years-old,” he says. “What are they going to do? Throw me in jail? No. You know, fuck ‘em. Now, in retrospect, it seems silly, but moderation in all things is much better (laughs) than excess in all things. But you only get that in hindsight. I have a motto in life – don’t worry, be happy, feel good.”