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J.R. Ewing, the king of black gold, was green at heart

November 26, 2012|By Patt Morrison
  • Larry Hagman, star of television's 1980s hit ''Dallas'' and the 1960s sitcom ''I Dream of Jeannie,'' was an energy conservationist who practiced what he preached.
Larry Hagman, star of television's 1980s hit ''Dallas''… (Gabriel Bouys / AFP / Getty…)

On the few social occasions that I had a chin-wag with Larry Hagman, he talked not at all about his acting career, not much about the renown of his birthright -- a reference or two to his mother, Mary Martin -- and a great deal about renewable energy and living “off the grid.”

Yep, the man whose TV career was founded on oil -- first thanks to that fetching genie living in an ancient oil lamp and then as a Texas petroleum tycoon -- was a devotee of alternative energy.

At a lively dinner in Brentwood and then at a couple of New Year’s events in Ojai, where Hagman had what Texans would call a small “spread” of 42 acres, he described ardently to me how how he and his wife, Maj, had outfitted their property to be as self-sufficient and energy independent as possible. He had a couple of hybrid cars, and this was maybe a dozen years ago, when, if you said you drove a Prius, people said, “a what?”

He clearly took pride in being able to run a self-sustaining operation, even having factored in his own water supply and water conservation on his property.

His foundation endorsed solar undertakings, and Hagman also supported SELF, the Solar Electric Light Fund, to bring energy to developing countries.

It’s not the conversation I would have predicted when I first found myself sitting with Hagman at a friend’s backyard dinner that evening. But over the years, I’m sure his enthusiastic green version of the Golden Rule probably made more environmental converts among even Texans than a film festival’s worth of admonitory documentaries could have done. And there is his foundation’s motto, a spin on what his J.R. Ewing character made possible: “Evil does good.”

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