The Fame of the Name Is the Name of the Game Among Americans Named J.R. Ewing
A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but what about a skunk? Thanks to actor Larry Hagman and the phenomenal 1980 success of CBS' Dallas, the moniker "J.R. Ewing" is now synonymous with lowdown double-dealing. No one knows that better than ordinary folks whose fate is to bear that now notorious name. There are bewitched J.R.'s ("I love the attention," says college counselor Joan R. Ewing of Los Altos, Calif.), bothered J.R.'s ("The crank calls are a pain," grouses another) and bewildered J.R.'s ("People are always asking me how my affair with so-and-so is going," says contractor John R. Ewing of Meridian, Idaho. "I never know who they're talking about"). There are almost no unaffected J.R.'s. But James Richard Ewing of Vermont predicts, "Dallas' J.R. is going to become a likable, softhearted character." Why? "Because with a name like Ewing, J.R. can't be all bad."
"People ask, 'Are you as mean as you are on TV?' " reports Ford Tractor exec James R. Ewing, 61, of Memphis, who always answers, " 'I'm even meaner.' But that's not really true. To me, life is beautiful. I don't like people who are ornery. A couple of drunk callers have cussed me out for the way J.R. behaves on television, but they were just having fun."
"Well, they don't lose my hotel and airplane reservations like they used to," drawls pharmacist J.R. Ewing, 38, of Hobbs, N.Mex., whose store now uses bags that read, "I got it from J.R. Ewing at the Broadmoor Drug." Adds J.R., "I've really had a good time," though he worries about getting a personalized license plate: "People might throw rocks."
"My truck gives me visibility," laughs developer James R. Ewing, 46, of South Burlington, Vt. "People pronounce our name correctly now, instead of E-wing." A star attraction when he cashes checks, the Yankee J.R. notes another similarity to the Texas wheeler-dealer. "I'm a member of the local planning board. I'm in politics just like the rest of the Ewings."
James R. Ewing Sr. 41, and Jr., 16, of Corpus Christi couldn't be less like that scoundrel over in Dallas. Sr. runs J-R Builders and serves on his church and school boards. His son is a high school junior who raised a 235-pound Poland China hog last year. Scoffs Jr., "I'd have to be desperate to act like Dallas' J.R."
"With the nametag on my flight suit, I get comments all the time," says Air Force Lt. Col. John R. Ewing, 44, of Belton, Mo., here in the cockpit of his C-130 transport. He tells smart alecks, "I'm incognito, hiding out in mid-America." Last summer he rescued a young woman after a boating accident, "and she couldn't get over being saved by J.R. Ewing."
"It's like having an evil member of the family who's famous," finds College Park, Md. public relations consultant Joseph R. Ewing, 43. He jokes that prank calls may drive him to file "a class action suit for mass defamation of character." Then again, he says, "My girlfriend showed up in jeans embroidered 'J.R.'s darlin'.' That was one of the nice things."
Cruising on his $7,000 Honda GL 1000 with its antique German sidecar, motorcycle dealer John R. Ewing of Lafayette, Ind. has never lacked for attention. Now people giggle when they read the name on his helmet. "They ask if I really am J.R.," smiles J.R., who hollers back over traffic, " 'Have been for 58 years!' I can't prove it, but I'm convinced all this has helped my business."
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