By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Howard looks out the car window and spies in the distance the crush of people lining the red carpet. From this distance, it looks like a throbbing vein. She's astounded at the sight—touched too.
"The magnitude of the miles these people flew—from Romania and Ireland and Pakistan," she says, clutching her chest. "And they're just here for a couple of days, and you're going, 'Oh, my gosh, after all this time.' It was such a ..."
"...part of their lives," Kanaly chimes in. The actors who played Ray and Donna Krebbs actually seem like they could be married in real life. "It was a very personal thing for everybody. And now, if they could manage to buy a ticket and actually be here, they're part of the history of this show in a very real way. And, ya know, this show did not have the kind of popular support among industry people..."
"The industry has such a snobbish attitude," Howard says. "Barbara Bel Geddes, Miss Ellie, was the only one nominated for an Emmy? Give a break. OK? My lord, Larry Hagman? Please. It didn't come out of Hollywood, so it wasn't considered worthy of acclaim."
You know, they're told, some folks think Dallas ended the Cold War.
Both laugh hysterically.
"Well," Howard says, "I wouldn't go that far."
"There were countries where changes occurred that were coincidental, like Israel and South Africa," Kanaly says. "In those places, television, especially American television, was just such a fresh and new thing. And suddenly, you're down in South Africa getting a show called Dallas with all this wealth and opulence..."
"Remember when we were in Israel?" Howard asks her TV husband. "Menachem Begin loved it. But he had to watch it on Jordanian television. We went to his home for his birthday. I have his book he signed for me. He kept saying to Steve and me, 'You are the good ones.'"
They both crack up.
"We'd run down the beach in Tel Aviv, and people would run after you and tell you how much they loved you," Howard recalls. "And you have to realize its impact and that it's a responsibility. You don't get something for nothing. It becomes a deep responsibility. It's like tonight. I feel a deep sense of responsibility for these people who have come all this way after all this time, and I feel almost overwhelmed by it, because there's no way I could spend enough time with them, which they deserve. There's no way to give them the honor they deserve, which sounds stupid, but it's the truth. If somebody cares that much and spends that much money. You should see their faces. My Lord in heaven. They're dumbstruck."
And, as if on cue, they pull up to the red carpet, the mouth of the beast. The throng parts to let them exit the car, but descends upon them the moment it pulls away. There is no security, and the velvet rope long ago fell to the ground. Now Howard looks dumbstruck. Delighted too.
Standing among the crowd are two men, Eric Engels and Serge Verlenda, sporting the worst-looking cowboy hats imaginable, the kind with adjustable neck cords. Turns out, they bought them this very afternoon—the kerchiefs around their necks too. The men, in their 40s, look like large children playing Halloween dress-up.
Both flew in from Belgium for this event. It was Engels' idea. He's the one who's been watching Dallas since it debuted in 1978. He was 17 and studying marketing at university in Antwerp, where, in his dorm room, he constantly blared the theme song from Dallas, which, 30 years later, is his cell phone's ring tone. Engels brought his friend "in case he faints," says Verlenda, only sort of joking.
"When I was young, I was so obsessed about it because of the scenes and the beautiful people," Engels says. "When I was in school, everyone talked about Dallas. I was so obsessed about it, and I don't know why. It was so exciting. I loved the scenes. It was rich people. My love went especially to Sue Ellen. She was a wonderful lady, how she could...oh, that J.R. And at the end of the series, she becomes owner of Ewing Oil. It's great."
Engels did not buy the $1,000 VIP package, so there will be no disappointments: His table's way in the back, he doesn't want to drink or take pictures with the cast, he doesn't need to hear the cast share anecdotes. He's simply happy to be on the property, to have his boots planted on the same Southfork soil as Hagman, Gray, Duffy and the others.
Every year, Engels hosts a "Ewing barbecue," as he calls it, where old friends from college bring their children, to whom he recounts the story of Dallas as though it were Greek mythology.
"Everyone is dressed up little bit like Texan with the cowboy hats," he says. "We've known each other long time. And the children say, 'Ewing? Dallas? What's that?' And I explain, because I was so obsessed about it."