Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Dallas" returns: A same-sex love story

By chance, I had the family in Pittsburgh this weekend to enjoy the Three Rivers Arts Festival when we happened upon the city’s Gay Pride Parade.
Of the two, the gay pride gang displayed far more vivid colors than anything we later found in a frame.
It was a truly eye-popping event for our daughters, ages 11 and 6, and I’m certain the GLBTs have forever ruined for them Latrobe’s annual Fourth of July parade, renown as it is for featuring roughly 25,000 firetrucks poking along at 2 mph for what seems like 18 hours.
I found the joyful expressions of once-forbidden love inspiring, so much so that I think today’s the perfect day to declare to the world the secret, profound love I feel for another man.
I haven’t seen him for about 10 years and during that time I dreamed of a day when I could declare aloud my feelings for him and we could once again spend so many soulful hours together.
Today’s the day.
His name?
J.R. Ewing.
As you may have heard, he’s back on TNT tonight, a station whose name recollects explosive situations, and that’s just what I’m hoping to see on the new “Dallas.”
You could say I was sort of in the closet over this personal turmoil for about the last 10 years.
Before that only one friend, my good buddy Paul, knew of my love for the Satan from Southfork. Although he shared my feelings, we never fought over J.R. Our love for him transcends possessive tiffs.
On the contrary, we’d spend hours regaling one another over his latest escapades from the re-runs we never missed on the Soap Opera Channel.
We’d roar over the episode where he and his daddy Jock Ewing decided to make up for lost time by having an all-out afternoon drinking contest at a local dive.
“Loser drives home!” Jock declared.
We howled when J.R. justified a rigged deal by saying, “Once you get past ethics, the rest is easy.”
I’ve since used that line in my role as a professor during the four minutes it takes me to lecture future journalists on the importance of ethics in storytelling.
Understand, I was only dimly aware of “Dallas” during its original run from 1978-1991.
I spent most of the Friday nights the show was on -- hell, most of the entire 1980s -- out drinking, chasing women and placing ridiculous wagers. It wasn’t until later that I learned the only difference between my hero and me was only one of us enjoyed access to a vast fortune in ill-gotten oil loot.
In two weeks it’ll be 20 years since I last had a steady job (paycheck, either). Working from home meant I’d often have the TV on in the background for things like the O.J. Simpson trial, classic SNL reruns and M*A*S*H episodes I’d through viewing repetition already committed to memory.
Then one day I happened to tune into “Dallas.”
I remember that day with the same clarity you hear religious devotees express about the day their souls were saved.
Sex, betrayal, lust, booze, revenge, greed -- the show had it all.
I was hooked. So was Paul, my newspaper buddy who often switched shifts with co-workers so he could work nights and not miss the 11 a.m. episodes.
Sure, my wife knew. She’s a woman whose tolerance for same-sex couples is only exceeded by that for malingering husbands who watch things like “Dallas” re-runs while other husbands are out earning a living.
But it was something men were reluctant to share with other men. I’ve never seen “Brokeback Mountain,” but I sense the plot lines are similar.
That’s why it was so liberating when I was visiting another buddy of mine in New York back around 1997. I’ve written about him before. He’s my evil friend John.
We were roommates at Ohio University. During the entirety of our friendship, I’d never known him to rise before noon for anything that didn’t involve a court order. So I was shocked when he strolled into the living room at precisely 10:59 a.m.
I’d, of course, been watching SportsCenter. I was at the time still concealing my TV viewing orientation. I figured he’d ridicule me if he knew of my hidden love.
His look was grave. “I have something to say that may surprise you. This isn’t easy for me because I’m not sure how you’ll react. So I’m just going to come out and say it: I watch ‘Dallas’ every day at 11 a.m. I never miss it.”
Well, I’ll never forget what happened next. I jumped off that couch and shouted, “Me, too!” We met in the center of his tiny apartment and kissed each other on the cheeks. I can’t say if his did, but I know my leg did that little bend back at the knee   thing you used to see happen when couples kissed in the old Cary Grant movies.
In an instant I was on the phone with Paul. “Guess what? John’s just like me and you! He loves ‘Dallas!’’
From then on, our giddy little trio was on the phone conference calling in between each and every commercial.
Care to take a wild guess what we’ll be doing at 9 p.m. tonight?
I’ve already declined invitations to come out and watch baseball, play golf and engage in other stereotypical “manly” activities.
We’re all three staying in to revel in the return of J.R. Ewing and “Dallas.”
It may be the first time in history that three men are coming out simply by staying in.

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