While most of Dallas was celebrating the annual Red River Shootout, two headline-making Dallas personalities came together Friday night for fun and fundraising. Fred Baron‘s widow, Lisa Blue Baron, decided to celebrate her 60th birthday by helping “Dallas’s” Larry “J.R.” Hagman launch his Larry Hagman Foundation at her palatial estate.
But ask anyone who has ever attended a Lisa blowout occasion, and they’ll tell you the people-watching is as stellar as the event’s purpose. In this case, she came through once again. In typical Lisa BB fashion, she out-did the Ewings.
As guests strolled up the main driveway, decorated with western motif gobos, to the mansion, they received their name tags and were directed to the adjoining tented mega western-style
lounge. Here they found leather couches, chairs and banquettes, hightop and coffee tables, bars and buffets galore. To the side were luxury portable restrooms that looked pretty permanent. In
the center was the lineup of auction items under glass for perusing. It would have been easy to find a comfortable seat, settle down for the night and stay put. But down the steps and hill leading to the estate’s pond was a full-fledged stage, where Asleep at the Wheel would perform later in the night.
In a private terrace in another part of the estate were tables elegantly set up for a small seated dinner for later in the evening.
But let’s not get head of the doings.
Before official guests arrived, Larry was early for an interview with WFAA’s Ron Corning. While Larry and Ron chatted in the library, Linda “Sue-Ellen Ewing” Gray took photos of Lisa’s three daughters (Alessandra, Caroline and Nathalie) all decked out in matching pink cowgirl outfits. It was obvious this photo session was not the trio’s first.
Another “Dallas” female with great gams on the scene was Brenda Strong, who plays Bobby Ewing’s wife Ann. In a fabulous dress that she picked up in London, her love and devotion to yoga translated into oh-so toned arms. Brenda revealed that she has not only been impressed with the Dallas arts community, she’s gotten involved. In addition to joining the Dallas Symphony, the former voice of “Desperate Housewives”‘ Mary Alice Young was on the red carpet for the Dallas Opera’s First Night last year.
While admitting that her “Desperate Housewives” involvement was limited to audio, in hindsight the 5’11.5″ beauty felt she missed the typical typecasting that so often plagues many actors associated with a hit.
When the conversation turned to Larry Hagman and his first film “Fail Safe,” where he held his own at the age of 33 in a number of scenes with legendary great Henry Fonda, Brenda quickly suggested that in turn 31-year-old Josh “John Ross Ewing” Henderson, who plays J.R.’s son, is experiencing a similar situation acting with Hagman.
But the group had assembled to learn about Larry’s newest venture and just before the sun set, Lisa went on stage to welcome guests officially. She announced that she was pleased to use the occasion to help Larry launch his foundation. If anyone knows about foundations with a sole purpose in Dallas, it’s Lisa. Instead of trying to solve all the world problems, she has aimed her Baron and Blue Foundation‘s sites on housing issues for the area’s needy. When asked earlier in the evening about other causes, she didn’t hesitate. In 2002 she and Fred created the foundation with the sole purpose of providing financial grants to Dallas non-profits that help the homeless and underserved. Since his death in 2008 she has been continuing the foundation with the hope that her daughters would eventually carry it on. Other than that she has been busy taking care of her girls, practicing law and being happy.
That may sound simple, but after what’s she’s been through in recent years — the birth of daughter Alessandra in 2006, the birth of the twin daughters Nathalie and Caroline in 2008, the death of her husband in 2008, the family’s involvement in the John Edwards scandal — it’s been a long six years. But that was behind her and she was getting on with life.
After welcoming one and all to her birthday party and the very special occasion of Larry’s launch, she turned the mic over to Mayor Mike Rawlings, who introduced Patrick “Bobby Ewing” Duffy and Linda. As Larry stood at the base of the stage, Patrick and Linda teased and praised the man who had led them into TV history. Linda recalled that the first time the cast came together, Larry walked in with a saddlebag of champagne.
Finally, the man of the hour took his place on stage and told how his newly created foundation would “fund programs that promote the fine arts and creative learning opportunities for economically disadvantaged children in Dallas.”
Yup, you heard that right. He didn’t say in the United States, Texas or even North Texas. He said the funds were for Dallas children.
To kick things off, the first three beneficiaries were represented at the party including Artreach Dallas (Susie Strauss Breen and Dalta Waggoner), Big Thought (Gigi Antoni) and Dallas Children’s Theater (Yvonne Crum, Robyn Flatt and Artie Olaisen). With a smile like Christmas had come two months early, one of the reps admitted that they had only learned about the party and their being a recipient the day before.
Following the announcement, the party commenced with Ray Benson and the rest of the Asleep at the Wheel band taking over as guests returned to the luxury of the lounge. Skip Hollandsworth had Mayor Mike laughing; former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller and husband Steve Wolens gabbed with Patrick and Linda on the lawn; Baron neighbors Annette and Harold Simmons had to duck out early for “dinner with the Fords,” while Simmons dotter Amy Simmons was headed to Houston’s; other Baron neighbor Dale Rabinowitz was making the rounds in western garb, including white cowboy boots, with Jocelyn White; Kenneth Craighead was holding down the fort in the lounge with Steve Green; Baron neighbors-down-the-road Molly and Doug Barnes arrived just as Ray Benson was starting his third song and were followed by Scott and Gina Ginsburg.
Speaking of Larry, he truly is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. As he made his way through the crowd, his J.R. persona seemed right at home surrounded by masses of fans. With cowboy hat on head, he stood erect with that devilish smile accommodating all requests like a presidential politician. Why, even a gent with three vases in need of autographing were handled. Though by the third one, Larry was looking to move on and was grateful when the little Baronness were available for a
photo opp. Without hesitation, he arranged the trio to pose for the photos while old friends Holly and Stubbs Davis looked on.
Eventually the 81-year-old with bottle of water in hand found a secluded high top between the house and the tent. At this point, fans and wannabe friends left the man alone as he quietly shed the J.R. bravado and settled into quiet conversation with old friends.
Inside the mansion a trio passed by the grand piano in the living room that was filled with framed photos of faces that usually appear on magazine covers. One gentleman pointed to a photo telling his companions, “That’s Fred Baron. He was a good man.”