Texas-born Hagman, the son of Mary Martin of Peter Pan fame, tells of his life, loves, and liver.
Hagman, often farmed out to nannies and various schools, saw little of his mother after his first year. She’d married at 16, had him at 17, then opened a dancing school, traipsed off to Hollywood, won a Broadway role, and became famous for her strip-tease to “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” His brawny, hard-drinking lawyer dad tried to toughen him up, took him hunting with the old boys and cases of bourbon, tried to get him laid in a Mexican cathouse. Mother Mary remarried, but Larry couldn’t stand his stepfather. Father Hagman wanted him to be a lawyer and take over his Texas law firm, but Larry opted for acting. Later, his mother got him into Margot Jones’s prestigious theater group in Dallas. Says Hagman: “A lot of people criticize nepotism, but hell, it worked for me.” He quits college and takes up with Margaret Webster’s Shakespeare troupe. He works in musicals in St. Petersburg, Florida, then his mother gets him a small part in South Pacific, her big show. In England, in the Air Force, he mounts shows and tours them about military bases, dates 17-year-old Joan Collins. Later, he lands the part of Tony Nelson, an astronaut whose space capsule lands on an island where he finds a bottle containing a 2,000-year-old genie named Jeannie—and this becomes the long-running TV comedy I Dream of Jeannie. At 34, he crashes from quitting amphetamines and tobacco at once, but soon tries LSD, which he praises for its spiritual visions and lasting insights. The memoir’s highlights are about his role in Dallas and his refusing to tell even the Queen of England who shot J.R. Although he gives up alcohol at 62, his drinking leads to a cirrhotic liver and a transplant, which brings its own visions of the life force.