Monday’s Musing: Why I love Lucy Ewing

Lucy was Dallas’s golden girl.

When Charlene Tilton and Steve Kanaly appeared on TNT’s Dallas premiere as Lucy Ewing and Ray Krebbs attending Christopher and Rebecca’s wedding, I felt let down. After hearing that two of the cast members who contributed so much to the show’s original run would reprise their roles only to be seen in awkward cameos was perplexing. Mind you, I’m aware that the focus of the show needs to be on the newcomers so that the saga can move forward, but the greeting between Ray, Lucy and Bobby felt comically abrupt. Lucy exclaimed “Uncle Bobby!” only to be given a quick hug by Bobby, who had more pressing matters on his mind than visiting with his niece. I assume we’re to believe that Lucy and Ray have seen Bobby recently, but for longtime fans, it was our first glimpse of Charlene Tilton as Lucy in more than 24 years. It was a big moment and Dallas dropped the ball. Of course, this wasn’t the first time Lucy got the short shrift, so to speak. One of the original Dallas characters, Lucy was the focus of many groundbreaking storylines until the writers’ story ideas dried up and she was sent off into the sunset with her husband, physician Mitch Cooper. She returned a few years later only to leave again when the writers lost interest in the character. By that time the show was in decline anyway and it’s best to remember Lucy in her prime. She was the quintessential poor little rich girl on an eternal quest to achieve lasting perfect love. Blessed with a tiny yet curvaceous frame and tumbling blonde hair, Lucy never lacked for male attention but had severe abandonment issues caused by the departure of her parents Gary and Valene Ewing when she was a baby. When first introduced to viewers, Lucy was a rebellious minx skipping out on classes and having a scandalous fling with Southfork’s foreman Ray, who years later was revealed to be Lucy’s uncle. This provocative turn in the storyline was never fully addressed over the years as Lucy and Ray settled into a special friendship that may be the reason Dallas chose to have them appear together on the new series’ premiere.  Lucy’s first true romance was with a handsome young oil company heir named Kit Mainwaring, who of course turned out to be a well-meaning closeted gay man. A heartbroken Lucy next became involved with the smooth-talking Alan Beam, a scheming lawyer in cahoots with JR to get Lucy out of Southfork and out of JR’s hair. Luckily Beam was unmasked as a liar before he could marry Lucy and, after a brief fling with one of her college professors who was a married louse, Lucy met the love of her life, Mitch. Lucy and Mitch were a classic case of opposites attract. He was the earnest working-class medical student and she a bubbly heiress who never worked a day in her life. The two married but their union was quickly destroyed by their class difference and opposing life philosophies. A detour into modeling gave Lucy respite from the heartache of her failed marriage, but the high of success as a petite supermodel took a dark turn when an obsessed photographer she’d been working with, Roger Larson, kidnapped and raped her. Although Bobby and Pam tracked Larson down and rescued Lucy, she learned that the sexual assault had left her pregnant and she made the agonizing decision to end the pregnancy. Lucy fell into a long depression and hardened her wounded heart. She learned to trust — and love — again in 1982 thanks to the arrival in her life by Mickey Trotter, a scruffy, smart-mouthed charmer who was Ray’s cousin. Mickey and Lucy rubbed each other the wrong way at first, but fell in love as Mickey dropped his tough-talking act and became a mature, responsible young man under Ray’s tutelage as a Southfork ranch hand. As usual for Lucy’s track record, their happiness was cruelly cut short when Mickey was left paralyzed after a car accident involving a drunk Sue Ellen. After Mickey was left brain-dead, Ray helped Mickey’s mother Lil Trotter take him off a respirator in a powerful storyline that examined the controversial issue of a patient’s right-to-die. Lucy returned to modeling after the traumatic loss of Mickey and in time became interested in John Ross’s handsome camp counselor Peter Richards (played by Christopher Atkins of “The Blue Lagoon”). Although somewhat bland, Peter was sensitive, like Mickey and Mitch, but he was far more interested in Sue Ellen, much to Lucy’s humiliation.

Charlene Tilton had a disco hit called c’est la vie. Click on this photo to see her perform it on YouTube.

In 1984 Lucy started a secret job as a waitress in a diner to separate herself from the sheltered lifestyle of the Ewing wealth, but her unfailing ability to attract charming scoundrels kicked in again when a fellow named Luke Cronin discovered her ties to the Ewings and convinced her into investing in a real estate project. Lucy soon discovered his true colors and dumped him just in time for Mitch to reappear in Dallas, looking better than ever. Now an established and successful doctor, a more mature Mitch proposed to a starry-eyed Lucy and the two went off to live happily ever after in Atlanta. Lucy was brought back to Dallas in 1988 in an ill-conceived effort to revive the show’s original vibe in the wake of Linda Gray’s departure, but an unmemorable romance with Andrew Stevens as JR’s cohort Casey Denault failed to rekindle the show’s heat so Lucy once again left town as the show sputtered into its final two seasons. The recent TV Guide article about Dallas mentioned that Charlene and Steve would be appearing in more than one episode so perhaps there’s still hope that we may learn how Lucy and Ray are doing after so many years. I for one would love to know whether Lucy found her lasting love.

Click on this photo to see Lucy’s reunion with her grandmother Miss Ellie in 1988.