Flashback Friday: Philandering J.R. Ewing slept here… there… and everywhere!
Dallas prepares to lay the late, great J.R. Ewing to rest on the March 11 episode, which will include appearances by two of his most notable paramours: ex-mistress Mandy Winger and ex-wife Cally Harper. It’s appropriate that these ladies were included in this historic event considering how much each of them meant to J.R. at different times of his life and, let’s face it, J.R. certainly loved women. Raised in the macho environment of the Texas oil business, J.R. saw nothing wrong with helping himself to a new dish of curvy delight whenever the mood struck him or if a situation warranted a jump between the sheets to further his devilish agenda. J.R. used sex as a business maneuver many times throughout his randy life to Sue Ellen’s eternal dismay. Sue Ellen, his true soul mate, stood head and shoulders over all the other women he knew in a Biblical sense, even though a few managed to carve their own places in his heart, namely Cally, Mandy and Vanessa Beaumont, the mother of J.R.’s illegitimate son James Richard. Still, it was Sue Ellen’s burden to put up with J.R.’s deep-set Madonna/whore issue. In J.R.’s mind, it was Sue Ellen’s place to be the socially acceptable Mrs. John Ross Ewing Jr., raising his heir on Southfork while he indulged in the pleasures of Mandy, Afton, Kristin, Kimberly, etc…. In the 1980s, to be a J.R. Ewing love interest was akin to being a Bond Girl. It was a glamorous role that cemented an actress in the pop culture. In fact, two of J.R.’s most notorious bedmates – Holly Harwood and Angelica Nero – were played by Bond film actresses Lois Chiles (Moonraker) and Barbara Carrera (Never Say Never Again), respectively. Sharing J.R.’s bed could be a one-time thing, a season-long affair or a multi-season arc, depending on a character’s purpose in advancing the Dallas narrative. Regardless of their individual roles in the life of Dallas’ infamous Lothario, the women of J.R. were all members of a special sisterhood in television history. It makes me tired just thinking about how long the list is, but as J.R. gets put to rest next week, I thought it appropriate to revisit these ladies one last time in his honor.
There are only three women who bore J.R. children (that we know of, anyway). They shared his life at different phases of his story and have virtually nothing in common other than the man himself.
Sue Ellen Shepard Ewing (1978 – 2013)
Sue Ellen had many incarnations throughout her life with J.R. From Miss Texas to alcoholic wife to philanthropist and political candidate, she experienced the highs and lows of being Mrs. J.R. Ewing and was his truest love until the end.
Vanessa Beaumont (1989 – 1991)
Played by the elegant Gayle Hunnicutt, Vanessa was sprung on Dallas fans during the show’s waning years as J.R.’s long-lost first love. Reuniting by chance in Europe, J.R. and Vanessa tried to rekindle their love but found that they could never truly turn back the hands of time. At least they had James (Sasha Mitchell) as a reminder of what could have been.
Cally Harper Ewing (1988 – 1991)
Curvy country bumpkin Cally Harper (Cathy Podewell) rescued J.R. from the wrath of her rifle-toting kin in Haleyville, tricking him into marrying her and instating her at Southfork as the new Mrs. Ewing. Their May/December union proved brief and Cally skipped town with his bun in her oven.
A job answering phones at Ewing Oil frequently led to night work when you reported to J.R. Ewing.
Julie Grey (Tina Louise) 1978
When Dallas premiered as a miniseries Julie was taking a lot more than dictation at the offices of Ewing Oil. She was the first of J.R.’s many mistresses to learn that he would never leave Sue Ellen despite his endless promises. A flirtation with J.R.’s daddy Jock and a vengeful fling with Ewing nemesis Cliff Barnes led to Julie taking an unfortunate trip off the roof of a building.
Louella Caraway (Meg Gallagher) 1978 – 1981
J.R.’s seemingly innocent secretary fell into bed with her boss when her new husband started working long hours. She quickly learned the pitfalls of bedding the boss when she was fired for a mistake that put J.R. in a tough spot in 1981.
Sly Lovgren (Deborah Rennard) – 1981 – 1991
J.R. managed to keep his hands off his faithful sidekick Sly for most of her tenure at Ewing Oil, which included a lot of espionage work for and against Cliff. When J.R. and Sly finally did the deed, it felt so… wrong.
A few women cast a hopeful eye on graduating from being J.R.’s mistress to replacing Sue Ellen as mistress of Southfork. Somehow, it never came to pass for any of them.
Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby) – 1979-1981
Sue Ellen’s infamous sister (and one of his many secretaries) bedded J.R., nagged him, shot him and blackmailed him before tossing herself off a balcony at the Ewing house in a drug-induced haze, landing in the Southfork pool where Cliff discovered her floating body.
Afton Cooper (Audrey Landers) – 1981 – 1984, 1989
Mitch Cooper’s ambitious sister saw J.R. as her ticket to the big time when she arrived from Biloxi for Mitch’s wedding to Lucy but quickly learned that his bed led to a dead end when he tried to whore her out to his business partners. She ended up in a long relationship with Cliff, eventually giving birth to Pamela Rebecca. Afton is set to reappear in Dallas on March 25.
Mandy Winger (Deborah Shelton) – 1984 – 1987
Model Mandy Winger played Afton’s story in reverse, initially becoming involved with Cliff and then entering a three-year affair with J.R. that ended when he realized he could never leave Sue Ellen. To her credit, Mandy was the one mistress who came close to pulling it off.
Since J.R. often used sex as a weapon, it’s not surprising that some of his conquests responded in kind, using their feminine wiles to gain an upper hand over him in the war of the sexes.
Holly Harwood (Lois Chiles) 1982 – 1983
Oil heiress Holly made the mistake of hiring J.R. to run her company Harwood Oil when he was displaced as head of Ewing Oil by the Ewing family. When he tried to control her sexually, she pushed a gun in his face and later lured Sue Ellen into finding them in bed together, ruining their happy second marriage to force him out of her company for good.
Katherine Wentworth (Morgan Brittany) 1981 – 1984, 1987
Pam’s evil half-sister Katherine slept with J.R. to enlist his help in breaking up Bobby and Jenna Wade, only to discover that J.R. preferred Bobby be with Jenna over her. After J.R. tape-recorded their tryst, she had no choice but to confess all her trickery to Bobby.
Angelica Nero (Barbara Carrera) 1985 – 1986
The infamous Dream Season had J.R. playing cat-and-mouse games with murderous Greek shipping magnate Angelica Nero, who tried to blow him up at Ewing Oil, getting Sue Ellen instead. Luckily, it was all just Pam’s vivid dream!
Kimberly Cryder (Leigh Taylor-Young) 1987-1989
Kimberly wanted to trade in her bland husband Wilson Cryder for J.R., luring him with her body and access to power at Westar Oil, but a wily Sue Ellen refused to give him a divorce. In an ironic twist, the ladies teamed up against J.R. in a showdown for Westar that put his longtime rival Jeremy Wendell back in power.
From one-night stands to business partners with benefits, J.R. had a long line of ladies who came and went, and sometimes came again, down the well-worn path to his bed.
April Stevens (Sheree J. Wilson) 1986 – 1991
April was Jack Ewing’s ex-wife with a mission to nab her share of Ewing Oil when she arrived in town, having a brief encounter with J.R. that almost capsized her chance of a life with Bobby after Pam’s disappearance in 1987.
Marilee Stone (Fern Fitzgerald) 1978 – 1990
Sometimes she loved him. Other times she hated him, but rare was the time when oil woman Marilee Stone passed up a chance to hit the sheets with J.R. to hatch a plot or two.
Serena Wald (Stephanie Blackmore) – 1980 – 1990
She was J.R.’s hooker with a heart of gold. The one woman he could depend on to listen to his problems – both personal and business-related – without judging him.
And then there was Laurel Ellis, Sally Bullock, Leslie Stewart, Rita Smithfield, Abby Cunningham (on Knots Landing) and, well, you get the idea.