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Their Story, Your Story

Larry Hagman

Watch the extended interview

Larry HagmanA lack of energy forced Larry Hagman to visit the doctor and a simple check-up turned into the biggest shock of his life.

As a result of alcohol abuse, Larry had a sclerosis of the liver and was faced with the prospect that another alcoholic drink would kill him.

"I started drinking when I was 14"  real 56k

In an interview for the BBC Ones series 'Booze', he reveals: "So I was sitting there with my vodka and orange juice, getting my vitamins and I poured it down the sink and I never took another drink."

Although it took nearly fifty years of alcohol abuse and eventually a tumour on his liver for Larry to realise his problem, he understands how Hollywood society and the lifestyle that comes with it, only served to fuel his addiction.

He describes how on completing his first scene of the day on the set of Dallas, he would reward himself with his favourite drink, Champagne.

He remarks: "I got rich, so I thought I might as well drink the rich drink."

A successful liver transplant gave Larry a new lease of life and he is now a reformed alcoholic, although he is under no illusion about the roots of his drinking addiction.

On the set of Dallas, Larry would drink steadily from nine in the morning until he went to bed.

He reveals: "I was loaded all the time, all the time, all during Genie, all during Dallas I was loaded.

"I never got sober"  real 56k

"Do the first scene, get it into the can, hopefully by nine o'clock and so I'd reward myself, I'd open a bottle of Champagne and start to imbibe."

Surrounded by glamorous film stars and cocktail parties, Larry was merely living out an existence that was seen as conventional and part of the glitz inherent in the Hollywood culture.

Larry associates his years of drinking with places such as Club 21 in New York where he went with his famous mother from a very young age.

He says: "My mother was a big star, Mary Martin. She took me to 21 when I was about 10, 11, 12 and I'd had an account there since I was twelve years old."

Alcohol for Larry, as with many people, was all about image and the emulation of role models.

"I thought I was John Wayne. All my heroes when I was a kid smoked and drank."

"People consider drunks weak-willed"  real 56k

Larry also associates drinking to a certain extent with masculinity.

He says: "John Wayne and all the male stars were drinkers and smokers and that was what manliness was all about."

"They were my role models and I emulated them."

Although, alcohol abuse almost claimed his life, Larry is fortunate that it has not damaged the relationship he has with his family.

"It was just steady, steady, steady. I never had a hangover, never felt bad, I never got sober I guess, that's why. I just seemed to work alright and I didn't kick my kids or beat my wife or anything, I was just loaded."

He says of his wife: "Either she was very understanding or I didn't demonstrate that I was drunk."

"I could always hold my liquor"  real 56k

In spite of his relatively lucky escape, Larry is aware that many alcoholics are not so fortunate and do not have the support of their families.

It is for this reason he joined Alcoholics Anonymous and now works actively to promote the organisation's work.

He says: "They save lives and they save families too. It's just a great brotherhood and I suppose a sisterhood."

"Friends don't give each other advice"  real 56k

When asked what advice he would give to those people who have a problem with alcohol, he stresses the need for people to admit their problem and to use help groups.

Larry is grateful to this day for the organ donated to him and is thankful for the technology that made it possible.

He says: "I see his name there when I'm shaving or brushing my teeth and I think of him, that he donated his life for me, he recycled himself and that's a big thing."

Larry has now been a reformed alcoholic for eight years and although he says he doesn't regret his years of drinking, he sees it as a part of his life that is over.

He remarks: "I think it's made me a better person to be able to come out on the other side.

"I work for the programme and rehabilitation is part of my life now. I like to pass on what I've learned."

Larry's is a story of successful rehabilitation and he offers hope to other alcoholics.

He says: "It's not easy but it's a good path. I like that."


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