A tiny woman with a large heart is only a fitting description of Charlene Tilton, the actress who began gracing our TV screens in the 1970s as a teenager. More than four decades later, the veteran actress who always had big dreams of becoming a star, has undeniably made the most of each opportunity that came her way.
Although the actress is considered very successful professionally, not many are aware that she has survived some personal life travails. Despite an impoverished childhood, a mentally challenged mother, two failed relationships, and a tragic loss, here’s how the Dallas star embraced life again and continues to flourish in her career.
Charlene Tilton’s Biography
A native of California, Charlene L. Tilton was welcomed into the world on December 1, 1958. Tilton never knew who father was as he disappeared shortly after her birth. She was thus raised by a single mother – Katherine Thacker – who worked as a secretary and struggled to put food on the table.
Charlene Tilton always wanted to be an actress and had big dreams of becoming a star. She discovered she had a passion for acting when she was a child and worked her socks off to realize her dreams. She was a very active student while studying at Hollywood High School participating in plays and local community theatre. In addition to being the varsity cheerleader and the President of the Thespians’ Club, Tilton was also taking singing and dancing lessons.
Charlene Tilton was just a teenager when she got her feet wet as an actress. In 1976 and at age 17, she made her TV debut in an episode of the series Happy Days which ran from 1974 to 1984. While still a high school student, Charlene met actor Larry Hagman who eventually became the father figure she craved for in her life. It was at that same age 17 that Tilton successfully auditioned for the role of Lucy Ewing in the iconic soap opera Dallas which ran from 1978 to 1991.
She became a worldwide star playing ‘Poison Dwarf’ Lucy Ewing, the teenaged troublemaker niece to J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) in the primetime series. Known for her sly ways and romantic plotlines, Charlene’s character Ewing was a huge sex symbol who ricocheted from one disastrous love affair to another while on the show.
Tilton became an instant fan favorite while portraying the ‘Poison Dwarf’ character for eight seasons and was finally written out of the long-running hit TV series in 1990, a year before it ended. She reprised the role in 1980 an episode of the show’s spin-off Knots Landing and also returned for the soap’s reboot between 2012 and 2014.
In the course of her career, Tilton accumulated other small-screen credits playing both guest and recurring roles. Notably are Love Boats (1980 – 1987), Fantasy Island (1980), Hotel (1983), Murder, She Wrote (1987), Married…with Children (1993), the 2013 web series DeVanity and more recently, Starting Up Love. Charlene was also a guest host on a February 1981 episode of NBC’s Saturday Night Live (SNL). In 2012, Tilton, who has always been a fan of ice skating right from her childhood got a chance to skate on television, when she featured on the TV show Dancing on Ice Skate.
Charlene Tilton made her film debut as Bambi in the 1976 classic Freaky Friday. Her other notable big-screen credits include Big Wednesday and Sweater Girls both released in 1978. In 1979, she appeared in Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker and The Fall of the House of Usher. Others are Border Shootout (1990), Problem Child 2 (1991), and The Silence of the Hams (1994). The following year, Charlene starred in Favorite Deadly Sins and Star Witness. She is also recognized for her outstanding roles in 1998’s Safety Patrol, as well as the year 2000’s Bar Hopping and The Theory of Everything. Others are Superhero Movie (2008) and more recently, 2017’s Vengeance: A Love Story.
Tilton also has credits behind the camera. In 2017, she worked as a producer on three films including the movie Road Less Travelled. It has been more than four decades since Dallas and Charlene Tilton first hit our screens and the actress. Though no longer in her prime career days, the veteran actress has undeniably proven her worth in the entertainment industry.
The award-winning actress was reportedly paid about $50,000 for each episode of the hit 80s soap Dallas. Although Tilton has not disclosed her earnings after Dallas, she currently enjoys a net worth estimated at about $2 million.
Charlene Tilton’s Family
Charlene Tilton has two failed marriages and a heartbreaking engagement behind her. Her first marriage was with famous country singer Johnny Lee. The ex-couple who tied the knot in February 1982 had a daughter named Cherish Lee who has followed in her parent’s footsteps as an entertainer. Charlene’s daughter is a country singer and is married to her fellow country singer Matt Dunn.
Charlene and Johnny’s union only lasted for two years as they officially parted ways in June 1984. A year later, Tilton found love again in the arms of singer Domenick Allen. But like the first, their union was also shortlived and lasted for only seven years (1985 to 1992).
In the new millennium, precisely in 2001, Tilton met and fell in love with cinematographer Cheddy Hart. Reluctant to marry again, the lovebirds moved in and lived together for eight years in Oxnard, California until Hart’s unexpected death in 2009. Cheddy’s demise was a big blow to Charlene as the actress believed the cinematographer was her one true love. Devastated by his death, Tilton’s grief and desperation drove her to alcoholism and depression. In fact, the Dallas star did not leave her house for about seven months. Although the LA-based Charlene has tried to move on, she is still single today and now dedicates her time to other passionate interests.
Other Interesting Facts About The Actress
1. Charlene Tilton has received several awards in the course of her career. Following her work on Dallas, she won her first award in 1979 for Best Juvenile Actress in a TV Series or Special. Tilton is a recipient of the 2001 Young Artist Award Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2006, she won the TV Land Pop Culture Award.
2. The Dallas star is a dedicated philanthropist and now immerses herself in charitable causes such as fighting for autism awareness. She is an active volunteer at the Actor for Autism school for autistic children and adults.
3. The diminutive Poison Dwarf is also famed for her peculiar physical features. The platinum blonde-haired, blue-eyed Tilton stands at a height of 4 feet 11 inches. Although her other body measurements have not been disclosed, it is apparent that the actress has an alluring physique.