1978 to 1991, viewers worldwide were riveted by Dallas. The
CBS-TV series about the Ewings of South Fork Ranch so captivated
audiences that Dallas actress Charlene Tilton recalls, "When
the show was on in Germany, it was switched to Sunday night.
The original night it was on, no one would go to the stores
or restaurants. You could shoot a cannon in the street and
not hit anyone."
She didn't shoot J.R., but Tilton's
character, Lucy Ewing, got into trouble plenty of other ways
Tilton played Lucy Ewing, a child with a troubled heritage
-- troubled because her parents seemed to forget about her
once they moved to Knots Landing, the spin-off show. "I
did a couple of 'Knots,' and then the show sort of changed,"
39-year old Tilton recalls. "Knots Landing" took
on a life of its own, and very soon no mention was made of
the life -- or the child -- Val and Gary had shared in Dallas.
Born and raised in LA, Tilton started
her career by taking singing and dancing lessons and performing
in recreation center plays. "While I was in high school,
I started working professionally and got an agent," Tilton
says. "Then, when I was 17, I got 'Dallas'."
She did the series for 11 years. Besides
being a "great working experience," Tilton recalls
that the show "was a lot of fun, too. Patrick [Duffy]
and Larry [Hagman] were always being really funny and cutting-up.
When we had the infamous mealtime scenes, food fights would
Tilton says she hasn't seen anyone
from the series in "a while" but keeps in touch
with Blanche Davis, the widow of actor Jim Davis. Until his
death in March of 1981, Davis played patriarch Jock Ewing.
She adds, "We all run into each other from time to time,
and it's great when we do."
The curvy actress developed a weight
problem while on the series and received a great deal of publicity
not only for putting weight on, but for taking it off. Having
been a tabloid victim, the whole subject of weight angers
her. "They've got all these skinny people on the front
of 'The Star,' accusing them of being anorexic, and then you
open it up and they're making fun of Rita Wilson because of
her weight and asking if she's pregnant."
The tabloids have been in her past for some time. LA-based
Tilton has been concentrating lately on her daughter, 16-year-old
Cherish Lee, who is an actress and a model. Cherish's dad
is country and western singer Johnny Lee. (Tilton was married
before Lee to another singer, Dominic Allen.) "I've been
a single mom for about 10 years," Tilton says. "Cherish
has been my main priority. I haven't really focused so much
on getting acting work. I get her to school, we do homework
at night, and at this age, their social calendars are really
quite hectic. She's not driving yet, so I end up chauffeuring
Is she worried about her daughter pursuing
an acting career? Tilton comments, "You have to have
a strong sense of self in this business -- otherwise they're
going to spit you out. Cherish believes that God made her
with a special purpose. Like any teenage girl, she has her
insecurities, but for the most part she has a real healthy
self-esteem." Cherish was cut out of her first film,
American History X, but her mom comforted her with, "Honey,
they cut Kevin Costner out of his first film."
With her daughter growing older and
out working herself, Tilton has started looking for roles
again. "I am identified with Dallas," she admits,
"but I'm not 17 anymore. Enough time has passed."
She recently filmed a pilot for a situation comedy. "We'll
see if it goes," she says.
However it goes, Tilton has no regrets.
"I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to be mom, be
with Cherish, every single day. I was free to go to the school
if I needed to, attend her after-school activities, help her
with homework. We're very close. She's turned out to be an
amazing person. I consider myself a great success. My daughter
is a good, caring, compassionate person. To me that's the
true meaning of success, even though the marriages didn't
work out. My success with my daughter is all that matters."
Written by the excellent- MARIA CIACCIA (pronounced "cha