Charlene Tilton, who became a household name when she starred as Lucy Ewing in the iconic television show “Dallas” in the 1970s and 1980s, is opening up this week to say that she was never part of Hollywood’s drug culture.
Tilton told Page Six that she was so naive about drugs that an innocent request for a drink at a notorious New York City nightclub turned into something very different.
“I remember one time at Studio 54, and I was so naive,” said Tilton, 62. “I was asked what I would like when I walked in, and I said, ‘Oh, Coke, please,’ and I meant Coca-Cola. And they came back with coke [cocaine], and I looked down and I said, ‘No, no, Coca-Cola, please!”
Tilton went on to credit her “Dallas” costars including Larry Hagman, Barbara Bel Geddes and Jim Davis with keeping her on the straight and narrow.
“It really was about the work, and they protected me,” she explained. “There was a lot of stuff going on in the ‘80s, if you remember. And I’m telling you, it was by the grace of God in their protection that I was not a casualty of the things that were going on in the ’80s.
“They expected me to not show up on time — to show up early, to be prepared. They taught me how to work like that,” Tilton added. “So I really learned from the best. I had these people protecting me, but at the same time expecting me to do the work, and I wanted to do the work. I loved it.”
Tilton starred on “Dallas” from 1978 until 1991, and despite making $50,000 an episode during the height of the show’s popularity, she claims to have lost it all. The San Diego, California native alleged that accountants embezzled funds and even ended up in prison, while another merely mismanaged her money. However, her biggest financial loss stemmed from Tilton caring for her mom.
“My mother was very sick for a lot of years … and then at the end of her life, she was on a respirator for 19 months. I paid all of her medical bills,” she recalled. “Keeping somebody alive on a breathing machine for 19 months is very expensive.”
While she’s still acting, Tilton is enjoying a quieter life these days in Nashville near her daughter, Cherish, and two grandsons.
“I remember doing a bathing suit cover for Inside Sports, and here I was, you know, the little sex in the bikini or whatever,” she remembered. “And to me, I was thinking, ‘This is a stepping stone. I’m going to get to be Ruth Gordon or Helen Hayes. I’m going to be a great character actress.’ To me, that was always in my mind.
“Look, I’m 5-foot-2-and-a-half-inches tall. I’m a grandmother and I’m loving it, so I want to play, but I don’t have any desire to go back in a bikini,” Tilton added. “That I have no desire to do.”