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Charlene Tilton… a.k.a., Lucy Ewing

Icons | December 4, 2017

From the American television series 'Dallas' shows Charlene Tilton (as Lucy Ewing) as she leans across the arm of a chair, September 1978. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

I’m sure I don’t have to remind you who Charlene Tilton is. But, just in case I do… she is a tiny, blond spitfire actress… all 4’11 of her! She was a beautiful, perky, young, fresh-faced girl when she hit the scene of Dallas, in the late 1970’s. She is probably best known for her portrayal of the young, mischievous and obstinate, Lucy Ewing, on the same show; and later Knot’s Landing. Prior to that role, however, you may have recognized her when she appeared on Happy Days and Eight is Enough.

Lucy Ewing, Tilton’s character, was born into a privileged, although troubled and dysfunctional family. Her fictional father, Gary Ewing (David Ackroyd & Ted Shackleford), was an alcoholic. That being the case, the marriage fell apart and Lucy was the product of a broken home. She quickly learned how to use that disadvantage to her advantage; becoming somewhat of a problem child. She ultimately made her way to the family ranch, Southfork, for the purpose of being raised by her grandparents. Her uncle, J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman), made it his business to insert himself into much of the family business, including anything and everything concerning Lucy.

In true soap opera fashion, Lucy, although only a child, brought some very colorful baggage to the show. When she landed on Southfork Ranch, she had a reputation for being a troubled, as well as a troublemaking teen. Like many teenagers, she was rebellious and skipped school. That, however, was a way to spend more time, rolling in the hay, with Ray, a ranch hand who worked on her family’s ranch. Ray was much older than Lucy which only added her desire to the pursuit of the relationship. As it turned out, Ray was actually Lucy’s uncle!

Ok, so skipping school and having eyes for an older man does not, in and of itself, make a teenager all bad. Lucy, however, took the drama to a higher level. Lucy was a conniving little vixen. She was young, clever, privileged and drop-dead gorgeous. Of course, Lucy was smart enough to know that all of these qualities could be used to her advantage; and use them she did. She knew that her beauty opened doors!

Since Lucy had a problem going to school, she needed some extra help with her studies. At one point, Lucy was being tutored for math. She falsely accused her math tutor of rape. In exchange for clearing his name, she extorted help from her Aunt Pam (Victoria Principal). If Pam would lie to her grandparents and tell them she was doing well in school, she would clear the tutor of wrongdoing. This is NOT kid stuff, my friends!

After breaking it off with Ray, Lucy found herself engaged to be married to someone else. Someone her own age; only to break it off after finding out that he was gay! Lucy then had a brief marriage that ended in divorce; only to find out she was pregnant with another man’s baby. Later in the series, after Lucy had matured somewhat, they reunited and remarried…. And divorced again! This is soap opera fodder at its finest!

Although Lucy was an expert at the family business of manipulation, she was ultimately no match for her much more experienced elders, especially, J.R.  She was usually able to be reined in but not before the damage was done. There was something awesome about living dangerously through Lucy!

Privileged or not, I guess it just goes to show you that people are all just people. Money can’t buy happiness, nor can it buy a perfect life. In some ways, we are all just products of our environment.

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.