Pat Bilon

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Pat Bilon
Born Michael Patrick Bilon
(1947-08-29)August 29, 1947
Youngstown, Ohio, US
Died January 27, 1983(1983-01-27) (aged 35)
St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Youngstown, Ohio, US
Cause of death Blood infection
Resting place Calvary Cemetery,
Alma mater Youngstown State University
Occupation Actor, radio dispatcher

Michael Patrick "Pat" Bilon (August 29, 1947 – January 27, 1983) was an American actor best known for his performances in Under the Rainbow and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. At no taller than 2 ft 10 in (86 cm), Bilon was considered one of the smallest adult dwarfs in the US, but he never characterized himself as disabled. Throughout much of his adult life, he was an active member of Little People of America.[1] During his last years, Bilon served as District 5 director of the organization.[2]

Early years[edit]

Bilon was born in the mid-sized industrial town of Youngstown, Ohio. He was a third-generation Ukrainian American, born to Michael and Esther Bilon.[3]

Bilon attended Ursuline High School in Youngstown. Bilon studied acting formally and was a graduate of Youngstown State University's school of speech and drama.[3]

Career[edit]

Although he appeared in various television commercials and was hired for promotional events, he described himself as a "starving actor".[1]

When not acting, Bilon held several other jobs, including a bouncer at a bowling alley and a basketball coach for elementary school students.[3] He worked as a radio dispatcher for the Mahoning County Sheriff's Department in Youngstown. He occasionally would assist in undercover operations which was facilitated by his diminutive stature.[3]

In 1979, while attending a Little People of America convention, Bilon was spotted by producer Steve Rash and director Fred Bauer, who were seeking potential cast members for the slapstick comedy, Under the Rainbow.[4] Of the more than 400 potential actors interviewed, Bilon was among 150 selected to appear in the film.[4] He took a leave of absence from his job as a dispatcher and went to Hollywood to "begin his new role".[4] The small role gave Bilon an opportunity to perform with top professionals including Chevy Chase, Carrie Fisher, and Eve Arden. He later commented in a newspaper interview, "When a star like Chevy Chase sees you after a scene and says it was hilarious, as you watch him practically falling out of his seat, it makes you feel real good".[4]

Bilon's next major opportunity to participate in a film came in 1981, when he was selected to operate one of the mechanical "creatures" used in the filming of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.[5] Four mechanical E.T.s were created for the production. The puppets (constructed of fiberglass, polyurethane, and foam rubber) were designed for different functions. As a contemporary newspaper article reported: "One of the 'bodies' contained mechanical controls for large body movements and was operated by cables, the second had electronic controls and the third was operated by a combination of controls".[5] Bilon "moved" a fourth E.T. that was needed for scenes in which the creature "lurched" across the floor.[5] During five months of filming, the actor was burdened by a 40 lb (20 kg) rubber costume that weighed nearly as much as he did.[5]

Fred Skidmore, a spokesman for Universal Studios, confirmed that Bilon played the alien in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial throughout most of the film. "Pat did do the majority of the movie", Skidmore said. "He was also E.T. when E.T. appeared at the Hollywood Bowl last summer".[2] Steven Spielberg, producer-director of the film, called Bilon "E.T.'s biggest helper".[6]

Personal life and final days[edit]

Bilon was passionate about his ethnic heritage; he once hosted a Ukrainian Radio Hour on WKTL-FM, based in Struthers, Ohio,[1] part of the Youngstown area. Pat was active in St. Anne's Ukrainian Catholic Church in nearby Austintown, Ohio[1] and taught Sunday school.[3] He was also a member of UNA Branch 119. [7]

Bilon died in his home at 1 a.m.[8] on January 27, 1983, aged 35, of complications from a blood infection[3] after a bout of pneumonia. He was survived by his parents and a foster brother, John.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Pat Bilon, 'E.T.' Star, Dies". The Ukrainian Weekly. January 30, 1983. 
  2. ^ a b "2-foot-10 actor who played E.T. dead at 35". The Plain Dealer (Cleveland). January 28, 1983. p. B-16. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Man who played E.T. dead at 35". UPI. January 27, 1983. Retrieved March 25, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d Cleary, Allison J. (June 7, 1981). "Dwarf Has Large Role in 'Wizard of Oz' Spoof". Youngstown Vindicator. p. A-12. 
  5. ^ a b c d Nery, Margaret (July 2, 1982). "Youngstowners Think 'E.T.' Is Out of World". Youngstown Vindicator. p. A-25. 
  6. ^ "Bilon is Buried; Played in 'E.T.'". Youngstown Vindicator. January 29, 1983. p. 1. 
  7. ^ http://www.ukrweekly.com/old/archive/1983/058303.shtml
  8. ^ http://www.ukrweekly.com/old/archive/1983/058303.shtml