Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Pat Bilon

Did you know that when E. T. wanted to phone home, he wanted to call Youngstown? At least that was the case for the actor who played E.T.

He was able to play the part because he was 2 foot 10 inches tall and weighed 45 pounds. The E.T. suit, at 40 pounds weighed almost as much as he did. E.T. the Extraterrestrial (1982) was the second movie in which he appeared. The year before, in 1981, he had a part in Under the Rainbow, alongside Chevy Chase, Carrie Fisher, and Eve Arden.

Michael Patrick “Pat” Bilon was born August 29, 1947 and grew up on the West side of Youngstown. His parents were Michael and Esther Patrick Bilon and they lived on South Osborn, off of Mahoning Avenue. He graduated from Ursuline High School in 1965 and then studied speech and drama at Youngstown State, graduating in 1972.

Before his two movie roles, he worked a variety of jobs around Youngstown. He was a bouncer at Wedgewood Lanes Orange Room. He hosted a weekly Ukrainian Radio Hour music show on WKTL radio in Struthers and was the WKBN Kid in their radio and TV promotions. Then he got a job as a radio dispatcher for the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department. He even participated in undercover operations. Captain Steve Terlecky once said of him, “I’d like to have a dozen more like him. He does a hell of a job for me.”

He was active at St. Anne’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Austintown. He taught CCD and coached the basketball team for St. Anne’s school. He was also District 5 director for the Little People of America. It was at a national convention for the organization in 1979 that he was recruited for the part of “Little Pat” in the movie Under the Rainbow. That, in turn, led to the E.T. role.

Sadly, his fame was brief. In 1983 he contracted pneumonia. An infection followed and he was admitted to St. Elizabeth’s on the afternoon of January 26, 1983. He died the next morning at 1:08 am, at age 35. He was buried in Calvary Cemetery, mere blocks from his childhood home.

Although he was small in stature and short in lifespan, he was big not only on the silver screen but also around the city. He had to be impressive to succeed as a bouncer and in undercover operations. His faith, his church, and his ethnic community were important to him. He raised money for various local organizations. He never saw his size as a disability but showed how much Little People were capable of. Doesn’t he sound like a guy who grew up in Youngstown?

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

10 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Pat Bilon

  1. THANKYOU FOR WRITING THIS. HE CAME FROM A WONDERFUL FAMILY. AND YOU ARE SO RIGHT ABOUT WHAT FAITH , FAMILY, AND ETHIC COMMUNITY CAN DO. SO UNLIKE THE LANDSCAPE TODAY. HE WAS A VICTOR, AND DIDNT PLAY THE VICTIM.

  2. I attended St. Brendan’s School and Ursuline High School with Pat Bilon. He was a great person. He and I got to know each other at Ursuline in 9th grade. I helped Pat carry his books and “booster” seat around the school during the change of classes. We had a similar class schedule. I met his mother and father who were both wonderful parents to Pat. My family moved to Florida after 9th grade but my Youngstown relatives told me of Pat’s many accomplishments.

      • Hi, Mike. I am Paul (Skip) Amon. I remember you and your brothers and sister. I can be reached at email amonpj@aol.com I remember all of our fun times on S. Bon Aire Avenue, especially our sandlot baseball and football games.

  3. I saw Pat, every day at Bennett school, where we both went.. I remember him at the Orange, Room, where he would stamp my hand and stand on the desk. we would talk. Always a quick witted funny guy that liked to talk. Pat turned into what I feel is the most remembered movie character of all time. I drove School Bus for 31 years and every kid I ever asked knew ” ET “. Rest in peace Pat.

  4. Wonderful posting on a “Big” man. I worked at the Strouss Austintown store where his dad, Mike, worked as a part-time sales associate in the Furniture/Electronics/Appliance departments. Pat would come into the store to see his dad and wander over to my department, Sporting Goods and Cameras to check out the merchandise. I can still remember assisting him up, to sit on the display case while looked and we would talk. Terrific family.

  5. Oh my God, I love the movie E T. I never knew he was from the same town that I still live in, this is such an honor to know this stuff about him. Thank you for sharing. He did an excellent job in the movie E T. I remember the very first time I seen the movie, it wasn’t long at all after it came out and my dad took me I was a young adult when we went and I remember crying most of the movie. I still cry through the movie every time I watch it.

  6. It all makes sense. I am an alien from Youngstown as well. I waited for E.T to return for decades. He was the first to say
    “I’ll be back”. I love E.T. Eliiiiooot

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