Ron Chilton: Actor, Athlete, Superhuman

TVT_4430Ron Chilton is 80-years-old and has a lot to show for it. In addition to a film and television career – he most recently appeared on an episode of ABC’s “Nashville” – he is also a tremendous athlete, having won 500 medals in 18 years of being a senior athlete. He is a competitor in the Kentucky Senior Games, specializing in the long, high and triple jump. We caught up with him to learn a little bit more about this astounding man’s glorious career.

Your nickname around town is “Radio Ron.” Where does that come from?
Well, I spent four decades in radio, starting in 1960. Everything from a rock ‘n’ roll DJ on WAKY to a talk show host in Lexington and finally station manager of the first University of Louisville station, WUOL classical music.

Along with being on the radio you’re also an actor. When did you get your start in theatre?
Well, actually I was in all the plays in college at the University of Kentucky, my undergraduate school. I spent all my summers in the Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, Ky. as an apprentice and also as an actor. And when “Raintree County” came along I got in that. Boy, I was bitten by the bug, I’m telling you. I had so much fun – it’s still a magical summer that I recall so vividly. It starred Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. I was Montgomery Clift’s stand-in. I got to stand nose to nose and toes to toes with the most beautiful creature in all the universe: Elizabeth Taylor.

Let’s talk about the senior games. When did you first start participating?
I think it was 1997 because in ’95, I started investigating, going online and finding out what was available, and I saw where they had local and regional and even national games. So, I started participating in some local or regional games in Elizabethtown and bombed out in glorious ways – I didn’t move very well at all. But I started investigating what it would take, started running and lifting weights, going to the gym, finding out about diet, so I really buckled down and started leading a totally different lifestyle.

What about the National Senior Games? Do you ever participate?
Every two years, they have the national games. They’re held in different cities, San Francisco, Miami, Dallas and so on. I don’t do anything like this. You’re talking about some tremendous athletes. I was in San Francisco six years ago, and there was a guy there in tennis. I thought, “He looks like he might have a little age on him.” I went up and introduced myself and asked, “How old are you,” and he said, “I was 102 my last birthday.” And this guy is still playing tennis.

What would you tell someone your age who has never done anything like this but is interested?
I’d say go for it! Get off the couch and dive right in. See what you can do. I recall when I started investigating the senior games and the possibilities, I thought, “What am I going to do during my retirement years? Stamp collecting or catching butterflies?” No! I wanted to be active. I wanted to do something with vitality and vigor. I’ve always had a zest for life, so I rather adopted the philosophy of the Dylan Thomas poem: I will not “go gentle into that good night.” By golly I choose to, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” VT