Tom Dillon, Longtime President of The Actors' Fund, Dies at 86
As president of The Actors' Fund from 1989 until 2004, Dillon presided over many activities designed to care for entertainment professionals in need. He was heavily involved in the day-to-day care of almost 14,000 people annually. Working closely with the organization's trustees, executives and staff, he was closely associated with The Aurora, a 178-unit apartment complex offering affordable housing for show business professionals in Manhattan; the daily running of the Englewood facility; and The Palm View, a 44-unit luxury apartment complex in West Hollywood, California, for entertainment professionals with AIDS. At the time of his death, Dillon was involved in preparations for a fundraising campaign celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Fund.
Dillon was born on September 3, 1918, in Brooklyn and remained a resident of that borough throughout his life. He won acclaim as an Irish tenor from his first performance at the age of 18 on WNYC radio. He served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II and starred on Broadway with Mario Lanza, Karl Malden, John Forsythe, and Red Buttons in the Moss Hart show Winged Victory, which featured servicemen from all branches. He toured with the show throughout America and starred in the celebrated film version, raising funds for the Army Emergency Relief Fund. In 1996, Dillon co-hosted a 50th anniversary reunion of the show's cast in New York with Kitty Carlisle Hart, Moss's widow.
Throughout his nearly 70 years in show business, Dillon performed in stock and on the Broadway stage in such shows as Ziegfeld Follies and The Wonderful World of Burlesque. Audiences throughout the U.S. saw Dillon partnered with vaudeville headliner Bert Wheeler for 13 years in a musical comedy act, including appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and at the White House. Dillon also sang at Carnegie Hall and for several Miss America Pageants. He was a featured performer on popular TV shows starring Milton Berle, Victor Borge, Perry Como, Imogene Coca, Kate Smith, and Martha Raye. In addition to Winged Victory, he was seen in such films as Slaughterhouse Five, The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, Anastasia, and Family Business.
A longtime member of Actors' Equity, the Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the American Guild of Variety Artists, Dillon was a Shepherd (president) of The Lambs Club. He also served on the nominating committee for the Tony Awards and was a recipient of the Founders' Award of the Theatre Hall of Fame.