To think that it all started with a three-hour cruise. Thirty-one years after the SS Minnow was marooned in the South Pacific at the start of the 98-episode run of Gilligan’s Island, the show’s castaways are still stranded—in reruns—on that mythical lagoon. The stars, however, have paddled on with their lives.
Bob Denver, 60, who played the lovably dimwitted first mate, now lives in the wilds of Princeton, W.Va., with fourth wife Dreama, 44, and their son Colin, 11. (He has four grown children from previous marriages.) “I left Los Angeles in the ’70s because I was TV’d out,” says Denver, who makes promotional appearances around the country about once a month. He is also planning a line of miniature golf courses, but if it never gets off the ground, Denver has a fallback. With a “little teeny pond” on his wooded, 11-acre property, “I could sell Gilligan’s Goldfish,” he says. “For five bucks you get the bowl, the goldfish and an autographed picture.”
Tina Louise (Ginger), 61, sometimes meets up with other cast members, but her memories of the show may be more bitter than sweet. Louise “wanted to pursue her film career,” says Denver, “and Gilligan killed it—dead.” But Dawn Wells still embraces wholesome Mary Ann; she recently wrote Mary Ann’s Gilligan’s Island Cookbook, with 13 recipes for coconut cream pie. What Wells, 51, most remembers about the series is her body makeup. “I was always in the shower,” she says, “trying to get off a patch on my back I couldn’t reach.” Wells, whose eight-year marriage ended in the 1970s, has helped establish a Tennessee refuge for abused circus animals and runs a company in California that makes easy-access clothing for invalids. She doesn’t think Gilligan would float today. “We’d all be living in the same hut,” she says, “and no telling what would be going on!”
Russell Johnson, 70, who played the Professor, also cites the series’ innocence. “No one was killed on our island, and no matter how badly Gilligan screwed up, things would be all right.” Sadly, not everything has been all right for Johnson, whose son David died last year at 39 of AIDS. Since then, the actor, who lives near Seattle with his wife, Constance, has devoted his time to AIDS fund-raising. Like Denver and Wells, he no longer resents being typecast for life. Except for one question. “I get it all the time,” says Johnson: If I could make a radio out of a coconut, why couldn’t I fix the boat?