- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 6, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Bob Denver, whose portrayal of goofy first mate Gilligan on the 1960s television show “Gilligan’s Island” made him an iconic figure to generations of TV viewers, has died, his agent confirmed yesterday. He was 70.

Mr. Denver died Friday at Wake Forest University Baptist Hospital in North Carolina of complications from treatment he was receiving for cancer, said his agent, Mike Eisenstadt. Mr. Denver’s death was first reported by “Entertainment Tonight.”

He also had undergone quadruple heart-bypass surgery earlier this year.

Mr. Denver’s wife, Dreama, and his children — Patrick, Megan, Emily and Colin — were with him when he died.

“He was my everything, and I will love him forever,” Mrs. Denver said.

Mr. Denver’s signature role was Gilligan. But he already was known to TV audiences for another iconic character, that of Maynard G. Krebs, the bearded beatnik friend of Dwayne Hickman’s Dobie in the “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” which aired from 1959 to 1963.

Krebs, whose only desire was to play the bongos and hang out at coffeehouses, would shriek every time the word “work” was mentioned in his presence.

Gilligan, on the other hand, was industrious but inept as the first mate on the SS Minnow, the ship that was taking “a three-hour tour” when “the weather started getting rough” and forced it to run aground on an “uncharted desert isle.” Viewers embraced the skinny kid in the Buster Brown haircut and white sailor hat. So did the Minnow’s skipper, Jonas Grumby, who was played by Alan Hale Jr. and always referred to his first mate affectionately as “little buddy.”

“As silly as it seems to all of us, it has made a difference in a lot of children’s lives,” Dawn Wells, who played castaway Mary Ann Summers, once said. “Gilligan is a buffoon that makes mistakes, and I cannot tell you how many kids come up and say, ‘But you loved him anyway.’”

TV critics were less kind, dismissing the show as inane. But after it was canceled by CBS in 1967 after three seasons, it found new audiences over and over in syndicated reruns and reunion films, making a lifetime team of the cast, which also included Russell Johnson as the professor, Jim Backus and Natalie Schaefer as the millionaire Howells, and Tina Louise as movie star Ginger.

“Gilligan’s Island” writer-creator Sherwood Schwartz insisted that the show had social meaning to accompany the laughs: “I knew that by assembling seven different people and forcing them to live together, the show would have great philosophical implications.”

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