There are few faces that are more closely identified with classic television than that of the late Bob Denver. One of his characters is so recognizable that you just have to wear a white hat and a red shirt to be called “Gilligan.”
Denver starred in not one but two hit television shows. In The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, he played Maynard G. Krebs, television’s first beatnik. Opposite Dwayne Hickman’s regular-guy Dobie Gillis, Denver is the ideal comic sidekick.
After four years of that, Denver segued to the starring role in Sherwood Schwartz’s Gilligan’s Island. Working with Alan Hale Jr. and the rest of the sitcom’s cast, Denver displayed his talent for physical comedy and treating absurd situations with honesty.
Gilligan lasted for just three seasons but the show became so popular in syndication that two animated series and three reunion movies followed. Denver and the other actors from the show became so identified with their characters that it was difficult to find other work. Thankfully, for fans of Gilligan, they made plenty of memorable cameos and appearances over the years.
Denver did star in a few more series after that but they never came close to achieving the popularity of Dobie and Gilligan. The Good Guys immediately followed Gilligan and ran for a year and a half on CBS. Then, Schwartz cast Denver in Dusty’s Trail which is essentially a Western version of Gilligan’s Island.
His last regular series was Far Out Space Nuts. Revolving around a pair of dim-witted NASA employees who are lost in space, Denver and Chuck McCann recreated the Gilligan/Skipper relationship. Like many other programs that were created by Sid and Marty Krofft, the show is well-remembered by kids of the 1970s who are usually surprised to learn that only 16 episodes were ever made.
After starring in five live-action series (essentially back-to-back), two animated shows, and appearing in lots of other projects, Denver left Hollywood. He and his wife, Dreama, had a severely autistic son and they all lived a quiet life in West Virginia. Denver continued to act from time to time and made public appearances as Gilligan but mostly stayed close to home. The Denvers also ran a small oldies radio station and started the non-profit Denver Foundation that helps autistic people and their families in West Virgina.
In September 2005, Denver died from pneumonia and throat cancer. He was a young 70 years old.
Later today (August 12th), you can listen in and even take part in a tribute to Denver. To do so, just point your browser to Shokus Internet Radio at 7pm EST (4pm PST).
For two hours, host Stu Shostak will be talking to Dobie star Dwayne Hickman and his wife, Joan Roberts, in studio and Bob’s wife Dreama, via phone. Bill Funt, who is working on a very special Gilligan project with Schwartz, will be co-hosting. For two hours, they’ll be remembering Denver and his work, as well as taking questions from listeners.
The show is free and you can call in toll-free at 1-888-Shokus-5 (746-5875) or email questions. To listen to the show, surf on over to the Shokus Internet Radio website. If you can’t listen live, you can catch daily replays of the show until August 19th. There’s a full schedule here.
What are you waiting for? Tune in and then just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…