44 years after her immortal ‘Gilligan’s Island’ role, Dawn Wells wears it well
December 4, 2011 6:56PM
Dawn Wells is now 73 but still gets reminded every day of the impression she left as Mary Ann on “Gilligan’s Island”.
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‘The movie star. The professor and Mary Ann.”
They were introduced last in the “Gilligan’s Island” opening theme song and, as it so happens, they’re the only surviving members of the 1964-67 TV comedy’s colorful cast.
But Tina Louise (Ginger Grant) has distanced herself from the “Gilligan” crowd, and Russell Johnson is in his late 80s and retired.
Dawn Wells, however, is still writing and acting and fully embracing her “Gilligan”-ness.
“I can’t go anywhere,” she says. “I can’t go to Beijing, I climbed with the gorillas in Rwanda. It’s ‘Mary Ann! Mary Ann!’ ”
Although Wells runs a film festival in Idaho, is working on a book (a conversation between Mary Ann and Dawn) and has two reality shows “in development,” she’ll take a short break from those projects to appear (starting Tuesday) in the Chicago run of “Love, Loss, and What I Wore.” The play centers on how items of clothing mark emotional moments in women’s lives.
While Wells, 73, has for years held on to a lucky green blouse, the most precious threads she owns are Mary Ann’s almost-belly shirt and leg-lengthening bun-huggers.
Custom-made and immediately recognizable, they’ve long been valuable collector’s items. Wells has been offered as much as $35,000 to sell the ensemble, but “I’m not ready yet.”
Q. What pieces of clothing have marked certain episodes in your life?
A. My mother’s mother sewed, and I remember at age 3 I had a little cape that was reversible with little initials on it. Then it’s the crinoline petticoats of the ’50s with the bobby socks.
Q. You did “The Vagina Monologues” in Chicago several years back. Was it jarring for people to hear Mary Ann talk dirty?
A. I think they loved it. [laughs] I think maybe it was their fantasy the whole time and didn’t know I could have it come out of my mouth. [laughs] And I’ve played a couple ladies of the evening as well. It’s kind of fun to shock somebody.
Q. Were you surprised a few years ago when the press made such a stink about your pot bust in Idaho?
A. Of course, because it wasn’t true… I mean, I was floored. I was running a children’s film festival and running a camp and boy, I tell you, it scared the heck out of me. But people are really nice. People would kind of give you the benefit of the doubt. But it’s kind of interesting that somebody wants to bring Mary Ann down. You might have expected it from Ginger!