R.I.P. Dawn Wells

I actually had an internal debate as to whether I should post my “stars who died in 2020” piece a day early, and then I finally did so, on the theory that I could just share it two days in a row. And, after all, there’d be no one to add this late in the game!

But sadly there is. We just got word that Dawn Wells of Gilligan’s Island has passed away of complications due to Covid-19 at age 82. I’ve written about Gilligan’s Island here (including the all-important Ginger vs. Mary Ann debate), and about producer Sherwood Schwartz, as well as stars Bob Denver, Alan Hale, Jim Backus, and Tina Louise. I’m not sure I would have done a dedicated post to Dawn Wells frankly, but for the cruel and abrupt manner of her passing. There was something about the pitiless absurdity of the headline. I wanted to laugh for a millisecond, until I realized that the joke was being told by the Grim Reaper, and it wasn’t funny. It’s a reflection of the surreal insanity of our times. No one is giggling right now in the ICU, and if the news amuses you despite the truth of what it portends you must have a heart of ice. If you’re my age, Dawn Wells was one of your first heartthrobs. It’s impossible not to take a thing like this personally, and you know who I blame. At any rate, this has been a cruel cruel year and seems determined to remain one until the last gun is fired.

Wells was Miss Nevada 1959. She’d actually guested on dozens of tv shows prior to Gilligan’s Island, and even gamely made appearances on shows like The F.B.I. and The Love Boat for a few years in the aftermath, before finally resigning herself to permanent Mary Ann status. Occasionally she still made headlines. A few years ago she was the subject of the day’s buzz because she was busted for pot possession! Her last screen credit was just last year.

The unkindest joke of all is on Tina Louise. The only one who hated being on Gilligan’s Island, who resisted every reunion, is now the only member of the cast left alive. Covid-19 better steer clear of her. If she gets the ‘rona in her claws, it’s all over for that damn germ.