PRINCETON, W.Va. — She spent years on an uninhabited island with six other castaways, but Dawn Wells–who you’ll better know as “Mary Ann” from the hit TV show Gilligan’s Island has never been to West Virginia.
“I’ve never been invited,” she laughed in an interview this week with MetroNews. “I’m very excited to be coming.”
She’ll be part of a Valentine’s night lineup at Princeton’s Chuck Mathena Center to benefit West Virginia Veterans. The event is called “Valentines for Veterans” and is organized by Dreama Denver, widow of actor Bob Denver who played “Gilligan” on the show.
“There are good seats available and we hope all veterans will make plans to come and spend the evening with us,” said Dreama. “Once a year we take veterans to Washington DC to see the memorials and that is what this fundraiser is for.”
A few years ago, The Denver Foundation establish the Always Free Honor Flights which annually ferry veterans from West Virginia to Washington at no charge to visit the memorials to each of the nation’s wars. Although the show is for veterans, everybody is invited and good seats remain.
Wells will be joined on stage by a unique set of performers which will include West Virginia’s own Landau Eugene Murphy Jr, actor Von Lewis a former Artist-In-Residence at the Greenbrier Resort who appears in the new Best Picture Academy Award nominated film “Green Book”, vocalist Maiya Sykes from TV’s “The Voice” and Post Modern Jukebox, Las Vegas and Atlantic City headliner Dave Damiani and vocalist Abbey Clark.
“These particular entertainers have never been on the same stage at the same time doing a performance,” Denver added. “This is really a once in a lifetime thing.”
Wells and Denver are longtime friends and have routinely appeared around the country as Mary Ann and Mrs. Gilligan. Wells is a native of Reno, Nevada and makes her home today in Los Angeles where she said she stays busy.
“I do theater most of the time, that’s my favorite thing. I’m a public speaker, I do a lot of that and I loaf a little bit,” she said. “I’m kind of getting a little old to travel all the time. I’m always looking for something. I have no children, no grandchildren, and no relatives really. I’m wide open.”
She’s excited to get a look at the hills of West Virginia for the first time. She also expects to meet a lot of people who remember her best as the wholesome girl-next-door Mary Ann, something she never tires of hearing.
“It’s gratifying because they were kids and we raised them. It’s been so long, they’re now grown ups,” she said. “You never meet people when you’re on television, but it’s wonderful to meet somebody who’s now 35 and they were kids when the show was on.”
The show, Gilligan’s Island, ran for three seasons on CBS from 1964 to 1967 and consisted of 98 episodes. It ran for decades afterward in syndication. The ratings were always high despite being panned by critics.
“Critics though it was the stupidest thing ever,” Wells laughed. “We were in high ratings the entire time.”
They show spawned three made for TV movies and still runs today on MeTV creating a whole new generation of fans.
“It’s very gratifying,” said Wells. “Gilligan’s Island was a show everybody loved and it was always a happy thing.”
Tickets are still available to the event and can be purchased at the Chuck Mathena Center.