Dawn Wells said she didn’t need much encouragement to come to West Virginia for a visit.
Wells, who played castaway Mary Ann on the iconic television show “Gilligan’s Island,” will host “Valentines for Veterans” Thursday night at the Chuck Mathena Center in Princeton.
“I love coming out that way,” she said. “It’s like the South with the southern manners and graciousness. I love that.”
The show will feature a bevy of West Virginia talent including Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.; actor Von Lewis, currently appearing in the Oscar-nominated film “Green Book”; Maiya Sykes, who competed on NBC’s “The Voice”; and singer Abbey Clark.
The benefit show is produced by Dreama Denver, the wife of the late Bob Denver, who played Gilligan. Bob Denver lived in Mercer County the last 15 years of his life. He died in 2005.
The show is presented by Southeast West Virginia American Red Cross and the Denver Foundation, which Dreama Denver heads.
She’s also on the board for the Southeast West Virginia Amercan Red Cross and oversees Always Free Honor Flight, which takes West Virginia veterans on an annual, all expenses paid trip to Washington, DC to visit the monuments and meet elected officials.
“Bob always said that Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells were his oldest and dearest friends,” Dreama Denver said. Johnson was best known as “the professor” on “Gilligan’s Island.”
Wells laughed and joked that she couldn’t have been one of Denver’s oldest friends because she wasn’t that old, but she acknowledged that she did know him for a long time.
Wells and Denver starred on “Gilligan’s Island” from 1964 to 1967 and then appeared in several television movies together in the 1970s and early 1980s. It was during one of these films when Wells met Dreama Denver.
Wells said most of the cast got along very well and stayed in touch after the show ended. Alan Hale, Jr., who played “the skipper,” even contributed pictures and recipes to a cookbook she wrote in the 1970s.
“Bob was a very deep, intellectual kind of person,” Wells remembered. “He wasn’t really gregarious. He was really silent and observing. To become a friend of his was quite an accomplishment.”
Of the original seven castaways, only Tina Louise, who played “Ginger,” and Wells remain. In their 80s, Wells still performs on stage and Louise has become a children’s book author and occasionally appears in films.
The two apparently don’t cross paths often. Wells lives in California. Louise is in New York City.
When asked about whether she thought there might be a reboot of “Gilligan’s Island,” Wells didn’t see anyone putting together a show with just her and Louise.
Denver said that when her husband was still living, talk of a big screen version of the television show circulated several times.
“First, they had Tom Hanks as Gilligan and John Goodman as the skipper,” she said. “That was back when they were much younger. As they aged out, other names came up.” She said she hadn’t heard anything about it in years.
Wells said she was pleased to be coming to West Virginia and happy to be part of the benefit show honoring veterans.
“I think Bob would have liked that,” she said.
“I know he would have,” Denver said.