Bob Denver, who was best known for portraying the lovable but klutzy castaway Gilligan in the massively popular ’60s TV show Gilligan’s Island, has died. He was 70.
Denver died Friday at Wake Forest University Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina of complications from treatment he was receiving for cancer, his agent Mike Eisenstadt told The Associated Press Tuesday.
His wife, Dreama, and children Patrick, Megan, Emily and Colin were with Denver, who also had undergone quadruple heart bypass surgery earlier this year.
“He was my everything and I will love him forever,” Dreama Denver said in a statement.
Denver‘s signature role was certainly Gilligan, but even before he accepted that role, Denver was already well-known as Maynard G. Krebs from The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, the hit CBS show that ended a year before Gilligan started up. The castaway show was eventually cancelled in 1967 but gained a resurgence in the ’70s and ’80s with its syndicated reruns.
And Denver never truly walked away from the role of Gilligan. In one of his top 10 list–“the top 10 things that will make you stand up and cheer”–Late Show host David Letterman once simply shouted out Denver‘s name to raucous applause.
“As silly as it seems to all of us, it has made a difference in a lot of children’s lives,” Dawn Wells, who played castaway Mary Ann Summers, once said. “Gilligan is a buffoon that makes mistakes and I cannot tell you how many kids come up and say, ‘But you loved him anyway.'”
“It was the mid-’70s when I realized it wasn’t going off the air,” Denver told The Associated Press in 2001, noting then that he enjoyed checking eBay each day to keep up on the prices Gilligan’s Island memorabilia were fetching.
“I certainly didn’t set out to have a series rerun forever, but it’s not a bad experience at all,” he added.
Denver also starred in other TV series, among them The Good Guys and Dusty’s Trail, and appeared here and there in films and TV shows.