Bob Denver played the goofball Gilligan on “Gilligan’s Island” and Maynard G. Krebs on “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” Now for the first time, his wife of almost 30 years, Dreama Denver, is revealing a more serious side of the much-loved comedy star.
“He was very under the radar, and never put himself out there that much. He put the characters out there but not himself. I wanted the fans to know who he really was because he was a special, special man, especially when dealing with our son Colin, who has severe autism,” Dreama Denver told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “I thought it was important to tell people that he set aside the last 21 years of his life to be with me and take care of our son, who had to have full-time care, [because he] didn’t want me to do it alone. That speaks to the type of human being he was… He was highly intelligent, and I think that is the most surprising thing about him. He was extremely intelligent, and that didn’t always come across in the characters that he played.”
Dreama writes in her memoir, “Gilligan’s Dreams; The Other Side of the Island,” that she and her husband started the The Denver Foundation in an effort to help families who needed support in enriching the lives of individuals with special needs. And surprisingly, despite Bob’s status as a household name, he started the foundation with little personal wealth.
“There were no residuals from ‘Gilligan’s Island,’ there was never any money past the first two runs of the original airing, and re-runs that they used to do in the spring. So there was financial problems.Back in the early days of television there were no DVDs or mass syndication. You just made a deal to do the show and you didn’t think of anything past that. Bob said if he knew he would have made a better deal,” Dreama said. “We struggled financially, physically, emotionally like anybody else and sometimes I think it really helps folks to know that celebrities are not immune from all the challenges of life. When they find out someone like Bob, someone who they have seen on television for so many years, is going through similar (financial woes) and is not in a gated community with nannies, but is hands-on and doing it himself, that strikes a chord with people.”
Dreama said meeting Denver while performing in a local production changed her life.
“I was an actress doing regional theater, and I got a call from a friend telling me they were casting a show called ‘Play it Again Sam.’ I got the part, and thought ‘I’m going to have to kiss Gilligan? Really?’," she said."Little did I know I would be doing those love scenes for the next 28 years."
Those 28 years started out rough, however, as Denver's drinking threatened to end their relationship before it started.
“I didn’t think of him as an alcoholic, but he drank way too much, and that was a battle. Maybe it was alcoholism. Bob was a shy person and for him to have public adulation was odd," she said. "I left so many times and he would come and get me. I was so crazy about him and the problem seemed insurmountable in the beginning. But something inside me told me that if I stuck it out he would see that our relationship was more important than a vodka bottle.”
Dreama finally won out, and said after she and Denver “got all their fighting out in the first year and a half,” it was rare for the Hollywood couple to have any conflicts at all.
“When you first get into a relationship, you are testing the boundaries of what you can get by with and you start learning about each other. But I guess after our last big fight he saw that he had to give up drinking if he wanted this to work. My feeling was if (drinking) was an escape, there was nothing to escape from anymore. I love you, and I don’t love you because you are Gilligan. I love you because you are Bob Denver, and if you dug ditches I would still love you,” Dreama said. “Once he understood that, life became much happier. Bob was searching for his purpose, and when we had Colin, that greater purpose became very apparent to him.”
- Danielle Jones-Wesley contributed to this report.