LOS ANGELES – Bob Denver (search), whose portrayal of goofy castaway Gilligan on the 1960s television show "Gilligan's Island," (search) made him an iconic figure to generations of TV viewers, has died, his agent confirmed Tuesday. He was 70.
Denver died Friday at Wake Forest University Baptist Hospital in North Carolina of complications from treatment he was receiving for cancer, his agent, Mike Eisenstadt, told The Associated Press.
Denver had also undergone quadruple heart bypass surgery earlier this year.
His wife, Dreama Denver, said in a statement released by Eisenstadt: "He was my everything and I will love him forever."
Denver's signature role was "Gilligan," the inept first mate of the Minnow whose bumbling resulted in a group of tourists being stranded on an uncharted desert island for three seasons in the 1960s and for decades afterward in reruns and movies.
When he took the role in 1964, however, he was already widely known to TV audiences for another iconic character, Maynard G. Krebs, the bearded beatnik friend of Dwayne Hickman's Dobie in the "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," which aired from 1959 to 1963.
Krebs, whose only desire was to play the bongos and hang out at coffee houses, would shriek every time the word "work" was mentioned in his presence.
Gilligan on the other hand was industrious but inept. In one of the films, for example, the seven castaways actually got off the island, only to wind up back there when Gilligan bungled their reunion cruise a year later.
His character was as lovable as he was inept, though, and viewers embraced the skinny goofball kid in the Buster Brown haircut and white sailor hat. So did the Minnow's skipper, Jonas Grumby, who was played by Alan Hale Jr., and who always referred to his first mate affectionately as "little buddy."
"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."'
TV critics were less kind, dismissing the show as inane, even stupid. But after it was canceled by the network in 1967, it found new audiences over and over in syndicated reruns and reunion films.
One of the most recent of those films was 2001's "Surviving Gilligan's Island: The Incredibly True Story of the Longest Three Hour Tour in History," in which other actors portrayed the original seven-member cast while three of the four surviving original members, including Denver, narrated and reminisced.
After "Gilligan's Island," Denver went on to star in other TV series, including "The Good Guys" and Dusty's Trail," as well as to make numerous appearances in films and TV shows.
But he never escaped the role of Gilligan, so much so that in one of his Top 10 lists -- "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.
"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 the eBay Internet each day to keep up on the prices "Gilligan" 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.