Tina Louise didn't.
She thought Gilligan's Island was
going to be about the island adventures
of movie star Ginger Grant. Most of the
other characters didn't even have names.
Gilligan and the Skipper were open
calls - Jerry Van Dyke and Carroll
O'Connor were first choice, later Bob
Denver and Alan Hale, Jr. But who
cared? The star, she was told, was Tina
Louise. Tina was a star, even then. No one
else in the cast had been a major news
item for nearly a decade - for scandals,
society-page gossip, magazine pictorials,
and movie and Broadway roles. Nobody
else in the cast had been photographed as
often, or treated like such royalty.
Take The New York Times - they
announced Gilligan's Island with the
headline TV SHOW FOR TINA LOUISE.
About the only time Tina didn't
make headlines was when she was born,
February 11, 1934. She was Tina
Blacker then, the daughter of a Brooklyn
candy store owner, a fact that's gotten
her listed in the Encyclopedia
Yiddishanica for being Jewish. By the
time she was four, her parents divorced.
From the age of five till she was
eight she was put in a private school.
"They didn't beat me. Just slapped me
once. It was just a miserable place.
And I don't think any child could really
be happy between five and eight away
from their parents, do you? No, I don't
think so...they took away my dolls at
night. Why? It was a very confining
atmosphere, not a particularly happy
Was she considered a "pretty child?"
She laughs, thinks for a moment, and
says, "I don't know about,that. I really
don't know. I think I was OK. I was
OK. My stepmother once said I was
homely, and teased me. I don't think I
was ravishing, but I think I was pretty."
Her mother Peggy married wealthy
Dr. John Myers, a well-known society
figure. Now Tina Myers, she suddenly
had the best of everything and graduated
from the Scarborough High School in
Westchester. There she invented
"Louise" for a middle name (society
girls were expected to have names a mile
long). Of "Tina Louise" she once
remarked, "It's entirely my name. To
me it means joy. Nobody in any family
can be hurt if anything happens to this
name because it's my name only."
Tina studied at the Actors Studio. "I
was there the same time Joanne
Woodward was.... Nobody mentions it
about me, though." Though she always
aspired to be a serious actress, she found
her beauty could get her publicity. The
Sunday Mirror called her "New York
Society's No. 1 Debutante." A year
later, in 1954, Tina got a full page in the
American Weekly, headlined
MILLIONAIRE CHORUS GIRL.
Photos showed her breakfasting in bed,
lounging about her "swank apartment,"
and going out on the town.
Being a chorus girl was at least a
showbiz beginning. She appeared in
Bette Davis's Piro's Company, and
Almanac with Orson Bean. Bean
remembers Tina's lifestyle of the rich
and famous - the time she and another
chorus girl had a catfight outside the
dressing room of the leading man, over
who would get inside. "It was like a
scene from a movie!" The Sunday
Mirror reported deb/starlet Tina "went
nightclubbing, and very seldom with the
same man twice" during a six-month
binge. "I had a great time since I was
seventeen," she admits now, "a great
Well, there were some sour notes.
When she spurned one preppie, he
punched her in the face - leading to her
first newspaper scandal. Tina pressed
charges, but the judge just shook his
head and said, "I understand the feeling
of this young man when he saw this
beautiful girl with another Romeo." He
told the kid to keep away from Tina and
let the rest of society's 400 get a chance.
The November 1956 Pageant ran a
sultry set of photos of Tina in bed in a
lace negligee. "She says she's a
debutante," a caption said, "but she
really wants you to think of her as an
actress." It was pictures like these,
splattered.all over the tabloids, that led
Lenny Bruce to mention his lust for
those "Tina Louise hooker poses." In
1957 she became Apassionata Von
Climax in Li'l Abner, sharing a dressing
room with Julie Newmar.
"I thought it was great fun at the
time," she says, admitting that for her
ultimate goal of dramatic parts, other
routes might have been taken. Still, it
was hard to turn down being a famous
cover girl. From 1954 to 1957 the most
serious question she got was about her
measurements. The Sunday Mirror
guessed 36-24-37, The Sunday News
insisted 38-25-38, and the New York Post
had it 39-24-36 - adding that she was five
foot eight and a half, 135 pounds, and
wore a size-ten shoe.
During Li'l Abner Tina was again in
a newspaper scandal. It was the divorce
battle between her mother and socially
prominent Dr. Myers. To spice up the
case, the papers ran shots of Tina. Mrs.
Myers complained her sixty-seven-year-
old husband was a two-timer who held
nude "painting classes" with a mistress,
and that he refused sex at home, once
complaining "I'm writing a book on the
fifth dimension. I want to be done.
Another time he said,,"Don't bother me.
I ate too much, for dinner."
The defense claimed forty-three-
year-old Mrs. Myers was the one who
had stayed. The elderly judge aided
with the doctor,"insisting Plaintiff had a
most social and luxurious life...fine
homes, much travel and resplendent
clothes and jewelry. It is regrettable that
she was unable to steer the marital ship
into calm waters...every wise woman
buildeth her house, but the foolish
plucketh it down with her hands."
Tina defended her mother to
reporters: "All these things they've been
saying are a pack of lies!" After such
incidents, it's not surprising that Tina
has guarded her own privacy ever since.
Questions about her private life are 'off
limits, even relatively mild questions,
such as what qualities she looks for in a
When the trial ended she was happy.
When Li'l Abner ended after over six
hundred performances, she was even.
happier. "Believe me, I gave my
greatest performances when I knew I
was going to leave."
Determined to ditch the sexpot image
of the play, she stressed her intellectual
side to reporters. They still only saw the
backside. James Bacon headlined one
story: TINA LOUISE (WHEWEE!) IS
GOING INTELLECTUAL. He couldn't
understand Tina reading books by
Aristotle and Voltaire. He likened it to
Marilyn Monroe trading Joe DiMaggio
for Arthur Miller. He wrote, "It would
take a psychiatrist to explore the hidden
relationship between sex appeal and a
thirst for knowledge, but it happens."
Tina told Earl Wilson, "I like guys
who verbalize more than guys who
physicalize. Men imagine that this Don
Juan approach appeals to women, but I
really think the route to seduction today
is by verbalization rather than
Said Wilson, "You sound like Amos
Tina said, "It's a surer way to a
woman's heart to be interested in what
she's thinking than what she's wearing
or not wearing. For example, how she
feels about the coming elections or about
planetary problems. You can get tired to
the point of tears with this dull,
monotonous-talk from men about how
attractive you are."
She expounded theories of "mental
communication without verbalization...all
space is made up of waves and we are
constantly sending and receiving
messages from our brain...do you
understand?" She also talked about
politics, declaring her support for Adlai
Stevenson in 1960. The joke was not
Stevenson running again, but Tina
interested in politics.
The Journal-American thought it was
kooky that she worked out with barbells.
"I'm a new woman since I discovered
exercise," she said. "I concentrate on
exercises from the waist down, since that
is the laziest part of a woman's body."
In the '80s a Jane Fonda could get
away with being attractive, physically fit,
intelligent, and slightly eccentric in her
pursuit of new challenges. In the '50s,
Tina was seen, but not believed.
Tina doesn't recall herself as
necessarily victimized by the panting
press, a la Marilyn Monroe. In fact, she
didn't think Monroe was victimized
either. "She was not a weak person, she
was a very strong, serious person."
Tina was impressed that Marilyn was
able to steer her career well enough to
make quality films.
Tina started off her career the same
way, winning good notices for her first
film, God's Little Acre 'in 1958. She
told Joe Hams that there was more to
her role of Grimed than one might
imagine: "Grimed only seems sexy
because she looks sexy and maybe feels
that way but...hers is a tragic story and
one I know too well. Men just can't
keep their hands off Grimed, because
that's the way she affects them every
time a man sees her he tries to kiss her
and rough her up.... Sex is a part of
her, but is really not her. I understand
this so well, because I don't like men to
treat me as I look either...you don't
understand, do you? I'm not one-
dimensional at all. If anybody spends
any time with no, they learn that. Man,
it's rough trying to convince people that
I'm really a serious actress."
She was more serious about her
career than anything else: "It's the one
thing I don't think will ever let me
down." Today God's Little Acre is still
one of Tina's favorite film roles.
She turned down the movie version
of Li'l Abner, to stay with dramas, and
said no to Cary Grant's Operation
Petticoat. "It went on to make millions
of dollars, but I turned it down because
it was just a lot of sex jokes."
She entered the '60s fulfilling her
plan, appearing in creditable films like
The Hangman with Robert Taylor, Day
of the Outlaw with Robert Ryan, and The
Rap with Richard Widmark. She told
reporters to forget her early days "when
I was known as a glamour girl...it helps
an actress get attention when she's
starting out," but those days were over.
Her return to Broadway in Fade
Out, Fade In with Carol Burnett proved
she was on her way to a varied career in
good shows and movies. Then came
Gilligan's Island. She loft the Broadway
show after just a month -- promised a
starring role on TV by CBS's president
and the rest.
"Oh yeah, they kind of sold it to me
that way," she says with a light laugh
that sounds lees than happy.
At first, doing her Gilligan's Island
role did not suit Tina Louise. However,
she was under contract so she stayed
with the series to get more acting
'exposure.' As Tina says, "After all, I
am a professional!"