USA Today News About the Castaways

Tina Louise tutors young readers

Tina Louise, who played Ginger Grant on Gilligan’s Island, spends her days on another famous island. Since 1995, the actress’s latest role is as a volunteer reading teacher in the New York City public schools. "I do one-on-one tutoring with two children in the first grade and it’s wonderful," Louise says. "I want kids to feel they can turn into anything they want." That’s also the motivation behind Louise’s new memoir, Sunday. Told in the voice of a 6-year-old child, it recounts Louise’s years in a New York boarding school after her parents’ divorce and her joy when they visited on Sundays. She eventually went to live with her father. "It’s terrible when a little person does not feel safe," she says. "That place was an imprisonment of my spirit." The actress’s mother was 18 when Louise was born and in the book’s foreword, Louise writes: "If Sunday could in some way help stop one girl or boy from bringing a child into the world before he or she is really ready to nurture, guide, love and hold a child close, I feel I would be doing a service." Has she made peace with her parents? "I became very close with my father in his later years and I think he understood what I was trying to do when I wrote the book," she says. (He died in September at the age of 91.) "In my apartment, I always keep a candle lit and a picture of him from when he was 7 years old." Louise’s mother is still alive but she deflects questions about their relationship. "I don’t want to hurt her," she says. She also sidesteps queries about her own age. "We don’t talk about numbers in our family - mine or my mother’s," she says with a laugh. She’s 63. As for her Island days, Louise says she sees former castmate Dawn Wells occasionally and "when our paths cross, it’s very pleasant." She dismisses Bob Denver’s claims that he overheard her having sex in her trailer as "something he had to put in his book to spice it up." Says Louise: "Can you imagine me making love in that tight gown on my lunch hour? I’m not a quickie. I require more time than that."

Denver, wife are radio co-hosts

Bob Denver, who played TV’s Gilligan, will never get off Gilligan’s Island - and he doesn’t care. "I don’t want to get away from those people," says Denver, 62, of his ‘60s co-stars. "They’re my oldest friends. We’ve been doing this stuff for 33 years now." Denver, who also played Maynard G. Krebs on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, now co-hosts radio’s Denver & Denver with wife Dreama that is soon to be nationally distributed. The oldies and talk show is currently syndicated on 15 stations in West Virginia (where he lives), Ohio and Kentucky. But Denver’s favorite guest stars are his old pals from the S.S. Minnow. Dawn Wells (Mary Ann) calls into the show with show business news and Russell Johnson (The Professor) appears in a comedy feature called Ask the Professor. The three Island escapees will also appear on an upcoming episode of the Bronson Pinchot sitcom Meego; Wells and Denver recently guest-starred on a dream sequence episode of Baywatch. "We’ve done so many dream sequences over the years," he says. "Somebody’s always slipping and knocking their heads, and where do they go? Gilligan’s Island." However, Denver isn’t friendly with one castaway. In his 1993 autobiography, he wrote that Tina Louise (The Movie Star) had loud sex in her neighboring trailer during filming. Louise denied the story. "I was inside trying to take a nap," he recalls. "The noise was so loud, I couldn’t even sleep, so I pounded the wall, but it didn’t stop." Hearing that Louise has written her own book, Denver says: "Oh, good! I hope she blasts me. I just love it. Controversy is always fun."

Wells finds Mary Ann role follows her

Dawn Wells is accustomed to being interviewed. Now she’s pointing the microphone the other way. The former Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island is now the "Castaway Correspondent" for Mid-Day, an Australian TV show that follows the Today show format. Wells, 54, covers show business and the stars from her home base in Los Angeles. "I had to learn to ask the question and not answer it myself!" Wells says. Wells finds that stars open up very quickly for their old TV pal. "Everybody has grown up with me," she says. "It makes you automatic friends. There’s a trust involved in being Mary Ann." Strangers routinely act as if they know her, but she accepts it. "Why would you not want to have that feeling from somebody?" she asks. "It’s love that they’re coming at you with. Well, a little lust, too!" But having starred in one of the most rerun TV series ever, she says, "I find all the Internet attention very, very spooky. Someone posted a message about wanting to spank Mary Ann - and there were 150 responses! "And I’ve had some stalkers that you wouldn’t even want to talk about. One man wrote me an 11-page letter about sex and sin and Hollywood, and every single word is in a different color pencil." Wells loves being an icon despite the weirdness, and has written Mary Ann’s Gilligan’s Island Cookbook. She has other non-Gilligan projects. She’s just finished shooting the first 13 episodes of Dawn Wells’ Reel Adventures, a women’s fishing show, and is producing a TV movie called A Higher Place in Heaven. Still, Mary Ann follows her everywhere, including when she recently voyaged to the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. "We came to the island of Sulufu, where there is no running water and no electricity, and we slept in grass huts, up on stilts. But the chief’s wife said, ‘I know you!’ "It turned out she had gone to nursing school in the ‘70s on the island of Honiara, the capital of the Solomons, and she’d seen the show and remembered me."