As we learned from former Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens, who people tried to shame after they learned he was working at Trader Joe’s, just because someone appeared in a hit TV show doesn’t mean they’re set for life. Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island (an iconic character on an iconic show), is broke after a “life-threatening surgery” and is soliciting donations to get herself back on her feet via GoFundMe.
In the 24 hours since news broke that Wells — who had an “unexpected accident that required hospitalization for two months” and needed “a very long time” after that “to rest and heal,” according to her makeup artist friend Dugg Kirkpatrick, who started the campaign — was in need, the fundraiser has collected over $50,000 toward the $180,000 goal. (The campaign was launched on Aug. 27.) The most recent campaign update says Wells found an apartment “in a fab retirement village” in Glendale, Calif. The actress has since spoken out about the “outpouring” — and opened up a little about what got her there.
Wells, 79, described herself as “amazed at the kindness and affection,” in a post on Facebook. “A dear dear friend of mine with a big heart was trying to help me with some common issues we all understand and some must face.” He created the fundraiser “with the love [and] emotion” of “someone protecting their child” after she told him in a recent conversation, “‘I don’t know how this happened. I thought I was taking all the proper steps to ensure my golden years. Now, here I am, no family, no husband, no kids, and no money.’”
Wells, who was married to talent agent Larry Rosen for five years in the ’60s — during her Gilligan’s Island run — ended by saying she’s “grateful that God has given me so many friends and fans who care, or it would all be too … overwhelming.” She also added that her outlook is “positive” and she looks forward to connecting with her generous fans “in my travels.”
On Gilligan’s Island, Wells was the beautiful girl next door — the down-to-earth counterpart to Tina Louise’s movie star character, Ginger. She and Louise, who recently made headlines for her ageless look, are the last surviving cast members of the popular series about seven castaways. Wells later played the role in various Gilligan’s Island specials and movies.
Wells, who started out in pageants, also appeared on many other popular shows, from Bonanza to Roseanne. She also has had an extensive theater career. In between she’s written several books, most recently What Would Mary Ann Do? A Guide to Life in 2014. In 2005, she sold Mary Ann’s original gingham blouse and shorts outfit in an auction, which pulled in about $21,000.
After Fox News did a story about Cosby actor Owens working in a New Jersey grocery store, actors came forward over the weekend to share the jobs that they had in between their acting roles — which made clear that not everybody is material for Forbes’s Highest-Paid Actors and Actresses list. Sabrina the Teenage Witch actor Nate Richert revealed that he’s currently a janitor between gigs. Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Terry Crews said he swept floors after the NFL, adding, “If need be, I’ll do it again.”
By Suzy Byrne