Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Bob Denver: TV God

By Devin D. O'Leary

JUNE 29, 1998:  Word hit the streets earlier this month and it was a shocker--Bob Denver: Hesher! On June 4, TV's beloved "Little Buddy" was arrested in his West Virginia home by drug enforcement task force officers. The officers had tracked a suspicious package from Pueblo, Colo. After delivering the package, officers executed a search warrant and confiscated the package, which contained approximately 35 grams of pot. Cannabis. Mary Jane. The Wacky Weed. The truth was out. Denver, whom police described as "very apologetic over the incident and remorseful," was a closet dope fiend.

Shortly after Denver's arrest, a West Virginia TV station quoted an anonymous source linking "Gilligan's Island" castmate Dawn Wells to the package. Could Denver's fellow castaway, the innocent Mary Ann, be a part of this hippie drug conspiracy? Wells' publicist has denied all involvement. Denver, meanwhile, faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted in Hollywood's highest profile marijuana bust since Robert Mitchum's infamous drug trial in the 1950s. All of which begs the nagging question: How could we have missed the signs?

To be sure, Denver had all the earmarks of a ganja freak long before washing up on the shores of "Gilligan's Island." Denver's seminal role as the beatnik icon Maynard G. Krebs in "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" (1959-63) should have been the first tip off. With his goatee, bongo drums and daddy-o dialect, it's difficult not to imagine Krebs toking up outside the local coffee shop before subjecting himself to Gillis' assorted square peg peccadilloes.

But the show to which Bob Denver will be forever linked remains the TV classic "Gilligan's Island." First debuting in 1964, "Gilligan's Island" was the undisputed masterwork of TV genius Sherwood Schwartz (who also brought us the decidedly post-psychedelic "Brady Bunch"). Most casual viewers miss the deeper, more symbolic meanings of "Gilligan's Island." For example: Schwartz designed the show as a complicated morality play with each of the characters representing one of the seven deadly sins. Gilligan was sloth; the Skipper was anger; the Professor was pride; Ginger was lust; Mary Ann was envy; Mr. Howell was greed, and Mrs. Howell was vanity. But did Schwartz also intend the show as a veiled encapsulation of the growing drug culture in America? Was Gilligan's slothful, clumsy nature merely a byproduct of his dime-a-day habit? Was the Professor cultivating some killer Jamaican weed in that jungle garden of his? Was the Skipper's catchphrase "Little Buddy" a simple corruption of "Little Bud, eh?" And what about that episode where everybody ate the "irradiated seeds" and gained super powers?

The conclusions seem obvious. We should have suspected this all along. The drug references in Bob Denver's oeuvre are so blatantly clear. Now we know--even Denver's harmless Saturday morning kids show "Far Out Space Nuts" (1975) is druggie slang for "getting high."


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