Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Happy Birthday, Julie Wilson!

Courtesy: Gui Castro Neves
"Julie Wilson looks the part. She has the humor, the tolerance, she loves doing it, and it comes across so
clearly." Bobby Short, singer/pianist.

Irving Berlin epitomized Jerome Kern's famous maxim that "Irving Berlin has no place in American music -- he is American music."
The same can be said of Julie Wilson and her position in cabaret. She IS cabaret. I think she should be dubbed the First Lady of Cabaret. 

She is the last of a breed. 
Many a cabaret entertainer could take major lessons from her, both male and female.
With her trademarked boa and gardenia, she epitomizes the glamor of a bygone era, the swank supper club. No one can get more out of a lyric that Julie. With her, it was about the interpretation and meaning of a song as the writers intended. Her goal is always to serve the song...and as a result, she best serves the audience as well. Although, at ninety, her performing schedule as slowed down somewhat, I refuse to put her in the past tense. She is still a viable part of the cabaret scene. 
Entertaining has never been an option for Julie. It was something she HAD to do. Over the years, there were many late nights I would see her on the subway with her cloth hat and a brown paper bag that had a beaded gown in it after returning from another gig. She would be on her way back home to her abode in Jersey City. 

I refer to it as her abode because her home is on the stage. 
Two great ladies, Willa Kim, the costume designer and LEGS DIAMOND star, Julie Wilson.
The first time I saw Julie was when I was just an eager starry eyed kid seeing her in Legs Diamond starring Peter Allen on Broadway. 
Legs Diamond is a musical with a book by Harvey Fierstein and Charles Suppon based on the Warner Brothers film The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960), with a screenplay by Joseph Landon. The music and lyrics are by Peter Allen.The show, unfortunately, was ill fated. 
The musical opened on Broadway at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on December 26, 1988 and closed on February 19, 1989 after 64 performances and 72 previews (far more than the usual 16-24 preview periods). Directed by Robert Allan Ackerman with choreography by Alan Johnson, the scenic design was by David Mitchell, costume design by Willa Kim, and lighting design by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer (Associate). The cast included Peter Allen (Jack Diamond), Julie Wilson (Flo), Randall Edwards (Kiki Roberts), Brenda Braxton (Madge), Joe Silver (Arnold Rothstein), Jim Fyfe (Moran), Christian Kauffmann
(Bones), Pat McNamara (Devane), and Raymond Serra (Augie).
I saw the show on Valentine's Day, 1989. It was in celebration of my 28th birthday. The guy I was dating at the time, Frankie, got us the tickets. It, unfortunately, would be the only time I would ever see Peter Allen LIVE. He would be gone three years later. The closest I would get to that experience ever again was The Boy From Oz in 2003.
There was a lot of controversy surrounding Legs Diamond. It was a HUGE production. The preview period extended over and over again. It was constantly being scrutinized in the media. It was the Spiderman of it's day! I can only imagined if it would have survived as long as it did if today's social media was in place at the time. I think the critics and media were out to get Peter Allen because he was a gay man playing this gangster who was also a womanizer. 
I remember the day we went to the Mark Hellinger as one of those crisp cold New York winter days. Crystal blue sky and the excitement of seeing a Broadway musical, especially this one!
It was at the Mark Hellinger theatre, a GORGEOUS Broadway theatre which is sadly now a church.
I actually loved the show. I also remember that Julie Wilson came perilously close to losing her life that day. 
Julie was standing on stage doing a scene with Peter when a cable holding a white grand piano in the wings snapped and came careening on stage! A fast thinking crew member jumped out and pulled Julie out of harm's way. Julie made a joke about it and the show went on as planned! Little did I know that THAT woman would years later become a friend and part of my life.
In 1995, I made MY official cabaret debut starring as Judy Garland, believe it or not, in a show I created along with Lina Koutrokos called Live From Television City in Hollywood. The premise was that the audience was invited to a taping of The Judy Garland Show, a 'ficticious" show that never aired. It was a bumpy road. Someday ask Sidney Myer to tell you all about it! I was constantly competing with Tommy Femia, who was already established in that department! Lennie Watts had the best response of all, "On an island with 50,000 gay men, there should be enough room for two Judy Garlands!" Alas, there was not...at least where I was concerned. I kept the show running as long as I could. What to do next?
Steve Ross, Jerry Laird, John Wallowitch, Linda Amiel Burns, Bertram Ross, Julie Wilson, Jane Scheckter, Lynn DiMenna, Margo Astrachan and others.
After giving it my all, I finally closed the show. In January as I started creating the next chapter in my life, I saw an ad in Back Stage for Linda Amiel Burns' The Singing Experience. I called her up and agreed to take the course.
There were some major plusses that came out of that decision, Linda Amiel Burns, Ivan Farkas, and Carol Shedlin all became good friends of mine and are till this date. I highly recommend this course for anyone who has ever desired a chance to entertain in a nightclub but afraid to take that plunge. For me, it was all about comradery of being with friends each week with no other agenda but to sing and I am grateful for the experience.
The "graduation" took place on by birthday at The Triad on 72nd Street. Special guest star that night was Julie Wilson. I sang Judy Garland's arrangement of  Almost Like Being In Love/This Can't Be Love. After the show was over, Julie came up to me and grabbed me. She said, "You fake! You cheated!" I was more than a little taken aback!
Karen Mason, Julie Wilson, Harold Sanditen
She went on, "Your stage presence! Your style!" You've been on stage before! Why are you here?" I explained my situation and she said, "Consider me a fan! Let me know whenever and wherever you're performing and, God willing, I'll be there!"
By God, she stuck to that promise. I have found her in the audience of my events and performances more times than I can count!
She is probably the most supportive person I have EVER encountered in this business. When she isn't performing, she is in the audience of so many in this business, regardless of what level they are at.
Today, I celebrate Julie Wilson! Did you know she was the first choice to lead the Australian company of Hello, Dolly! in 1965? If she had done it, she
would have been the second actress to take this role, after Carol Channing! Her husband at the time forbade her from taking on this role. Julie told me it was one of the biggest disappointments of her career.
Tonight will be a HUGE disappointment for me.A celebration of Julie Wilson will take place  with an all star line up including Ann Hampton Calloway and Corinna Sowers Adler lead an all star cast for the Mabel Mercer Foundation at their annual cabaret convention — perfectly timed for Julie's actual birthday at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center. Tonight's show will be hosted by KT Sullivan.

"Cabaret is one-to-one, like a party, and you're the hostess who wants to please. Most of all you have to have a good time and hope your audience joins in the fun." - Julie Wilson

From Julie's website: When Julie Wilson's eyes slyly skim the room, her husky voice toying with Stephen Sondheim's,Can That Boy Fox-Trot wow, does she ever evoke that old Maisonette magic of the 'Fifties, when she reigned as hostess over the famed St. Regis Hotel club room. Tossing that scarlet feather boa around her shoulders, Julie can still wear those same signature slinky, silky sequined gowns; her hair is back in a sleek chignon; that white gardenia, a tribute to the late Billie Holiday, is still tucked behind her left ear. But except for that svelte figure, sculptured profile, and generous smile, Julie Wilson has journeyed a long way from her famed niche during the glory days of cabaret.
And today she's better than ever -- dramatic, wise and experienced. Regarding the Stephen Sondheim classic song from Follies that she made her own classic, I'm
with cabaret entertainer, Jerome Elliot
Still Here
, Julie says,
"That song is everyone's survival song."

A few comments
I was at Julie Wilson's table at the Laurie Beechman in October. She was so engaging and affectionate. Just a sweetheart. Her friend, Deborah Lynn, encouraged me to listen to her music and live shows on YouTube. I took her suggestion, and now I'm a lifelong fan!
-Craig Witham

  
I was in London at the same time as Julie in the early 90s and went to see her at Pizza on the Park.  Billy Roy had somewhere to be after the show, so he asked me whether I would walk Julie the four or five blocks home to the flat where she was staying.  Of course, I said yes.  :)
At the time, I was working at a job that I found frustrating, promoting some performers, many of whom did not sing as well as I do, and yet I was trying to get them jobs.  I found it soul crushing.  I told Julie this as we walked VERY slowly.  We walked slowly not because Julie was slow, but because when you're with Julie, even if you are in the middle of a crowd, you are, at that moment, the only person in the world because she gives you her entire focus, even if that means slowing down to a snail's pace in order to do so.  
The only other person I have met who has this same quality is Jeremy Irons.
At one point, Julie stopped dead in her tracks and said "Paul, life is a gamble.  Start taking some chances."
I think I floated home.  And I kissed a statue on the lips on the way.  (Okay, I'd have some champagne at the show.) Her words were so empowering.  I decided to quit my job the minute I got back to New York, and I did. I wouldn't say she saved my life, but she saved my spirit.
I love you, Julie.
-Paul Lucas

The following is from Patty Farmer, author of The Persian Room Presents...
Julie had become a cherished friend, but I must admit I felt a bit intimidated, when we met over lunch at the Russian Tea Room, for the first time. I say we met for lunch, but show-business
Ben Gazzara with Julie Wilson
people keep their own schedules. “Even though its 1 p.m., it’s breakfast time for me,” Julie pointed out. “After so many years of working till the early, early hours and then sleeping until the afternoon, rising late has become a habit.”

Looking every bit the gently aging siren, Julie informed the waitress that she needed black coffee, right away.

“Are you serving breakfast?” she asked.

“No,” the waitress replied,  “but we have a very nice vichyssoise—cold soup.”

“My dear,” Julie replied, delighted with the opening, “I like my men and my soup hot!”
with Glen Charlow
 
I believe Mae West delivered a version of that line, but Julie’s performance was uniquely her own—sweet yet haughty, accompanied by a coy flutter of eyelashes for maximum dramatic effect. The waitress paused, and then gave a good hearty laugh, as if she couldn’t believe the innuendo came out of the grande dame seated before her. She also knew she’d have a good story to tell later.

It only took a little encouragement from me to persuade Julie to share how her showbiz journey began. “I was born in 1924 and my baptism name is Julia Mary. For some reason, I fell in love with a popular song of the time, ‘Mary Lou.’ 
Patty Farmer with Julie Wilson at the New York book signing
One day, my mother went to a PTA meeting at my grammar school, and the teacher told her that Mary Lou was a very good student, helped the smaller children, and was just a well behaved little girl. At this point, my mother stopped her, said she was sorry, but the teacher must have mixed her up with another mother—her daughter was Julia. The teacher informed her that, from day one, I had told them my name was Mary Lou and the school had only ever known me by that name. My wonderful mother replied, ‘Well, if she wants to be Mary Lou, let’s let her be Mary Lou!’ Mother knew I loved show business and that she wouldn’t be able to keep me off the stage. Somewhere along the line, I went back to being Julia—or Julie actually.

“I attended college in Omaha in 1942, and I
with son actor Holt McCallany
remember the tuition was only $64.00—a big difference from today! I dropped-out before graduation because I received an offer to hit the stage.  What happened was that my favorite aunt, Aunt Nori, bet me, she actually dared me to answer an ad to replace a sick performer in this tour that was going through our town. The tour had been put together by a big producer from Hollywood, so it was getting a lot of attention. I found out he was also looking for actresses to train and take back with the show to California.

“When I called the number listed in the ad, the girl who answered told me that Mr. Carroll had already started his return trip. But I asked if there was anyone else I could speak with and she was kind enough to connect me to the manager, Joe. 
By the time his gruff voice finally came on the phone, I don’t know where I found the courage to ask
with Bob Egan
him if they were still looking for replacements, but I did. Of course, he asked me, ‘What do you do?’ To which I replied, ‘What do you want me to do?’What a leading line. I was so young and naive that I could have gotten myself in trouble, but he was very professional and told me they were looking for singers and dancers. So he told me to come down so he could take a look at me.

“All he asked me to do was a simple tap-step and then he sent me upstairs to Minnie the wardrobe mistress. Minnie picked out an outfit for me and had to put five layers of falsies in the bra. When I went back downstairs, Joe said, ‘Well, you don’t have much on top and you’re a little hippy, but you’ll do.’ I started the next day at $50 dollars a week, which was an awful lot of money in those days–the Depression was still going on. That was my start and I loved it. Show business was what I was made for!”

In her day, Julie has had a Sultan follow her around the world vying
My Carol Channing Days with Julie Wilson
for her favors. She told me, “He always bought me huge magnums of champagne at the best night clubs and wanted me to marry him—even though he already had a few other wives.” She was dubbed the Queen of Cabaret more years ago than she wants me to mention, and still attends as many cabaret shows as she can to encourage and support emerging new talent.

with entertainer Peter Rapanaro
Happy Birthday, Julie! Here's to the next ninety years!
Thank to ALL mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!
With grateful XOXOXs ,



 
Check out my site celebrating the first Fifty Years of Hello, Dolly!

NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!



Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
            
At a benefit concert at John Bowab’s house in the Hollywood Hills to benefit the Actor’s Fund in the '90s
With Glenn Rosenblum and Steve Fickinger

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

with entertainer Natalie Douglas
Be sure and Save The Date to see Kim Grogg on November 14th in Go Where The Love Is
https://www.facebook.com/events/1488744398052149/?ref_dashboard_filter=hosting
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Keeping Entertainment LIVE!
 
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY


Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com


 


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dawn Wells: What Would Mary Ann Do?

Just because a woman is over 50 does not mean she no longer has anything to offer. 
If anything, we have so much more to offer! We have lived life, we get better with age. I do my best work now in my 60s. Sure, I could retire; but what would I do? Play Bingo? I think not!
Dawn Wells

Ginger might've been the sexy siren on the show, but Mary Ann was the girl more men want to be stranded with on a deserted island. The wholesome, sugary-sweet, warm-hearted Mary Ann was the ultimate girl next door.

She’s an actress, producer, author, spokesperson, journalist, motivational speaker, teacher, and chairwoman of the Terry Lee Wells Foundation--focusing on women and children in Northern Nevada.

She has starred in over one hundred and fifty TV shows, and seven motion pictures, including Winterhawk (which she also narrated), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (with Andrew Prine), Super Sucker (with Jeff Daniels), The New Interns, It's Our Time, and most recently, Silent But Deadly.
She has starred in 60 plus theatrical productions from Noel Coward to Neil Simon, as well as the National Tours of Chapter Two and They're Playing Our Song. Favorite productions include Fatal Attraction with Ken Howard, The Odd Couple with Marcia Wallace, The Allergist's Wife, Steel Magnolias (Ouiser), and The Vagina Monologues.

Dawn has starred as Gingy in Love, Loss, and What I Wore (by Nora and Delia Ephron) in New York, Chicago, Delaware, Scottsdale, and San Jose.

She was the “castaway correspondent” for Channel Nine (Sydney, Australia) interviewing such actors and directors as Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, Julia Roberts, Rene Russo, Mel Gibson, Ron Howard, and Richard Donner. And recently just presented Sandra Bullock with a Coconut
The Tale of The Allergist's Wife
Cream Pie, as the two women both knew what it’s like to be stranded, for the premiere of Gravity.
 As a producer, she brought two Movies of the Week to CBS:  Surviving Gilligan's Island, and Return to The Bat Cave, with Adam West.
She ran her Film Actors Boot Camp for seven years in Idaho.

She is also developing a couple of television projects. 
In connection with the 50th anniversary of the unexpected hit series Gilligan's Island, Dawn Wells (who portrayed the lovable farm girl next door, Mary Ann Sommers), has released A Guide To Life: What Would Mary Ann Do?(through Taylor Trade Publishing and Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.
A song highlighting Dawn's famous role was performed by a group, named The Southern Gentlemen, for the TV icon entitled There will always be a place in my heart for Mary Ann, Dawn remarked "I embraced the public's love or Mary Ann years ago.
In fact, she seems to have grown more popular every year."  Why? she explains "I think there are fewer
Mary Ann's today than there used to be. There are many Gingers, both on TV and in real life, but far fewer Mary Ann's ... and I think the public remembers her fondly and misses her terribly."
Dawn writes about the meaning of the Mary Ann character and observes the cultural shifts that have occurred since she was on the island.
From the get-go, the Mary Ann character was different. She wasn't a Hollywood creation.
She was molded by Dawn, from Dawn.
 The character that was originally listed as "and the rest" on the credits became the fan favorite, garnering more fan mail that even the title character. With over 150,000 fans on her FaceBook page and fan clubs across the U.S., her following has remained faithful. Dawn says that Mary Ann fits today just as she fit two generations ago,because she is timeless. In a world where the industry and society has been celebrating their "Bad girls," Mary Ann continues to be, for many, the breathe of fresh air as the “Good Girl.”
Pop culture is too powerful and too pervasive to be controlled by parents, siblings or colleagues. It can be confused with reality.

This leaves young people in a vulnerable position - they have to make decisions that are normally beyond their maturity.
Dawn discusses decisions we make in life and even goes straight to the BIG DECISION and delivers her concept of the meaning of sex.  
In a world of participation trophies, easy praise, and entitlement attitudes, how do you define achievement?
 Dawn describes it as a journey of failure and learning and tenacity that requires a constant personal re-examination of what success really means.
 Since the show ended on September 4, 1967, Wells has continued to work on both screen and stage.
She published Mary Ann's Gilligan's Island Cookbook with co-writers Ken Beck and Jim Clark, which included a foreword by castaway cast mate Bob Denver, and even starred as Lovey Howell in Gilligan's Island: The Musical, a musical stage adaptation of the TV show.

Wells most recently starred along with fan favorites such as Rip Taylor, Lee Merriwether, Bruce Vilanch and others in Silent, But Deadly.

I have a confession to make.
I love Dawn Wells! Or  do I love Mary Ann? Of course, I am referring to a character Dawn played on Gilligan's Island.
This show ran for a total of 98 episodes. The first season, consisting of 36 episodes, was filmed in black-and-white. These episodes were later colorized for syndication. The show's second and third seasons (62 episodes) and the three television movie sequels were filmed in color.

Gilligan's Island has NEVER been off the air since it first aired in September fifty years ago.

Unfortunately, the only two actresses'  from this show who are still with us are the two actresses who were always the subject of many a debate, Ginger or Mary Ann? Dawn, who was a former Miss Nevada, auditioned for the role of Mary Ann Summers opposite such noted competition as Raquel Welch, Patricia Ann Priest and the actress, Nancy McCarthy, who shot the pilot episode under the character name of "Bunny."
When asked about the most memorable Mary Ann moment, she responded, "There are too many."
Today, in honor of her birthday (October 18th) and to celebrate the publication of her book, What Would Mary Ann Do?, I celebrate Dawn Wells and the journey to Gilligan's Island and beyond.

Last week, when we spoke, Dawn was in her hometown of Reno, Nevada working on her
Foundation. Between fundraising calls, she made time for me (thank you Harlan Boll) and  we discussed her body of "worth". I began the interview by asking if she has a "portrait" in the attic. She never ages! She says "I don't have a portrait, but I have been repainting a little!" As we all do, she feels the aging process. She realizes that she can't do what she did 25 years ago at the same level, but that doesn't stop her. THAT'S the secret!
 Mentally, she feels as if she is twenty-five or thirty.
How did it all begin?
When Dawn was in high school, she was a debater and a public speaker.

She tried out for a couple of plays that she never got
cast in.

She did the "little red head" in the fifth grade and got a stiff neck and had to leave.

She was never drawn towards drama.

After writing her book recently, she realized why she has approached life the way she has. It was because
she was a debater. She always looked at both sides.

That has helped shape who she is today.

Her first dream was to be a ballerina, a dancer. She loved ballet. However, her knees started dislocating and she couldn't do dance anymore and she enrolled in PE (Physical Education).

Then she could no longer do that, so she started with speech and similar types of classes.
She later attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, a women's college, something she always desired to do, she was pre-med.
She wanted to be a pediatric surgeon.

Dawn loves science, she  doesn't like philosophy.

She desires to know what the REAL answers are.


After canoeing and archery, there weren't any PE courses for her to take, so she took a theatre course. She really liked it and got cast in a lot of things.
Dawn's adviser told her that she should really major in theatre. Dawn responded by saying, "Are you kidding?
I really don't desire to be out of work for the rest of my life!" He said, "Think about it." So, Dawn chose the University of Washington in Seattle because it had a great medical school and a great theatre department.
She took these theatre courses. She was asked to run for Miss Nevada. She always laughs at that prospect.

She believes there were probably only five women in the entire state to compete at that time.
In that day and age, a Miss America would never have come from a "legal prostitution, gambling, and divorce" state. 

That would not be the typical American girl, but Dawn thought it would be a good experience to do a dramatic scene in front of people, having no idea it would work. But to get that experience, she entered and won!
 That was now on her "credits".
After she graduated from college, she went, "OK, now that you have your degree..." and she gave herself a year.
She gave a business discussion recently about this recently.

She ran a camp in Idaho  for five years.
It's a BUSINESS. It's called show BUSINESS. "Where can I earn a living the best?"
In that day and age, it was either LA or New York. She doesn't sing and she doesn't dance a lot. She decided on Los Angeles, not desiring to be a movie star because she was Miss Nevada or any of that stuff, and gave herself a year.

She was well trained because of her background. She didn't go based on beauty and hoping to "get discovered".
Shortly after getting there, she had an interview with Jack Warner, thanks to an agent she had acquired along the way.
The agent called her  up and said, "You were a big hit." She said, "What do you mean?"
He said, "Well, Jack Warner called me up and said, 'I actually had an intelligent conversation with your client.'"

Warner Brothers put Dawn under option for contract.
They didn't pick up her option but she did every show on television in those days, Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, etc. That gave her lots of experience on film.

She was then up to her knees in an early television career.
She then decided to give herself a couple of years to see where it would get her.

She worked hard at it and she liked what she was doing very much. About three years into that was when Gilligan's Island came along.

That, of course, changed her career and life quite a bit! She thinks that she would not have stuck by this career if she had not gone to work.
She believes she would have gone back to school. She has never left the "medicine knowledge" she has completely behind.

That is how she got her start! When she ran her film actor's boot camp, one of the things she would do, is bring to the forefront that the acting is very important, but that the business knowledge is JUST as important.
How do you market yourself? How dependable are you? Where do you fit?
All of those things are all part of it. You just can't be "anything" on camera; You can more so on stage
Nancy McCarthy (originally cast in the "role" that became Mary Ann)
when you are thirty feet away, when you can fool them, but not on camera when it is right in your face.
It is more than just talent, which is essential.

Dawn has been very lucky and she has gone back to the theatre which she loves a lot.
She is constantly trying to challenge herself, because there is more to her than Mary Ann.

She was lucky to get the vehicle that gave her the name and the ability to go all over the world.
Mary Ann is loved all over the world. You can't argue with that.
Alan Hale, who played the Skipper, used to say that people need nonsense in their lives. THAT is why Gilligan's Island was so successful.What does Dawn do now when she needs a little nonsense in her life?

She's a game player. She loves playing games and crossword puzzles and the like. She's a great fly fisher. She loves the outdoors.
She loves skeet and crap shooting, but emphasizes that she does not hunt! Her father was also a skeet and crap shooter.
She does not believe in killing animals for sport.
When Dawn was cast in Gilligan's Island, the cast that was in place were Thurston Howell III (mentioned in the opening credits as: "The Millionaire"), portrayed by veteran character actor Jim Backus.
His wife, Lovey, portrayed by Natalie Schafer, the Skipper (Alan Hale, Jr), and Gilligan (Bob Denver).
The three remaining original pilot characters differed from those of the series (including the actor/actress cast).
 In the pilot, the Professor was instead a high school teacher played by John Gabriel; Ginger the movie star was instead Ginger, a practical secretary with red hair, played by Kit Smythe; and Mary Ann the Kansas  farm girl was instead Bunny, a stereotypically cheerful "dumb blonde" secretary, played by Nancy McCarthy.
Those characters and the actors who portrayed them were all replaced.
 The originals lyrics referred to Mary Ann and the professor as "and the rest".
I asked Dawn what she thought of that. She responded "Boo hoo! Boo hoo!"  They would send each other cards, "Love, the Rest". Dawn is pretty practical.
"Ginger" was cast first, in New York. This is what Dawn was told.

Her agent said, that Tina Louise was in fifth position billing and no body after her.
So when Dawn and Russell Johnson, who played the Professor were cast, contractually that is what it was.


It was Dawn's first series and even though it was "and the rest", audiences knew who she was.

The music and lyrics for the theme song, The Ballad of Gilligan’s Isle, were written by Sherwood Schwartz and George Wyle.
One version was used for the first season and another for the second and third. In the original song, the Professor and Mary Ann, originally considered "second-billed co-stars", were referred to as "and the rest," but with the growing popularity of those characters, their names were inserted into the lyrics. The "Gilligan" theme song underwent this one major change thanks to  star Bob Denver, who personally went to the studio and asked that Johnson and Wells be added to the theme song's opening credits.

When the studio at first refused, saying it would be too expensive to reshoot, Denver insisted, even saying that if Johnson and Wells weren't included, he wanted his name out of the song as well. The studio caved in, and "the Professor and Mary Ann" were added.Dawn elaborated that Bob went to the studio executives to get her and Johnson added to the opening credits.Bob pointed out that his contract stated he could have his name anywhere he wanted in the credits, so they could move it to the end credits along with Johnson and Wells. Wells said Denver never mentioned this to anyone in the cast, and she did not find out about it until years after the show ended.
The first season version was recorded by the folk group The Wellingtons. The second season version, which incorporated more of a sea shanty sound, was uncredited, but according to Russell Johnson in his book Here on Gilligan's Isle, it was performed by a group called the Eligibles
His argument was that there were only seven characters, "let's change the credits." Legally, it was in Tina Louise's credits the way it was written. Dawn still wonders if they had to pay her off to change this. She doesn't know.

 In actuality, it didn't bother Dawn. She was pretty new and green with no ego involved.
Her thought was that there were only seven people. Everyone would know her by the time it was over.
As of this writing, nothing is in the works for Dawn and Tina Louise to do any joint appearances in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Gilligan's Island. 

Dawn and Tina Louise have not done anything together in a long time.Dawn was doing a play in New York last year, not far from Tina, and she didn't go to see Dawn. Dawn believes she just desires to distance herself from that period in her life.
Prior to Gilligan's Island, she had appeared on Broadway and had done movies. 
Dawn doesn't know whether she was sorry she did the show because the show was so beloved around the world.
They have never done anything together since. Dawn desired to go out and do the female version of The Odd Couple.
Dawn desired to be "Oscar" and is not sure of the entire concept would have worked.
The best thing about Gilligan's Island, to Dawn, was the cast.
Even though the press made fun of them, it was a good group. They all were very harmonious and the shows were funny and silly and "how in the world did that lion get on board" and now he's gone and where is he?

It was slapstick and it was fun. The only negative, if there was one was the reviews.
Sometimes it would break her heart to read that it was the worst piece of garbage the critics ever saw.
Fifty years later, it is still there! In actuality, they did not take those reviews to heart.
If she could go back, the only thing that Dawn would change is to embrace each moment more.

Dawn has not done any lifts or peels or any of that. She is terrified that she will come out looking "wrong".

She is thankful for her good genes. She had terrible acne when she was a kid. All of these girls had beautiful skin and she had all this medicine she had to use. She had to "hot pack" her face had night.
Her mother didn't want her to get those awful scars. She had so much oil in her skin during Gilligan's Island.   
They used a Max Factor makeup base. They would take the make-up out of the tube and add sulfur into it so that it would dry out her skin. She would put it back in and they would use that every day. Her Italian heritage has been good to her as far as her skin has been concerned in older life.
She also believe it's her soul. She is very optimistic. She looks forward to tomorrow. She is always challenging herself every day. She is happy to be here. She is lucky, knock wood. She has been pretty healthy. Her life, however, has not been without tragedy. They gave her father the wrong medicine which killed him at fifty six. She can't dwell on that. She feels that if she does, it shows in your face and body language.
She is happy most of the time. Her mother kept track of her most of the time.
She was a pretty head strong woman. Dawn inherited that trait from her mother. Dawn fought for what she desired to do with her life but she didn't run away. She doesn't know if all of this is genetic or if we have a choice of waking up in the morning and saying, "This is a good day!" As stated earlier, the day of this interview, Dawn was in Reno. She said she woke up that morning to a glorious day.
She went into the lobby to get a coup of coffee and just stopped and took a deep breath and said, "I'm up 4,000 feet and the sun is shining. The air is clean. What a great day." She believes that if we all do that on a daily basis, and mean it, she thinks it changes the whole being of us. She also has a round face which makes her a little younger. She doesn't know. She doesn't dwell on it. She is her age. She does look younger than her age, but she is going to age as well as anyone else. She says she's going to be Betty White when she gets older!
After Gilligan's Island, she wanted to go out into the world and show what she could really do. She wonders if she could have been content playing that ingenue with just a guest role.
She would still love to do Broadway. She has done off-Broadway. She doesn't know that she would have moved to Broadway to try and do that if television had not come along. Perhaps, if she had not worked steadily, she would be Dr. Wells!
The last day of shooting, no one knew it was the last day of shooting.
The show had been picked up for another season. They were going to Hawaii to shoot the first episode. The show was being moved around from night to night. During the 1966–1967 television season, Gilligan's Island aired on Monday nights at 7:30 p.m. Even though the sitcom's ratings had fallen out of the top 30 programs, during the last few weeks of its third season, the series was still doing very well and more than holding its own against its chief competitor, The Monkees, which aired at the same time on NBC-TV. Therefore, CBS assured Sherwood Schwartz that Gilligan's Island would definitely be picked up for a fourth year.

The rumor is (Dawn doesn't know if this is true), that they were going to cancel Gunsmoke to accommodate Gilligan's Island in that time slot. Paley was the head of CBS at that time and Mrs. Paley insisted that they could not cancel Gunsmoke! It was her favorite show. Gilligan's Island became a causality of that decision. There was never a "goodbye" episode. It was probably better that way. They left on a high.
I could not end this interview without asking Dawn about a dear friend of hers, Larry Randolph. He was a director who was also a wonderful actor. He directed Dawn so many times. He passed away quite recently.
She considers Larry the best director she ever worked with. He was terribly creative. They met years ago when she was appearing in The Owl and the Pussycat.
She had done it so many times and she went into this particular production with a chip on her shoulder. She said, "This is the way we do it because this is the way it worked the last time." Larry said, "Just calm down. We can be more creative."
Sometime after that, Dawn was doing Vanities in Canada. It coves the lives of three girls from high school through college. The director told Dawn, "I don't understand this play. It is all about women and I don't understand women. Dawn thought, "Oh dear! We only have a week to put this together and make it work." Whether the play was good or not, it was going to be "Dawn Wells gets critiqued." The responsibility was on her shoulder.
She called Larry, who was also a costume designer! She said, "Larry, if I fly you up here and if I pay you under the table, will you help out?" First of all, they couldn't find cheerleader costumes in Canada! They don't wear the same cheerleader outfits they needed. She asked him to make the cheerleader outfits AND direct the show! He said sure! The director never knew any of this was going on. During the day, Larry would sew their costumes with a sewing machine on the bed. At night, they would go in and move the furniture around and use the living room furniture as a set and good in the next day and the director would say, "That's good! Keep that!" They got rave reviews but Larry never got any credit. That's the show BUSINESS part of this!
It was kind of Dawn's responsibility instead of just letting it go.
Dawn had no input into Gilligan's Island at all. She was young and knew what her job was.
Dawn's opinion over the years has evolved from the critics hating the show to a certain reverence for what it was. In her travels, around the world, she is constantly meeting the fans. There may be a few who didn't like it, but it doesn't matter. 
Dawn is now fortunate to realize that this is part of our history. It is like The Three Stooges! It will go on forever. Dawn realizes the talent that Bob Denver had. Off stage, Bob was a very serious man. He was very intellectual and very anti-pesticides. He was wonderful with children. His physical comedy, as Dawn looks at it now, realizes how wonderful it truly was.Geniuses are geniuses and she really does think he was.
Dawn with another TV icon, Barbara Eden
She was doing some history research. Do you know who Charlie Chaplin's best friend was? Albert Einstein! When you think of that comic genius and that intellect together! Dawn always says that there was much more to Bob Denver than we think.
In recent years, Gilligan's Island has been turned into a musical. Dawn believes it is hard to recreate something that special.
She doesn't feel that it can be recast.
The reason that Dawn wrote What Would Mary Ann Do? is a fiftieth anniversary gift for the fans. There may be a forty year old man who grew up watching her, but he also has a thirteen year old daughter. Mary Ann was very much Dawn. She came from Nevada with "gambling, prostitution, etc." but her mother raised her with "Mary Ann" values. She realizes that those values are centuries old but will continue. Today's youth are confused with five hundred dollar purses and the Kardashians as"role models". There is a message here without being goody two shoes. Your responsibility and your job...are you dependable? Do you have good manners? All of those things that Mary Ann exemplified. Dawn is very proud of this book. It is not a preachy kind of book. She has had people approach her and tell her she should be writing a column, "Ask Mary Ann..."
All parents are working now.Families are different with step kids and it is rare to see a family sitting around the dinner table and it is much harder to raise children. This book is a light read but it says something. Where are kids getting their messages these days? Dawn hopes to reach the parents that were raised the way she was raised from her generation. It is important!
It is a book that can be read in an hour and a half. I love my copy! It is in Dawn's voice. The publisher wanted her to write a book on why we love Mary Ann. She told them that was a chapter. We love her because she was a nice girl, but there's more to it than that. That is what she captures in the book. We all have a responsibility. We both agree that if we were parents today, we would be terrified. She tells parents that they have the RIGHT to open their children's doors. Forget that privacy thing. These kids are living in your homes. You NEED to know what they are up to.
You are in charge of your life. The decisions you make are yours forever, so are you who you thought you were going to be? For Dawn, she is not completely there yet.
Good parents, optimism, willing to work, and embracing the world is what have made Dawn Wells the person she is today and we are all the better for it!  

For more information on Dawn Wells, follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/therealmaryann
Thank you, Harlan Boll and Wikipedia for some biographical portions of this blog.

Thank to ALL mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!
With grateful XOXOXs ,
 


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