One of the most enduring American sitcoms of the 60’s would have to have been Gilligan‘s Island as I’m sure many of you so-called baby boomers would most likely agree with even though it only ran three seasons. Anyone and everyone who is familiar with this hilarious and somewhat larger than life sitcom knows the premise. If not, it is spelled out clearly in the theme song, written by the late, great Sherwood Schwartz who also created and produced the show. He also was the genius behind another well known sitcom…You may have heard of it…The Brady Bunch!
Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship.
The mate was a mighty sailing man,
The skipper brave and sure.
Five passengers set sail that day
For a three hour tour, a three hour tour.
The weather started getting rough,
The tiny ship was tossed,
If not for the courage of the fearless crew
The minnow would be lost, the minnow would be lost.
The ship set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle
The Skipper too,
The millionaire and his wife,
The movie star
The professor and Mary Ann,
Here on Gilligans Isle.
So this is the tale of the castways,
They’re here for a long, long time,
They’ll have to make the best of things,
It’s an uphill climb.
The first mate and the Skipper too,
Will do their very best,
To make the others comfortable,
In the tropic island nest.
No phone, no lights no motor cars,
Not a single luxury,
Like Robinson Crusoe,
As primative as can be.
So join us here each week my freinds,
You’re sure to get a smile,
From seven stranded castways,
Here on “Gilligan’s Isle.”
I purposely posted the lyrics so that you will start humming or singing the theme song to Gilligan’s Island and start cussing me because you will be unable to get this catchy little tune out of your head for a few days or until you are rescued from your three hour musical cruise.
I must admit I always felt just a little bit sorry for the Skipper because Gilligan was constantly and effortlessly I might add stealing the scene through his comic genius. Gilligan, Gilligan, Gilligan…does that ring any bells or whistles…it should…remember Marsha, Marsha, Marsha from The Brady Bunch and how she was constantly stealing the scene away from poor Jan… Well, I can relate to the Skipper and to Jan because that is how I’ve felt most of my life…that is until one fateful evening when I came face to face with Alan Hale, Jr (aka The Skipper). Hey, I thought he was stranded on a desert Island…oh yeah, that’s right he was finally rescued along with the other crew members.
I was working the night shift at one of the fancier “fast food” joints in Los Angeles, a favorite hangout for locals and the occasional famous and the “not so famous has-been celebrities”. I despise the word has-been simply because it refers to someone who at one time WAS “someone” and now they’re not. Think about it…doesn’t that beat never being someone at all. So, back to the story…as I said I was working my usual late night shift as a humble waiter trying to survive until I got my big break in the acting world. I couldn’t wait to become a “has-been”, but was beginning to worry that I would follow the path of so many non-working actors in Hollywood and become a “never-been” which believe me is much worse than a “has-been”.
So, as I was clearing off a few tables and waiting for my next customer I noticed a rather large, yet somewhat tall gentleman stroll through the door of the restaurant. I grabbed a menu and walked over to the man to greet him (the hostess must have been on one of her many nightly smoke breaks) when suddenly a very bright light bulb illuminated in my brain. I recognized the man almost instantly because of his trademark cap and lumbering stature…it was none other than the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island without his crew. I think I may have stuttered just a little before greeting him with a grin as wide as a Cheshire cat. I half expected him to take off his cap and slap me over the head with it as he said “hello, little buddy”, but the truth of the matter was… he did nothing like that at all. He seemed distant and alone, far from the bubbly, character from Gilligan’s Island. He simply stood there staring down at me and uttered just one sentence that quickly burst my naive high-flying balloon. He said and I quote….”I’ve been with people all week son and I just want to be by myself” …end of quote. That’s all! No friendly hello, no smirk or laugh, just a solemn, worn out old man who just wanted to be left alone to enjoy a slice of pie and a cup of coffee all by himself. Wow…I thought to myself…but, you are the Skipper and you should be the life of the party, the one who makes us all laugh with your amazing acting skills. I responded with, “Yes sir, I understand” although I really had no idea how the man probably really felt deep down in his soul. I was crushed at first.
And then it hit me…’acting skills”…he really is not the Skipper, he was Alan Hale, Jr., albeit a very famous actor who created an unforgettable character that will forever be indelibly etched in our minds. I watched him as he followed me quietly to his table and sat down with his menu. After taking his order, I glanced back at him as I walked away and noticed his worn out face with its large red nose and he reminded me of the late W.C. Fields. It was in that moment when I noticed a twinkle in his eyes as he tipped his cap at me and gave me just a tiny acknowledgement of what I took as his way of showing me that the Skipper was still alive, just hidden away now… and a little worn and ragged around the edges. I smiled to myself as I fetched the Skipper his coffee and pie. I was forever changed by that small, yet significant gesture from one of TV’s most enduring characters. I could somehow relate to him in my own insignificant way, along with Jan Brady. They are my heroes…Don’t get me wrong, without Gilligan, the whole crew of the SS Minnow would have truly been lost forever in the land of TV sitcoms.
Most of the cast (crew of the SS Minnow) from Gilligan’s Island is no longer with us but they will always be in our hearts and whenever I start feeling just a little insignificant, I remember back to that dark, fateful quiet night at a restaurant in Los Angeles… the night when the Skipper of the SS Minnow acknowledged me even though I was not a crew member aboard his boat on that fateful journey.
My hat’s off to you Skipper…and may your journey be never ending…
P.S. Say hello to Gilligan and the rest of the crew for me…Bon Voyage
Just another story from the vault of The Hollywood Contender…