OK, The Wait is Over…Posted: August 23, 2007
….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.
Well, I’m sure you can finish the rest of the song. Or, maybe you can’t. Because a couple of times that I’ve mentioned my day with Bob Denver, a few people were like, “I thought you meant John Denver.”
Is it possible that I’m older than enough of you, my faithful readers, that you really don’t know who Bob Denver is? That really can’t be possible. Can it?
Well, for those that don’t know, Bob Denver was Gilligan. As in Gilligan’s Island. As in the theme song in the first sentence of this post. As in one of the most entertaining TV shows. Ever.
That Bob Denver.
He was an icon. A legend.
And, as I found out, an incredible chain smoker.
Here’s the story.
I was in Vermont at the time. Working for marketing/PR agency. We landed a new television station as a client and were assigned with the task of planning the launch party for the station. Basically, get people to care about the then fledgling WB Network. No easy task, even for this PR guy. Because, keep in mind, this was like 1995.
So, in order to drum up some buzz, the station folks hired Bob Denver to come to Vermont and act as the celebrity pitch man for this station launch.
Now, again, for anyone over probably 32, Bob Denver is legendary. Under that, I’m really not so sure. You may have seen a little Gilligan’s Island, but not like we did. And, heck, Gilligan’s Island was big for him, but for the even older generation, he was known as Doby Gillis.
But, I digress.
Now, why did they pick Bob Denver to launch a station that was full of WB programming? Beats the hell out of me. Denver had a show called Treasure Hunters or something that was also on the station, but needless to say, he didn’t fit the overall demographic.
But, when you’re a PR guy, you work with what you have. So, that’s what I did. We arranged for some newpaper interviews and for a slew of radio station interviews. (Note: that might be the first time I’ve ever used slew in a sentence.)
So, since he’s, well, Bob Denver, we arranged for a limo to take him and his manager/friend/lackey around to these stations. And, of course, I was to accompany him as the rep for the station.
What was my job? Basically to make sure he got the station call letters right. Let’s face it, the radio stations wanted to talk to him about Gilligan, not about the TV thing. So they would give us one quick plug and then it was more focused on who was hotter, Ginger or Mary Ann.
So there I was, a young lad with a guy I had watched on TV a bazillion times. I wouldn’t say I was star struck, but it was very cool to spend some time with the guy. Or so I thought it would be.
I’m not here to bash on someone who is no longer with us (he died a few years ago), but he wasn’t the most friendly guy I’ve ever met.
I mean, he couldn’t have been making too much for this appearance (I think he got five grand). And, I’m sure he’s been asked the Ginger and Mary Ann question more than he ever wanted, but here he was nonetheless.
Did I mention he was a chain smoker? Yeah. I did. And, yeah, he was. I’m not sure I ever saw him for more than five minutes without a cigarette.
My favorite moments were when we’d walk into the studio and he’d be smoking away. The DJ would say, politely (I mean, again, this was Bob Denver) that the studio was a no smoking place.
“No problem,” he’d say, but not put the cigarette out. He didn’t care. He was Bob Denver, he’d do what he want.
Everyone wanted pictures and he did that. Again, I think he knew he had to. And he would put on that trademark goofy grin whenever the camera was snapped, but after that, “where’s my cigarette.”
In the studio, he was great. I mean, this guy could turn it on with the best of them. A song would be playing and he’d be talking to his manager, not stopping to talk as the DJ was going on air. The DJ would be introducing him, asking a question and he’s still talking to his manager, until he instantly knew when to answer the question and devote a few seconds to it. Then the segment would end and he’d go right back to the conversation with his manager/lackey and, of course, his cigarette.
The other funny thing was that he brought one of the original Gilligan hats with him. And he’d wear it. Um, on the radio.
So, we rode around to five different radio stations and did the interviews. It was fine. He did his job, promoting the reason why he was there first and then answering all the questions about Gilligan after that.
Oh, and for the record, Gilligan was a Mary Ann man. At least he was that day.
Me? Well, it was cool to meet him and see how he operated, but, all in all, I could have done without the smoke. It was brutal, especially in the limo.
Oh well. It was Gilligan. The Little Buddy. But, on this day, I unfortunately saw more of Bob Denver than I did of Gilligan. And, I gotta tell you, I like Gilligan better.
Some day, kids, I’ll even tell you about my Rachel Ray experience. But, as a preview, it wasn’t a whole lot better than my Bob Denver experience.
What else? I got nothin’.