Gilligan’s Island

Gilligan’s Island is a tropical island about 12 miles off the coast of Southern California near Newport. It’s an artificial island made famous when a “three-hour tour” marooned the crew and passengers after a storm wrecked their boat on the island’s shore. They were stranded for three years.

Somehow they weren’t rescued in all this time even though countless people stopped by. They proved to be quite resilient and fashioned tools and cooking equipment out of parts of the wreck and from the palm trees and coral. Their clothes remained in remarkably good shape as did hair and makeup.

The boat was called the S. S. Minnow. S.S. means steamship and there was no way it was steam driven but accuracy wasn’t really the game here. The boat was named for Newton Minnow (imagine the punching this guy took in school with this name). Under President Kennedy Newton was the FCC chairman and in 1962 he called television a “vast wasteland.” He was not far off with shows like Pettycoat Junction and Gidget. So the producers of Gilligan’s Island named their shipwreck after him because they pretty much agreed. The island itself was really in a Hollywood studio with a few beach shots in Hawaii.

Somehow I have never actually seen the show (when it premiered in ‘65 my mother was fresh from throwing our TV off a cliff*) but I know all about it because it was indelibly burned into the zeitgeist of the American psyche in the 60s. Gilligan’s Island was by today’s standards pretty stupid. TV has become quite sophisticated but it’s unfair to single out the TV shows of 60 years ago as being the only wasteland. The cars, food and fashions of the era look positively inane but 1900 was laughable in the 60s in the same way.

LOS ANGELES – APRIL 15: GILLIGAN’S ISLAND. Cast posed on raft in the lagoon. (from left) Russell Johnson (as The Professor, Roy Hinkley); Tina Louise (as Ginger Grant); standing: Dawn Wells (as Mary Ann Summers); Natalie Schafer (as Mrs. Lovey Howell); Jim Backus (as Thurston Howell III); Alan Hale, Jr. (as The Skipper, Jonas Grumby) and Bob Denver (as Gilligan). Image dated April 15, 1966. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

From Gilligan’s Island has emerged something truly magical—the theme song which is very familiar to anyone growing up in that era.

It’s funny, historic, and yes, lame. Equally as popular and defiantly not lame is the rock anthem Stairway to Heaven which is at outer the limits of transcendent rock and roll. But why choose between them. Mash ‘um up!

I feel as if I have hit a high water mark with this video. The water bit at 2:45 minutes is the funniest thing I have ever seen.

The show’s theme song is not just memorable but for many insidious. More than one of you is not happy to have it playing in your head right now. It was in the original Guantanamo mixtape but for some reason is not on that list now. Guantanamo mixtape? Oh, yes. This is a collection of songs blasted at the captives, at one point continuously, to create earworms to drive them insane. Some from the list: Barney and Friends, I Love You Song; Deicide, Fuck Your God; Marilyn Manson, The Beautiful People; The Meow Mix theme; Nine Inch Nails Somewhat Damaged,. Included is We are the Champions by Queen which I play a lot and so far—not crazy but then I’m not a Muslim prisoner.

Neither is Bill Gross’ neighbor though he did intend to drive her nuts. Here’s the skinny: Billionaire Bill lives in Laguna Beach not far from the fictional Gilligan’s Island. Bill didn’t like the Dale Chihuly sculpture his next door neighbor erected in her yard.

Is it really that bad?

There were words and Bill decided he really liked the Gilligan’s Island theme song which he blasted, Guantanamo style, toward his neighbor day and night. The cops were called, suits filed and there was a lot of shouted vitriolic language hurled from pool to pool. The neighbor erected a ‘protective’ fence to keep nonexistent branches from falling on the sculpture further sullying Bill’s view of, what the neighbor claimed, was her by her cement pond in a bikini.

The neighbors have called a draw for now but at any time Bill could crank up his Victrola playing the Barney theme song and the neighbor could erect a Koons sculpture from the artist’s porn period. Neighbors, right?

The Gilligan theme song has been called the most recognizable one in TV history (see you’re getting smarter) but what you may not know is that it was not the original song for the show. No, that one was composed by John Williams but the producers thought they could do better so they dumped it. Williams went on compose the theme for Star Wars but he couldn’t make the cut with Gilligan.

“John, grab your bongos and skedaddle!”

*It was 1964 and I was in high school. I came home to soak in the shimmering black and white wasteland only to find the TV was gone and was replaced by a shadow of dust where it had stood. I assumed it had broken and was in the TV hospital but my mother said no, we were watching too much TV so she hauled it out behind the house and shoved it over the cliff into the sea. We did indeed live in Palos Verdes on the edge of cliff. I told her not to joke about my religion but she said go look for yourself. I went down to the beach only to find our god smashed to bits of which there plenty as TVs of the era were pretty hefty.

My sister came home and all her joints came unglued so she ran off and joined the Air Force. My mother’s second husband, what’s-his-name, was last-strawed and he moved out too. To his credit he had been around for ten years and I could sympathize because talking to each other was never going to be a viable option.

So then it was my mother, me and the cat and the cat didn’t strike me as too reliable. And there was no TV to boot. A few months later my mother asked me if it would be alright with me if she moved to Venice, the crappy one not the Italian one, to live with some bohemian film actor. I asked my mother “who would pay the bills?’ and she said she would but she wouldn’t go if I said no. “Go, go,” I said. “You’ve done enough damage here.”

Then it was just me and the cat, who ran off or fell over the cliff shortly thereafter. I lived by myself for the last two years of high school which was just fine with me. I visited the grave of the TV occasionally but my love faded as young love does. To this day I have never gotten another TV and I have still not seen Gilligan’s Island.

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  • Martin Elliott says:

    Oh myyyyy — the theme song will NEVER be the same!!! ROFL

    My father also believed in the “vast wasteland” theory with the exception of … The Lawrence Welk Show. Sadly, I grew up in Escondildo (correct spelling!) so suffered through many a Sunday brunch at Larry’s resort.

    Obviously, I’m STILL traumatized.

  • Robert Janca says:

    This is certainly worth two minutes of anyone’s time. A compilation of dream sequences from the series.

  • Tyler says:

    There is a lot to unpack here. My horizons have expanded.

    This was remade recently as LOST.

  • Nancy Aaron says:

    Amazing, Jamis. I did watch a lot of Gilligan’s Island. One episode had the stranded tourists putting on the play Hamlet, as a musical, to the music of Carmen. Thus! I learned about Shakespeare and Bizet in one completely awesome half-hour!

  • The sister, Jane says:

    I can attest to the tv’ s demise and the family outfall as I was present during these proceedings. I’m the one who joined the Air Force and even during the southern race riots ( where I was stationed) and the Vietnam war raging about us, the decision to,leave my happy home was a wise one! Omg no one believe this shit. But it’s all true.

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