Tuesday 4 September 2012

They Keep Killing Bob Denver

The internet’s a great way to spread information. The wrong information.

Twitter went nuts within the last day with the forlorn tidings that Bob Denver had passed away, quoting something from the MSNBC web site. Only thing is, the obituary is from 2005. Some obviously wasn’t reading too carefully and just simply posted a quicky line on Twitter he was dead, and others instantly re-tweeted, blindly accepting anything they see on Twitter as accurate.

Of course, to blame modern technology on misinformation would be, well, misinformation. As proof, and in honour of the Twitter foul-up, here’s a story from the Salt Lake Tribune from June 15, 1961, when Bob Denver first died.

Bob Denver Wonders Who Is Killing Him Off
By Richard O. Martin

“I can say unequivocally, ‘Bob Denver is not dead,’” says Bob Denver unequivocally.
Mr. Denver, of course, is the young actor who stars as beatnik Maynard G. Krebs in the Dobie Gillis series.
The reason Mr. Denver makes such an unequivocal statement is that since last January he has been reported dead more than 36 times in more than 30 states—including Utah.
“At first it was spooky,” he says. “Then it seemed like a gag. When it kept up, it made me somewhat angry.
“Now, well, I’m still angry. I know it’s no gag. And it isn’t spooky. It’s frightening,” he says.
THE REPORTS of his death generally come when someone calls a newspaper and asks: “Is it true Bob Denver is dead?”
In fact, several of these calls have come to The Tribune over the past five months. And Salt Lake City has been reported among the places where Mr. Denver met his demise, along with being shot down in a New York gun battle or killed in a Montana auto crash.
“Fortunately,” says Mr. Denver, “these tips aren’t true.”
THE REPORT of Mr. Denver’s death most widely circulated is that he was electrocuted while taking a bath when a radio fell into the water.
“I don’t know how it all started, who’s doing it or where it comes from,” he says. “I just know I wish it would stop. I'm going broke.”
The drain on Mr. Denver’s pocketbook comes from the fact that at each report of his “death,” he is forced to get on the long distance telephone to assure his relatives in the East he is still kicking.

Bob Denver is remarkable in that he was immensely popular on a TV series, then did a second series and was even more popular. Maynard Krebs on “Dobie Gillis” is almost a footnote compared to his starring role on “Gilligan’s Island.” People loved the show because it was completely unassuming. The characters were basic and you could laugh with and at them. Therefore, people accepted the ridiculous situation they saw on the screen every week. Mind you, it was an era where viewers bought talking horses, mother-cars, witch-wives, Martian roommates and sexy genies. Here’s a story from the National Enterprise Association that appeared in papers starting January 6, 1966.

Bob Is A Nut And He Always Will Be One
Hollywood Correspondent
Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

Bob Denver has renewed his license — the one that comes with being an actor. And that is the license to be nutty.
He thinks that is one of the greatest advantages of his career. People, he says, will accept nuttiness and non-conformism from actors, where they almost expect it and are disappointed
if a little nuttiness isn’t forthcoming.
And Bob Denver, the hero of CBS’ Gilligan's Island, is a bit on the nonconforming side to start with. So it isn’t hard for him to give the public what it wants in the way of nuttiness.
“Most of the time now,” he says, “I wear western clothes. Even to parties.”
He has a beautiful new deerskin shirt and he wears it almost everywhere, accompanied by boots and blue denims. He says everybody wants to know where he got the shirt (at a western store in Santa Monica) and feels it admiringly.
Another nutty thing. One Friday day he and his wife thought that it would be kind of fun to go to Hawaii for the weekend. So they went to Hawaii for the weekend. They left Saturday morning and they were back Sunday night.
Bob Denver is like that. He admits that he and money have only a passing acquaintance.
“With me,” he says, “it isn’t easy come, easy go. It’s hard come, easy go. My business manager has given up on me. He knows I'm hopeless.”
Besides things like weekend trips to Hawaii, Bob just bought a new house. It wasn’t the house itself which was so expensive—although no house around Los Angeles is cheap — but the Denvers did it all over.
“We should have waited,” Bob says, “but we didn’t want to. So we didn’t.”
The house is in Topanga Canyon, not far from Malibu. It sits in a two-acre oak grove and this is pretty wild country. It's only a 35-minute drive Studio City, where Gilligan’s Island is shot, but it could be 1,000 miles or a century in time away.
“I can walk up above my house,” Bob says, “and look down into Santa Ynez Canyon and there’s nothing and nobody — just a bunch of hawks flying around.
“One night I woke up and I heard a weird screaming, threw on my pants and went outside and I saw this cougar walking across our property. He was screaming, trying to something to run so he could chase it down. My two dogs just watched and scratched — they weren’t about to go there.”
Bob likes to go camping with his kids, and he likes to ride — he owns a horse which he keeps in a nearby pasture.
Happily, he can afford to indulge himself in these things. Gilligan’s Island rolls along merrily and so does Bob Denver. He has his choice of two motion pictures to do during the show’s coming vacation period. And then it’s back for another year, at least, with the other marooned islanders.
So the criticism which been heaped on the show—only the public seems to like it—doesn’t really bother him.
“Some man,” Denver says, “came up to me and said, ‘That’s a ridiculous show.’ I said, “I’m glad you like it. Sure it’s ridiculous — it’s meant to be ridiculous and silly.”
So Bob Denver laughs all the way to Hawaii — for the weekend.

I’m not sure what Bob thought about Kleiner’s column. I’m still waiting for him to tweet me about it.

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