Bob Denver Chose His Autistic Son Over His Career Despite Financial Troubles

Nov 10, 2023 by apost team

Bob Denver, born Robert Osbourne Denver, was an American actor who played Gilligan on the 1964–1967 television series, “Gilligan’s Island.” Bob became a household name on the show and gained a huge fanbase, but the opportunity was a lucky one for the star. Sherwood Schwartz, the creator of the show, was initially interested in casting Jerry Van Dyke (brother of Dick Van Dyke) as Gilligan, but Dyke turned it down, believing that the script was bland and would not be successful. However, the show surprised everyone and ran for three seasons. It resonated with the audiences who found it a worthy distraction. 

Bob himself said of the show, “People thank me for giving them a break from life.”

Schwartz also thought highly of his lead character. He thought Bob was a “remarkable actor, because he was not really a comedian -- he was an actor who could do comedy. He was, first of all, a good friend of mine; he wasn’t just an actor who worked on my show,” Schwartz told The Los Angeles Times. “He had come from a second banana position on ‘Dobie Gillis.’ Even though he was a second banana, I understand he got more [fan] mail than the first banana. So in my show he was the top banana. He and the skipper, Alan Hale, were the duo who really made the big impression.”

Bob’s first role before “Gilligan’s Island” was as Maynard G. Krebs, best friend of Dobie Gillis in “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” Dwayne Hickman, who played Dobie Gillis, was Bob’s classmate at Loyola Marymount University. Bob studied Political Science but participated in a few college plays, which convinced him to pursue acting. Before landing his first role, he worked as a mailman and a teacher. 

Bob Denver, Dreama Denver (1981), (Bret Lundberg/Images Press/Archive Photos via Getty Images)

Gilligan’s Island” has aired in syndication since it ended in 1967. Bob also reprised his role several times in “Rescue from Gilligan’s Island,” “The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island,” and “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island.” He also lent his voice to the animated series “The New Adventures of Gilligan” and its sequel “Gilligan’s Planet.” 

Outside of TV, Bob also landed several roles in films and on Broadway. He replaced Woody Allen in the latter’s play, “Play It Again, Sam” and was praised for his “genuine clownlike wistfulness.”

However, in real life, Bob didn’t record much success in his love life for a long time. He was married four times to Maggie Ryan from 1960 to 1966, Jean Webber from 1967 to 1970, Carole Abrahams from 1972 to 1975, and Dreama Perry in 1979. Bob also had four children: Patrick, Megan, Emily, and Colin.

Bob met his last wife, Dreama Denver née Perry, on the set of “Play It Again, Sam” in 1977. Dreama was an actress who acted in regional plays at the time, while Bob had already made a name for himself on “Gilligan’s Island.”

Dreama, now a children’s book author, recalled the moment she landed a part in the play in the recent re-release of her book, Gilligan’s Dreams: The Other Side of the Island.

“I thought to myself with a giggle, ‘I’m going to be kissing and hugging on Gilligan.’ I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around that,” she said per Yahoo.

Dreama revealed that the attraction between them was instant and palpable. They started dating shortly. Bob had a reputation for his funny ineptitude, but he was the polar opposite of his roles. 

“I fell in love with his brain. It was an amazing brain, unlike any I had run across,” Dreama recalled

Bob Denver, Kim Denver, Megan Denver, Patrick Denver (1965), (Hulton Archive/Archive Photos via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, there was an obstacle to their love. Bob was shy and didn’t do well with attention, so he dealt with the fame by drinking. He could go a long time, even years, without drinking, but the minute he set his eyes on a drink, he would drink until he dropped. They argued over it a lot, and Dreama contemplated leaving him, but she thought she might change him. After one last angry confrontation, he stopped. 

They tied the knot in 1979 and welcomed their son, Colin, in 1984 but soon found out that he was “retarded,” as it was phrased to them, from a doctor who recommended institutionalizing their son. They didn’t subscribe to it and took care of their autistic son by themselves.

The family settled in West Virginia, where Bob devoted the last two decades of his life to taking care of his son. 

“I thought it was important to tell people that he set aside the last 21 years of his life to be with me and take care of our son, who had to have full-time care, (because he) didn’t want me to do it alone,” Dreama told Fox News

However, the couple had financial problems. 

“We struggled financially, physically, emotionally like anybody else,” Dreama revealed

Bob passed away on Sept. 2, 2005, from complications that arose from a throat cancer surgery. He was 70. The actor had once remarked that if he and Dreama passed, Colin would have no idea, but caregivers told the couple that when Bob was admitted to the hospital, Colin roamed the house looking for them. 

Dreama has kept Bob’s memory alive with memorabilia available on her website and through her Instagram posts of her late husband as he grew and another with him and Colin. She also celebrated Colin’s growth on Instagram on Jan. 11. 2023.

Bob Denver (1993), (Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

What do you think of Bob Denver’s sacrifice for his son? Have you watched “Gilligan’s Island?” Which were your favorite scenes? Let us know — and be sure to pass this on to friends, family, and fans of Bob Denver.

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