Actor Bob Denver 'Gilligan' dies at 70

Actor Bob Denver of "Gilligan's Island" fame is dead.

Actor Bob Denver of Gilligan's Island fame is dead.

Denver, 70, played the goofy first mate 'Gilligan' in what became his signature role in the 1960s TV comedy show about seven travellers marooned on a deserted Pacific Island after their small boat was wrecked in a storm.

Denver underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery earlier this year.

He died Friday of complications from cancer treatment at Wake Forest University Baptist Hospital in North Carolina, according to agent Mike Eisenstadt. 

Denver's wife, Dreama, and his children Patrick, Megan, Emily and Colin were with him when he died. "He was my everything and I will love him forever," Dreama Denver said in a statement.

Gilligan's Island lasted on CBS from 1964 to 1967, it was revived in later seasons with three highly-rated TV movies, and still survives in syndicated re-runs.

Gilligan was an industrious and lovable but inept character. Denver said he made peace with always being known as Gillligan, because he said fans were always so nice to him.

Viewers embraced the skinny kid in the Buster Brown haircut and white sailor hat. So did the Minnow's skipper, Jonas Grumby, who was played by Alan Hale Jr., and who always referred to his first mate affectionately as "little buddy."

"As silly as it seems to all of us, it has made a difference in a lot of children's lives," Dawn Wells, who played castaway Mary Ann Summers, once said. "Gilligan is a buffoon that makes mistakes, and I cannot tell you how many kids come up and say, `But you loved him anyway.' "

The cast of Gilligans Island: Alan Hale Jr., as Skipper Jonas Grumby; Denver, as the klutzy assistant Gilligan; Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer, as rich snobs Thurston and Lovey Howell; Tina Louise, as bosomy movie star Ginger Grant; Russell Johnson, as egghead science professor Roy Hinkley Jr.; and Dawn Wells, as sweet-natured farm girl Mary Ann Summers.

Before Denver played Gilligan, he was known to TV audiences for another iconic character, that of Maynard G. Krebs, the bearded beatnik friend of Dwayne Hickman's Dobie in the The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which aired from 1959 to 1963.

Denver was born in New Rochelle, New York and went to college in Los Angeles. Before taking up acting, he worked as an athletic coach and teacher of math and history.

In 2001, Denver told The Associated Press: "It was the mid-'70s when I realized it wasn't going off the air," noting that he enjoyed checking EBay each day to keep up on the prices Gilligan's Island memorabilia were fetching. He said: "I certainly didn't set out to have a series rerun forever, but it's not a bad experience at all."