Besieged by health and financial trouble, Dawn Wells, who rose to fame as Mary Ann on the 1960s TV show Gilligan’s Island, has turned to her fans for support.
“I thought I was taking all the proper steps to ensure my golden years. Now, here I am, no family, no husband, no kids, and no money,” said the 79-year-old in a recent Facebook post.
Her friend, Dugg Kirkpatrick, launched a GoFundMe campaign in the hopes of raising $194,000 on Wells’ behalf. He says that Wells’ tax debt is holding the actress back from finding a living situation that works for the star.
The GoFundMe page has drawn a great deal of attention from fans of the famous castaway, with nearly $25,000 collected from 642 people. The campaign was created on August 27.
“I’m grateful that God has given me so many friends and fans who care, or it would all be too overwhelming. I am grateful to any of my fans who are willing to offer support,” Wells continued in her Facebook post.
While fans have been supportive, some individuals have reached out to the fundraiser’s organizer with criticism. “She is not a millionaire. She is not worth $7 million like the Internet says,” reads a recent update on the campaign page. “She never ever received money from Natalie Schaeffer as an inheritance and certainly never a house,” the message continues, referencing rumors that Wells inherited an estate from her former co-star. Schaeffer, who played Lovey Howell on Gilligan’s Island, was a close friend of Wells’ until her death in 1991.
In a 2016 interview with Forbes, Wells shared that the series was more popular than profitable. “A misconception is that we must be wealthy, rolling in the dough, because we got residuals. We didn’t really get a dime. I think my salary – of course, I was low on the totem pole, Ginger and Thurston got more – was $750 a week. Sherwood Schwartz, our producer, reportedly made $90 million on the reruns alone!”
The wide-eyed beauty rose to fame portraying Mary Ann Summers, a simple Kansas girl, clad in gingham dresses and short shorts. Her girl-next-door looks made her a fan favorite. “I have been resonating with young boys for 50 years,” said the former Miss Nevada. TV Guide ranked her No. 50 on their “50 Sexiest Stars of All Time” list in 2005.
While Gilligan’s Island only aired from 1964 through 1967, the three-hour tour lives on in syndication in more than 30 languages.
Despite her troubles, Wells remains hopeful, concluding her Facebook post with a message to her fans.
“Please know that my outlook is positive and I look forward to seeing you all in my travels.”