Holy hell. Covid just couldn't take a day or two at the end of the year to take it's filthy little microbial foot off the gas and spare us a beloved celebrity, huh?
I'm under no delusion here. I understand what age group Dawn Wells appealed to. I'm not from the generation who grew up on "Gilligan's Island." I'm from the one that grew up with it in reruns on local TV. There's no way that if I asked my sons about the show they'd have the slightest idea what it is, other than something their dad and aunts and uncles make references to over Christmas brunch. But if even if you didn't grow up on her Mary Ann character, you've felt her cultural effects.
Wells' Mary Ann didn't invent the Girl Next Door archetype, but she did perfect it. It was virtually impossible to grow up watching the show and not compare and contrast her with her fellow castaway, Ginger Grant.
A rivalry of contrasting sex symbol styles that helped define who you are and was the basis of a billion conversations. You could appreciate them both, but which of them appealed to you more spoke to the kind of man you were. You either gravitated toward glamorous women (Ginger) or approachable ones (Mary Ann). West Coast or Midwest. Gorgeous or adorable.
You can probably tell already I've been on Team Mary Ann since pre-school and still am. Pardon these clips because the show was shamelessly ridiculous and wouldn't hold a Millennials attention for more than 60 seconds. And they'd not be wrong. Anyone over the age of 50 who complains about how TV today is crap needs to explain the existence of this moronic nonsense. But it imprinted on me in a way that shaped my attraction to females in ways I wouldn't appreciate until I was an adult.
I heard Dawn on Gilbert Gottfried's podcast a year or so ago. And even at 80ish she was on top of her game. She fully understood her appeal and that of her character and was 100% comfortable with spending the whole rest of her life being associated with such a goofy pop culture phenomenon.
Goofy, but enduring. One of my brothers called me today as soon as he got the news and passed along a great point from his buddy Smitty. That Mary Ann was Daisy Duke decades before Daisy Duke was invented. That sexy country girl in the denim shorts who, I'll add, didn't have the terrible baggage of all the Confederate iconography that Daisy had. Mary Ann was just pure fictional goodness. And who was the template for Girls Next Door from Mary Jane Watson to Winnie Cooper to Annie Edison and a thousand more. But while she's been often imitated, she'll never be duplicated. RIP to an important part of my child development and a true icon.
Covid can fuck all the way off.