Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Not too much surprises me anymore.
I watch the news every night. I listen to NPR almost every day. And I obsessively check CNN.com every twenty minutes or so to get updates on any number of late breaking stories which may have piqued my interest.
But this one was a keeper:
"Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island busted."
Oh no, not the smart one. She was my favorite. Why couldn't it have been Ginger?
Back in the day, there was two options on almost every popular TV show. You could be into the bimbo, or you could dig the practical and innocent one.
Ginger was the much too breathy and aloof debutante with the impressive coconuts; the Marylin Monroe wannabe who seemed like you could easily score with if you had enough clout.
Mary Ann was the one your mom would most likely get along with. She undoubtedly would score points with an award winning coconut cream pie recipe. She also, despite her outwardly innocent appearance, always gave me the distinct impression that she would be a demon in the hammock.
It's always the ones you least expect.
As I have been traveling along this road of sobriety, trying to recapture some of the essence of my innocence along the way, I have been pleasantly surprised by the flood of memories which has washed over me.
Fortunately, my mom wasn't one of those hippied out "TV is bad for you" kind of parents. She understood the important balance of entertainment and education. As a child I used to read oodles of books (some with accompanying record), and I also got to watch a fair amount of TV. A lot of it was permitted, but there were some shows I definitely was not privy to.
Saturday Night Live was not only on way too late for a 7 year old when it debuted, but it was also filled with questionable humor; drug references and unnecessary violence and the like. My mom never watched it but she did watch the news every night, and sometimes she would stay up late enough to at least see the celebrity monologue. The ensuing theme song changed my mind briefly on the obnoxious caterwaul of the saxophone. John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown band quickly changed it back a few short years later.
Quincy was another one. It was chock full of medical drama and peppered with cautionary tales of drugs, alcohol, suicide and an occasional sexual situation. But it also was my first realization of how one could successfully can jump horses in the middle of a stream. From disheveled sports writer, right on up to medical examiner. Wow, the amazing options of a television personality. College smollege, I wanted to be on TV. They couldn't stop my robot building plans then.
I could see it as clear as day: "Fred Johnson: Robot Doctor."
It would have been a classic.
"Dallas", of course, was huge. My mom liked the show and was swept up in the "Who shot JR" along with the rest of America in the early eighties. But it was an adult show and definitely off limits. Dallas in present day real life isn't really as much fun as they made it seem. Hippie bands and skyscrapers dominate the city as far as the eye can see. That's their specialty, at least from my experiences.
My childhood bedtime rarely stopped me from catching a precious glimpse of a show on past 9 in the evening if I wanted it badly enough.
My bedroom was connected to the living room where the TV was. If I was stealth about it I could catch a few minutes of whichever program my mom had on. I'd hop out of my bed in my Popeye jammies, tiptoe on slippered feet, and standing about chin high to the door knob, I'd peek through the sliver of space afforded by the imperfect doorjamb to watch the visual contraband. The combination of the three inch speaker and doorway barrier made for a muddled and inconsistent entertainment experience. But to me, at my precious single digit age, it was like witnessing the eighteen and a half minutes of the lost Watergate tapes. It was, in a word, delicious.
Invariably, my reverie would be broken as I'd hear the creak of the springs in the gold upholstered easy chair which signaled the approach of my mother. She had to walk by my room to get to the bathroom and would peek in every now and again to check on me. I'd hear the sound of that chair and jump back under the covers at a breakneck pace; not unlike an inmate who had just heard the approach of the warden whilst attempting some rudimentary prison wall remodeling. I'd furiously pull the Star Wars sheets over my head with my tiny but plump hands and wrap them around my head; as if that looked like a comfortable and natural way to mimic the involuntary muscular submission of sleep. I always used to wonder if the action of my eyelids forcefully grinding against each other made a sound; a gentle but tell tale sign of overcompensation for the disregard of bedtime rules and regulations.
"Go to sleep my little one", she'd gently coax, "Go to sleep."
How on earth did she know?
I never considered the absence of snoring to be my incriminating evidence.
Because later in life, unfortunately, I was made aware of the fact that I habitually snore.
My whole family does it. It's how, in my teens and beyond, I used to be able to tell when my mom was asleep. I'd listen for the gentle but ever present rhythmic sounds; the sounds of a very relaxed and content woman in the land of dreams. Then I'd quietly tiptoe past to my room. I'd put my giant gray Nova headphones on and listen to "Headphones Only" on WBRU or some other college radio stoner-specific show. It seemed to be a big fad in the late eighties.
But my world both then and now never had the capacity for the comprehension of a headline like: "Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island busted."
No, that was something I really couldn't believe until I saw it on CNN.
From CNN's website: "On October 18, Teton County sheriff's Deputy Joseph Gutierrez arrested Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on the popular show Gilligan's Island, as she was driving home from a surprise birthday party that was held for her.
According to the sheriff's office report, Gutierrez pulled Wells over after noticing her swerve and repeatedly speed up and slow down. When Gutierrez asked about a marijuana smell, Wells said she'd just given a ride to three hitchhikers and had dropped them off when they began smoking something. Gutierrez found half-smoked joints and two small cases used to store marijuana."
Wow. How both unbelievably altruistic and supremely prudent of her.
She was so happy after the surprise party that she felt obliged to pick up not one, but three hitchhikers on her way home. I can only imagine what the conversation must have been like if this oh so sad occurrence by my TV sweetheart actually happened in real life.
Dawn Wells: "You guys might remember me from television."
Hitcher #1:"Oh yeah, I thought I recognized you. Were you the one that played Shirley?"
"No, no, no, I was Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island."
"No waaaaayyyyy! That's so cool. We were just watching the episode where they develop the strain of super vegetables and were wondering if...like...maybe the Professor was like...growing super weed on the side cuz...well, you know...there weren't any cops around."
To which in my supposed conversation she'd respond by saying: "Well, I don't know about growing it, but the professor did always have the best stuff in Hollywood...er...I mean on the island."
Cue the giggles. Cue the nervous baggie rustling. Cue the sound of the lighter wheel against flint; the sparking of the doobie from the back seat. Cue the slow but steady creep of white smoke and the long audible inhale by hitchhiker number one. Cue the shock and horror of one Mary Ann and the subsequent pull over on the side of the road with the jostling of the hippies and backpacks and rain sticks.
"Get out! Get out of my car now!"
Hitchhiker #2:"Whoa! Looks like Mary Ann's not down with the Mary Jane. Sorry lady, we thought you were cool."
And then, of course in my mind, they get picked up by WKRP in Cincinnati's, Bailey Quarters, who would definitely be cool about it.
And then of course, in my mind, they'd get picked up by Bailey Quarters from WKRP in Cincinnati who would be totally cool about the whole thing.
But that probably would never really happen.
And as far as the courts are concerned regarding Mary Ann and the hitchikers, that's definitely not what happened.
Not in real life.
No, in real life Mary Ann failed her sobriety test. In real life the cops found some weed and containers and paraphernalia in her car. In real life she was sentenced to 5 days in jail and ordered to pay a $410.50 fine. And in real life she was put on probation for six months.
Seems even the most innocent of prime time family television characters are capable of late night behavior.
I'm keeping my eye on Quincy.
Hitchhiker #1: "Hey, you're Quincy aren't you?"
Jack Klugman: "I sure am. But aren't you a little too young to remember that show?"
"Yeah, but we were just watching it on DVD and wondering if...like...you know...you guys had any of that medical marijuana on the set..."
"Oh sure, we had medical everything on the set back in the day. Sure has been a while though."
Hitchhiker #2: "Um...we happen to have some medical marijuana on us right now Mr. Quincy."
"Well guys, as a former TV medical examiner I can safely and quickly diagnose myself with the onset of acute sporadic temporary glaucoma. Now make with the kind bud."
Fearless by Default was filmed before a live studio audience.
Thanks for being part of it.
Stay tuned for... "Fred Johnson: Robot Doctor."
See you tomorrow.
Posted by F. Alex Johnson at 3/12/2008 09:00:00 AM