SHERWOOD SCHWARTZ, CREATOR OF ‘GILLIGAN’
The seven who embarked on the three-hour tour on “Gilligan’s Island.”
By ANITA GATES
Published: July 12, 2011
Sherwood Schwartz, who created “Gilligan’s Island” and “The Brady Bunch,” two of the most affectionately ridiculed and enduring television sitcoms of the 1960s and ’70s, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 94.
razer Harrison/Getty Images
Sherwood Schwartz in 2004.
His death was confirmed by his daughter, Hope Juber.
Mr. Schwartz weathered painfully dismissive reviews to see his shows prosper and live on for decades in syndication. Many critics suggested that they were successful because they ran counter to the tumultuous times in which they appeared: the era of the Vietnam War and sweeping social change.
Give or take a month or so, the original network run of “The Brady Bunch” coincided with two major upheavals in American society. The show, about a squeaky-clean blended family in California, began in 1969, shortly after Woodstock, and ended in 1974, soon after President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation following the Watergate scandal.
Mr. Schwartz’s work may have been seen as lighthearted entertainment, but some scholars of popular culture took it very seriously. David Marc and Robert J. Thompson, authors of “Prime Time, Prime Movers,” in which they advance an auteur theory of television, considered Mr. Schwartz an innovator who made a “surgical strike into the national psyche.”
Describing the advent of “Gilligan’s Island,” which told the story of seven very different castaways stranded on a desert island, they wrote, “Schwartz was pioneering a dramatic matrix built upon the emerging cultural concept of the ‘support group’: a collection of demographically diverse characters thrown together by circumstance and forced to become an ersatz ‘family’ in order to survive.”
Mr. Schwartz, in a 1996 interview, said that he had always planned the series as a social statement, the message being, “It’s one world, and we all have to learn to live with each other.”
Once or twice a year, he added, he received word of an academic paper whose author claimed to have uncovered the “real meaning” of the series, also stating that its creator probably had no idea what he was really saying.
Not so. Mr. Schwartz remembered describing the idea of “Gilligan’s Island” to William S. Paley, then chairman of CBS, as a microcosm. Mr. Paley, he recalled, blanched and said, “Oh, God, I thought it was a comedy show,” to which Mr. Schwartz quickly responded, “But it’s a funny microcosm!”
Mr. Schwartz was also largely responsible for his shows’ theme songs, which spelled out the premises in detail. “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Island,” which Mr. Schwartz wrote with George Wyle, told the story of those castaways and how they ended up on that island. It began:
Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship.
The “Brady Bunch” theme, which Mr. Schwartz wrote by himself, told the story of a woman with three daughters and a man with three sons who met and married. Viewers who swore they had never been fans of either show somehow knew the lyrics, or at least couldn’t help associating phrases like a “three-hour tour” or “the youngest one in curls” with the two series.
Sherwood Charles Schwartz was born in Passaic, N.J., on Nov. 4, 1916. He grew up in Brooklyn and was a premed student at New York University. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, he moved to Los Angeles to attend graduate school at the University of Southern California, but the master’s he earned in biological sciences was never put to use.
In 1938, while waiting for acceptance to medical school, he asked his brother Albert, who worked on Bob Hope’s radio show, if he could try writing a few jokes. Soon there were two Schwartzes on Hope’s payroll.
After World War II, during which Sherwood Schwartz wrote for Armed Forces Radio, he became a writer for “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” which was then on the radio. He made the transition to television in the 1950s with the sitcom “I Married Joan” and “The Red Skelton Show,” for which he became head writer. In 1961 he shared an Emmy Award with his brother, Skelton and two other writers for the show.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Schwartz is survived by his wife, Mildred; three sons, Lloyd, a television producer, Donald and Ross; eight grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
“Gilligan’s Island” began broadcasting in September 1964, with a cast that included Bob Denver as Gilligan, a bumbling first mate; Alan Hale Jr. as the skipper of the shipwrecked boat; and Jim Backus as Thurston Howell III, a millionaire, who managed to practice elitism while living in a hut. Guest stars turned up as British butterfly collectors, misguided aviators or headhunters in grass skirts, sometimes raising hope for the castaways’ rescue. But they were always left behind, even when the series ended in 1967.
“The Brady Bunch” pictured in 1975.
The castaways finally did leave the island in a 1978 reunion special, “Rescue From Gilligan’s Island.” There were other specials; then, in 2004, the show was the inspiration for a reality series, “The Real Gilligan’s Island,” starring contestants whose real-life identities (millionaire, skipper and so on) matched those of the characters. As early as 1995 and as recently as this year, there was talk of a “Gilligan’s Island” feature film.
“The Brady Bunch” had its premiere in September 1969. It starred Florence Henderson and Robert Reed as clean-cut newlyweds with children whose most serious problems were usually on the level of sibling rivalry or a student council election.
The show lasted five seasons and, in a way, refused to die. After reruns proved enormously popular, there were three attempts at spinoff series (none lasted longer than half a season); a stage show, “The Real Live Brady Bunch,” in which original episodes of the series were re-enacted; and “The Brady Bunch Movie,” which had two sequels.
In interviews Mr. Schwartz talked about having intercepted a script for the first movie in which the Brady children used four-letter words. He told Paramount that he would personally campaign against the film if the language remained.
So when the first film, set in the 1990s, opened, the obliviously wholesome Bradys appeared to be living in a time warp, still dressing, talking and behaving as if it were the early ’70s. Apparently Mr. Schwartz had his way.
After all these years, I can still sing the original theme song:
Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale
a tale of a fateful trip,
that started from this tropic port,
aboard this tiny ship.
The mate was a mighty sailin’ man,
the Skipper brave and sure,
five passengers set sail that day,
for a three-hour tour,
a three-hour tour.
The weather started getting rough,
the tiny ship was tossed.
If not for the courage of the fearless crew
the Minnow would be lost.
The Minnow would be lost.
The ship aground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle
the Skipper too.
A millionaire and his wife,
a movie star,
the professor and Mary Ann,
here on Gilligan’s Isle.
Then, there’s the ending verse, which told of how the survivors would have to stick it out until help would someday arrive to rescue them:
So this is the tale of our castaways,
there here for a long long time.
They’ll have to make the best of things,
it’s an uphill climb.
The first mate and his Skipper too
will do their very best,
to make the others comf’terble
in their tropic island nest.
No phone ,no lights, no motor car,
not a single luxury
like Robinson Crusoe
it’s primitive as can be.
So join us here each week my friends,
you’re sure to get a smile,
from seven stranded castaways
here on Gilligan’s Isle!
The original first season theme ended with the words “the movie star…and the rest, are here on Gilligan’s Isle.”
Here is the theme from the third season that many people remember and recognize:
Mr. Sherwood Schwartz gave the world an iconic and endearing sitcom that to this day still brings smiles to my face and joy to my heart.
The castaways, usually through the mishaps of Gilligan, were always going through some screwball comedy zany antic each week, filled with inane humor. Always, Gilligan was the brunt of their anger and frustration. Always, the Skipper would hit his Little Buddy with his skipper cap when Gilligan aggravated the castaways.
Five passengers, along with the fearless crew, set sail for a three-hour cruise that lasted four seasons.
Yes, you had to suspend disbelief that a ship struck ground on a desert isle when much of the world’s oceans had been charted. Yes, you had to suspend disbelief that the castaways, when presented with numerous opportunities to leave the island, somehow manage to stay stranded, time after time. That with would-be rescuers, such as Wrongway Feldman, who landed on the island, but for some illogical reason, never remembered to send help back to rescue the castaways. Yes, you had to suspend disbelief that the castaways never figured out how to fashion life rafts outs of the plant and tree material on the island.
Click on photo.
Most of all, loads of disbelief was necessary where the clothes and hairstyles of the castaways never became frayed, ragged, or disheveled. (Ginger…those evening gowns, that bouffant hairdo, the makeup–girl, how did you keep it up?) Not to mention that no one lost weight.
And then there is my question: between the two, which did men prefer the most–wholesome Mary Ann, or Ginger, the sultry movie star?
But, this was Gilligan’s Island, and you tuned to be entertained, to laugh, and to forget any troubles you had that day.
Here is an episode entitled Lovey’s Secret Admirer, from Season 3, Episode 19:
Bob Denver (Gilligan), Alan Hale, Jr. (the Skipper), James “Jim” Backus (the Millionaire), Natalie Schafer (Lovey, Millionnaire’s wife), have all departed from this world, with Tina Louise (Ginger, the Movie Star), Russell Johnson (the Professor), and Dawn Wells (Mary Ann), still with us.
Mr. Schwartz gave so many millions fond memories that will last a lifetime.
Rest in peace, Mr. Schwartz.
Rest in peace.
ROB GRILL, LEAD SINGER OF THE GRASS ROOTS
The Grass Roots, from left: Dennis Provisor, Warren Entner, Rob Grill and Rick Coonce.
By MARGALIT FOX
Published: July 12, 2011
Rob Grill, the longtime lead singer and a very nearly original member of the Grass Roots, the immensely popular rock group of the 1960s and afterward, died on Monday in Tavares, Fla. He was 67.
The cause was complications of a head injury he sustained in a fall last month, his wife, Nancy, said. Mr. Grill was a longtime resident of Mount Dora, Fla.
From the mid-1960s to the mid-’70s, the Grass Roots were a fixture on the airwaves and a regular presence on “American Bandstand.” They sold tens of millions of records and had more than a dozen Top 40 hits. Among their best known are “Let’s Live for Today,” “Midnight Confessions,” “Temptation Eyes” and “Two Divided by Love.”
The band’s style married elements of folk-rock, soul, blues and R&B. Its songs, whose close-knit harmonies evoked the British pop groups of the period, were bouncy, accessible and eminently danceable, often backed by an upbeat brass section.
“The Grass Roots weren’t the hippest band on the block,” The Boston Globe wrote in 1989. “But they were — and remain — a sure-fire guilty pleasure, a blissful package of pure pop.”
The group’s longest-serving member, Mr. Grill appeared with the Grass Roots for more than four decades: first in the group’s heyday and again as the band has enjoyed a renaissance on the oldies circuit. His voice — high, sweet and supple — was memorably urgent and beseeching in the group’s many songs of love.
He also played bass and wrote some of the group’s songs, though the Grass Roots’ best-known material was written primarily by nonmembers.
The Grass Roots began life as a phantom. In the mid-1960s, two Los Angeles songwriters, Steve Barri and P. F. Sloan, were asked by their label, Dunhill Records, for songs that would capitalize on the growing appetite for folk-rock.
They wrote “Where Were You When I Needed You” and, as the Grass Roots, recorded a demo. When the song had some success on the radio, they cast about for an existing band to become the Grass Roots.
They enlisted a San Francisco group named the Bedouins, who recorded the first Grass Roots album, also titled “Where Were You When I Needed You.”
In 1967, after the Bedouins decamped, Mr. Barri and Mr. Sloan recruited the 13th Floor, a Los Angeles band comprising Creed Bratton, Rick Coonce, Warren Entner and Kenny Fukomoto. (Mr. Bratton, the lead guitarist, later worked as an actor; he is known for playing the eccentric quality assurance director — also named Creed Bratton — on the American sitcom “The Office.”)
Just as the 13th Floor was about to sign on as the Grass Roots, Mr. Fukomoto was drafted, and Mr. Grill was brought in as a replacement. He remained with the group through the late ’70s, when it faded from view, a casualty of changing popular taste.
Mr. Grill managed new incarnations of the band in 1978 and ’79, rejoining it in the early 1980s. He performed with the Grass Roots throughout much of the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s.
Mr. Grill appeared on many of the band’s albums and also recorded a solo album, “Uprooted,” released in 1979.
Robert Frank Grill was born in Los Angeles on Nov. 30, 1943. Intending to become a lawyer, he studied at California State University, Los Angeles, before pursuing a career in music.
Mr. Grill’s first marriage ended in divorce. Besides his wife, the former Nancy Pilski, whom he married in 1986, he is survived by a brother, James. A son from his first marriage, Christian, died of cancer last year.
Mr. Grill lived for years with chronic pain as a result of a degenerative bone disorder known as avascular necrosis and the multiple hip-replacement operations it entailed. In 2007, he was arrested on charges of having obtained the prescription painkiller oxycodone from multiple doctors, in violation of Florida law.
He entered a guilty plea, which was later vacated after he completed a pretrial intervention program, his wife said.
On the whole, however, Mr. Grill’s life — and the lives of his band mates — was so tame that it became, in some quarters, a professional sticking point.
“I asked one of the guys at VH1’s ‘Behind the Music’ why we weren’t on,” Mr. Grill told The Huntsville (Ala.) Times in 2005. “And he said, ‘Were you guys ever into heroin?’ and I said, ‘No.’ He said we just weren’t compelling enough.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: July 14, 2011
A picture caption on Wednesday with an obituary about Rob Grill, the lead singer of the rock group the Grass Roots, gave incorrect identifications from the Everett Collection archives for three of the four members shown. As correctly noted, Dennis Provisor is at the far left. The others are, from left, Warren Entner, Mr. Grill and Rick Coonce.
KIP TIERNAN, FOUNDER OF FIRST SHELTER FOR HOMELESS WOMEN
Published: July 12, 2011
Kip Tiernan was dumbfounded when she saw women disguising themselves as men to get a meal at a men-only homeless shelter in Boston nearly 40 years ago — so much so that she went ahead and founded the nation’s first homeless shelter for women.
Ms. Tiernan died at 85 at her home in Boston on July 2. The cause was cancer, said Sue Marsh, the executive director of Rosie’s Place, the shelter Ms. Tiernan started in 1974.
It was while working as a volunteer for Warwick House, a Roman Catholic civil rights, antiwar and antipoverty ministry in Boston, that Ms. Tiernan saw those women dressed as men at the Pine Street shelter in the early 1970s.
“At that point people thought there was no such a thing as homeless women,” Ms. Marsh said. “Kip traveled to Chicago, Philadelphia and New York to see what those cities were doing for homeless women, and found there was nothing.”
With permission from the city, Ms. Tiernan opened Rosie’s Place in an abandoned supermarket in Boston’s South End. It now occupies an old church rectory in the neighborhood. Ms. Tiernan came up with the name based on the notion that everyone needs a rose in their life.
The shelter’s mission, at first, was merely to hand out coffee and used clothing and to offer a place where a few women could spend the night. That mission has greatly expanded.
In the mid-1970s, said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, “single men constituted the vast majority of homeless people and shelters served men only; women literally had no options for shelter.”
“Kip was a prescient first responder to a need that would only continue to grow,” Ms. Foscarinis said.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual assessment of homelessness, there were 1.59 million homeless people in the country last year, 38 percent of them women.
Ms. Foscarinis and Neil Donovan, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said Rosie’s Place was the nation’s first shelter established specifically to address the issues confronting homeless women.
“A major cause of homelessness for women is domestic violence, and that makes the need for separate, safe and secure shelter especially acute,” Ms. Foscarinis said, adding that women with children “have a particular need for shelter that can accommodate them as a family.”
With its slogan “Diapers to Detox,” Rosie’s Place tries to meet an array of issues. While the shelter has only 20 beds, it serves lunch and dinner to 150 women a day. Its pantry provides food to about 800 women a month. It helps women find housing and avoid utility shut-offs. There are 300 students in its literacy program. It offers drug and alcohol abuse counseling. A craft cooperative allows women to sell jewelry they have made.
“This is the way Kip thought it should be,” Ms. Marsh said, “that they are our sisters.”
Born in West Haven, Conn., on June 17, 1926, Mary Jane Tiernan was 6 months old when her father died and 11 when her mother died. Raised by her maternal grandmother, she took flying lessons as a teenager and became interested in jazz.
Ms. Tiernan moved to Boston in 1947 to study at the Boston Conservatory, but was expelled for drinking. “I was raped once,” she told The Boston Globe in 1988. “I was 19. Drunk.” After achieving sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous, she eventually became a successful advertising copywriter with her own agency and began her volunteer work with Warwick House.
Ms. Tiernan is survived by her partner of 15 years, Donna Pomponio, whom she married in 2004. Her previous companion, Edith Nicholson, died in the 1990s. Together they raised Ms. Nicholson’s three children, one of whom, Peg Wright, also survives.
“She really had no stomach for people pitying the homeless without some type of follow-through that would improve the condition of the unhoused,” Mr. Donovan, of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said. “She railed against politicians and bureaucrats for making empty promises or unfunded mandates and against homeless advocates who put their own organization or agenda first.”