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Civilization Takes Over 'Gilligan's' Lagoon : Television: The set of the 1960s sitcom is turned into an employee parking lot as CBS Studio Center adds production facilities.

August 07, 1995|DAVID WALSTAD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"They've paved over a lot of memories, as far as I'm concerned," Dawn Wells says.

Hers and a lot of other people's. CBS Studio Center recently filled in and laid asphalt over the lagoon area where Wells gained fame in the cast of "Gilligan's Island."

Located in Studio City, and currently home to "Seinfeld," "Cybill" and "Roseanne," CBS Studio Center is expanding its production facilities with seven new sound stages. Covering the lagoon made way for additional employee parking spaces.

"CBS built the lagoon [in 1964] at great expense," recalls Wells, who played Mary Ann. "We'd shot the first two episodes in Malibu and Zuma, but the fog was a problem."

Bob Denver, who played Gilligan, has fond memories of the set. "There were the palm trees, tropical plants, the waterfall--it was gorgeous. And with the sand, it was like a kids' paradise in summer. More like a playground.

"Forever I was falling in and out of the water. In the summer, all the crew would be wearing swimming trunks. In the winter, they'd all be bundled in heavy parkas and I'm wearing a wet suit underneath, and like a dummy in 42-degree water! There'd be frost on top!"

The set was frequently utilized by other shows.

"We'd go on the stage a few days, and all the tropical trees would be replaced by sagebrush and tumbleweeds for a 'Gunsmoke,' " Wells recalls.

Other series that shot there include "The Big Valley," "Wild Wild West," "St. Elsewhere" and "Evening Shade."

"We usually shot half a day per episode at the lagoon," Denver says. "But we had to wait until after 9 [a.m.] because of the traffic noise from the [nearby Ventura] freeway."

Most filming took place inside a large sound stage nearby, where the castaways' huts and compound had been constructed.

Behind-the-scenes looks at both the lagoon and the stage will be offered via 8mm film footage shot during production by Wells for a one-hour retrospective she's developing for TBS.

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