Monday, September 17, 2018

Donating To Dawn Wells

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Dawn Wells crowdsourcing campaign. 

If it is successful, as it now appears to be, will we see more attempts to rally fans in support of classic TV stars that fall on hard times? My guess is we will.

How do you feel about that?

I know how I felt when Zach Braff, then earning $350,000 per episode on Scrubs, started a GoFundMe account to get fans to finance his next movie. I wanted to punch him in his smug face.

Of course that’s not the situation here. What we know of Dawn Wells’ plight, from the message posted by her friend who started the campaign, is that she lost her savings in “the banking crash,” and suffered further financial setbacks from a life-threatening surgery that required two months of hospitalization.

The money raised would be used to pay bills and back taxes, and to help her move into an assisted-living facility geared toward those in the film and TV industries. 

It’s sad to think of anyone who gave so much happiness to so many people winding up this way. But life, as the recent viral story about Cosby Show star Geoffrey Owens working at Trader Joe’s reminds us, is not a comfort TV sitcom. At times it seems like for every Angela Cartwright there’s an Erin Moran. For every Bobby Sherman there’s a David Cassidy.

Many classic TV stars are active on social media, where they share photos of their families and homes, talk about their travels (and sometimes, regrettably, their political views), and promote their upcoming appearances at nostalgia and collector shows. Must be nice, the rest of us think, to still be able to monetize a job you had when Lyndon Johnson was president, and charge 25 or 50 bucks just for signing your name to a photograph. 

I guess that’s why my first thought was, “Is this really appropriate?” 

These days we all have different standards by which we answer such questions. As someone who associates crowdsourcing campaigns with stories of regular folks facing sudden calamity, it was startling to see one dedicated to someone who has been in the public eye for half a century.
Is Dawn Wells more deserving than someone who spent 40 years as a schoolteacher or plumber or a mid-level company executive, who also had their retirement savings wiped out by illness or bad investments? Of course not. But she does have a much better chance than those folks in the crowdsourcing arena, because she seems like someone we already know, even though most of us have never met her. 

Are the donations pouring in for Dawn Wells, or are they for Mary Ann Summers, that plucky Kansas farm girl who baked scrumptious coconut cream pies? 

That’s a byproduct of television in general and Comfort TV in particular. You invite characters into your home every day as you would friends, and you look forward to spending time with them. You can remember times when you were home sick from school, and a Gilligan’s Island episode came on that made you forget about your flu for a while.

Is that worth a few bucks? I think so. And if Tina Louise starts a GoFundMe as well, perhaps we’ll decide the “Ginger or Mary Ann?” question once and for all.

As of this writing: The campaign has raised more than $191,000 toward a goal of $194,000.  So as long as Ms. Wells avoids ill-fated three-hour tours, she should be fine. I’m glad. 



  1. Nice post, with some solid questions to ponder. I would add only this: TV stars of her era have made very little money on reruns and official merchandising over the last few decades—yet their work continues to make money for various executives. Quite frankly, the show owner should be footing her bills. (But I'm glad we fans can help.)

  2. Glad to learn that things are turning around for Mr. Owens.

    Speaking of "The Cosby Show," Bill Cosby's sentencing is scheduled to begin on September 24. People who believe that Mr. Cosby's constitutional rights have been violated should check out the following URL:

    As for the alleged incidents, I wasn't there when they happened.

  3. Good news: The GoFundMe campaign for Dawn Wells has EXCEEDED its goal!