‘Gilligan’s Island’: ‘Lovey Howell’ Actress Natalie Schafer Did All of Her Own Stunts, Stayed Fit on Unique Diet

by Matthew Wilson
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“Gilligan’s Island” may not have been the most physically demanding show to ever exist. But one actor still always rose to the occasion. Natalie Schafer performed all of her own stunts on the show, not leaving it up to the stunt crew.

Schafer wanted to do her part on the show as much as the rest of the cast. So when it came time to get physical, Schafer was always willing to get involved in the stunts. For instance, Schafer leaped into plenty of lagoons on the show. Her character also had a run-in with quicksand during one episode. To accomplish the stunt, Schafer actually covered herself in sand.

Even more impressively, Schafer was in her 60s on the show. But the actor revealed that she stayed fit and active off the set. So what was the secret to her healthy living? Well it involved swimming nude and lots of ice cream.

Natalie Schafer on ‘Gilligan’s Island’

In a 1965 interview with The Chicago Tribune, Schafer opened up about her daily schedule. One of the things it called for was a swim to unwind before she went to work.

“I swim every day, au naturel before I go to work and when I come home,” she told the outlet. “I hang on to the side of the pool…. Without bending my knees I do 100 strong kicks.”

In fact, Schafer weighed only 124 pounds despite her diet consisting mostly of ice cream. In fact, Schafer credited ice cream to her weight. She reportedly ate a bowl of vanilla ice cream for the morning, two bowls of different flavors for lunch. She had a bowl for an afternoon snack and two bowls for dinner as well. She considered it to be a new diet.

“I think I’ve tried every diet there is, but my favorite I invented myself — the ice cream diet,” she said. “I eat a quart of ice cream a day. I can lose three pounds in five days.”

Schafer starred in three seasons of “Gilligan’s Island” as Lovey Howell. But it’s not like she needed the job. In fact, like her character, Schafer was a millionaire in real life. She made her fortune by acquiring and selling real estate. She also married actor Louis Calhern, and the two became real estate partners as well in California.

But she’s best remembered for her role on the sitcom. Schafer passed away in 1991 at the grand age of 90.

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