Dwayne Hickman- Forever Dobie Gillis and More

By George Khoury

For over fifty years we have known him by one television character that he played so well. He was every male growing up in the late 1950s early 1960s who needed a Rosetta Stone to help communicate with girls. He even wrote a book that sums it all up-Forever Dobie. He has attained fame as a television programming executive and as a pioneer in booking country and western talent at Las Vegas resorts. He is now known as an artist who has his work shown in galleries across the country. Dwayne Hickman is truly a Renaissance man.

Growing in Los Angeles and as the brother of Darryl Hickman, who already was making a name as a child actor; it was easy to go into the family business. Dwayne guested on early television shows like The Lone Ranger.

By 1955 Dwayne was a student at Loyola University in Los Angeles and his big break came. “I was lucky to be in a great series, The Bob Cummings Show. The years on The Bob Cummings Show, is where I learned comedy from such masters as Jack Benny, George Burns and Bob Cummings. I played Bob’s nephew.” As Bob was moving from one beauty to another young nephew Chuck was looking enviously at the adventures of Uncle Bob and his women. “George Burns owned the show and he was around the set with suggestions as was his friend Jack Benny.”

The series ended in 1958 and the Dobie Gillis show became available. The show sparkled with quality writing that was hip with hit home to all young men trying to unravel the mysteries of dating. The cast was great. Veteran actor Frank Faylan and Florida Friebus played Ma and Pa Gillis. Warren Beatty played his nemesis for a while then Steve Franken was brought in to play Chatsworth Osborne Jr. Beyond all the girls there was one who always pursued Dobie. She was there to pick up the pieces when all the schemes to win over other girls failed-Zelda Gilroy. Persistant, smart, relentless and unsinkable, Sheila James provided warmth to this stalker.

Some of Dobie’s other love interests included Marlo Thomas, Sally Kellerman, and Yvonne Craig.

But the one actor who Dobie played straight man to was Maynard G. Krebs played by Bob Denver.

“I want to share a few thoughts about my dear friend, Bob Denver, who passed away on Friday, September 2, 2005. Bob and I have been friends for over fifty years. We both attended Loyola University in Los Angeles.

I knew him briefly from his work with the Del Rey Players, the college theatre group. In 1958 he came in to audition for the role of Maynard G. Krebs opposite my character, Dobie Gillis. I had already been cast and the producers asked me to test on film with all the actors they were interested in for the role of Maynard. I must have tested with twenty actors, some good, most not. It was the end of the day and as I was leaving the studio the producer called me back to test with one more actor. It was a favor to a secretary on the lot – it was her brother.

When I returned to the set I was amazed to see that the secretary’s brother was Bob Denver. From the moment we began to read the lines all the other actors who had auditioned for the role just evaporated. Bob and I had a rhythm and timing that was instant and a new comedy duo was born.

For the next four seasons, I had the privilege to be Bob’s straight man. My favorite line? “Maynard, go home and feed your iguana.” Maynard’s reply? “He don’t need me, Dobe, he can open the refrigerator door himself.”

After Dobie Gillis ended its run, the next season Bob landed the title role of “Gilligan” and for the rest of his life, he and that character would become one.

Bob was a gentle comedian and wonderful with physical comedy. Everyone loved Maynard and Gilligan; they were both characters that you could identify with and root for.

We worked together on two Dobie Gillis reunion Movies of the Week in the 1970’s and 80’s and several years ago I joined him in the “Surviving Gilligan’s Island” movie. We had always hoped to work together again as Dobie and Maynard.

In fifty years we never had a harsh word. My wife Joan, son Albert, and I send our love and prayers to Bob’s beautiful wife, Dreama and his wonderful children. I will always cherish my friendship with Bob and feel honored to have been his straight man…”Goodnight, Maynard – now go feed your iguana.”

In films, Dwayne starred with John Wayne (“Tall In the Saddle”), and Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou. “I worked for Howard Hughes when he owned the Landmark Hotel in Las Vegas. They were open to new ideas so I brought in talent from the Grand Old Opry. I remember Jerry Lee Lewis tore up the place not only on stage but he provided entertainment off stage as he like to get into fistfights with patrons.”

As an Executive at CBS television he worked on daytime programming and directed some shows.

Now, Dwayne paints and shows his work across the country. “I have always loved the use of bright, vivid colors…their intensity gives such energy and life to the subject. When I paint a cobalt blue sky or a field of flowers in sprays of magenta, cadmium yellow, cobalt violet and alizarin crimson, the painting is so vibrant and passionate that the canvas seems to come alive.”

In speaking with Dwayne it was as comfortable as talking with a long lost cousin and catching up on news. He paints, shows his work and with wife Joan they also have a production company. Dwayne is truly a Renaissance Man.

To see Dwayne’s work or order his biography visit him at DwayneHickman.com

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