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Dennis Heymer
(1928 - living) U.K.

Dennis Heymer

Manager

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Dennis was a handsome 29-year-old sommelier when in 1955 he first met Frankie Howerd, ten years his senior, at the Dorchester in Park Lane in 1958 where the star was dining with Sir John and Mary Mills. Howerd was smitten and invited the younger man to his 30th birthday party. It was the beginning of a relationship that lasted until Howerd's death.

In private, the two became partners and began to live together. But in a time when homosexuality was still illegal, Heymer needed to be firmly in the shadows. As their relationship developed, Heymer took the role of Howerd's manager, which at least made it easier for the couple to be seen together. Dennis' role was to look after and support a man who was insecure and tormented about being gay.

Dennis was Frankie Howerd's business manager and long-term partner, whose relationship with the star had to stay secret because, for much of their lives, homosexuality in this country was illegal. No one except their closest friends ever knew. As Dennis says:

"Frankie did not want to be gay. When people came to visit I would be put in another room. He was terrified it would affect his career. I was a handsome young man and he would hide me away. At the beginning I was hidden when anyone of note came here. I was even hidden away from his sister, and his mother for a time."

Howerd and Heymer bought in 1969 Wavering Down, a rural home, so they could live freely together away from prying eyes and gossip-mongers. Dennis Heymer was the one person who had faith in Frankie at this time, and believed in his talent.

Joseph Herzenberg

It was Dennis who got rid of Howerd's crooked manager, who'd siphoned off £5,000 of the comic's earnings (£86,000 in today's money) and took over. It was Dennis who tried to breath new life into Howerd's career, at a time when Howerd was thinking of giving up showbusiness to run a country pub. It was Dennis who looked after Howerd, during his prolonged bouts of depression and when he suffered a breakdown in the early Sixties.

It was also Dennis who supported Frankie financially, by going back to waiting, when times were lean, and whose moral support and unswerving faith in his abilities enabled Frankie to overcome crippling stage fright. Thanks to Dennis's support, Howerd's career took off again in the 1960s when Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, part of the new breed of satirists, invited Frankie to perform at the Establishment club.

Even after Howerd's death in 1992, aged 75, Dennis maintained his silence, refusing to contribute to the many autobiographies written about the star, whose catchphrases such "Nay, nay and thrice nay" endeared him to a nation happy not to question Frankie's "confirmed bachelor" status.

Later Dennis met Chris Byrne, and they became lovers. Chris went and videoed the recreation of a scene from Howerd's most popular TV comedy, Up Pompeii!, to bring back to their home in Somerset for Dennis to see. "The older he gets the more he misses Frankie," says Chris solemnly as he runs the tape for me. "Frankie was the love of his life and seeing David Walliams capture him so perfectly was very emotional for him." Dennis, who inherited half of Frankie Howerd's #1million fortune and Wavering Down, has signed over the house to Chris and entrusted him with his and Frankie's diaries - which Chris says "will change the way people view some of the most famous people in history".

Two years ago, Dennis was persuaded by Chris to collaborate with the BBC on the new drama, which tells Frankie Howerd's story for the first time through his lover Dennis Heymer's eyes.

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Foto: Partners: Frankie (left) and Dennis in 1963

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