He was born Wilfred Bailey Bixby, a fourth-generation Californian, in San Francisco, California where his father, Wilfred Everett Bixby, was a store clerk and his mother Jane Bixby, was a department store owner. In 1946, his mother encouraged him to take ballroom dance lessons and from there, he started dancing all around the city. While dancing, he attended Lowell High School where he perfected his oratory and dramatic skills as a member of the Lowell Forensic Society. He competed in high school speech tournaments regionally. After graduation, against his parents wishes, he majored in drama at San Francisco City College and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, the same university his parents went to.
After he graduated from college, he moved to Hollywood where he had a string of odd jobs that included bellhop and lifeguard. He organized shows at a resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. In 1959, he was hired to work as a model and do commercial work for General Motors and Chrysler.
Bixby remained active acting and directing until his death from prostrate cancer in 1993.