Published in September 2015, Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography contains the first-hand testimonies, memories, and recollections from 200 prominent individuals from Bob Crane's life. Family, friends as far back as grade school, and coworkers in radio, television (including many from Hogan's Heroes), theatre, and film have helped tell his complete story. In addition, the hard cover edition contains more than 200 rare family and professional photographs, some never before published or seen by the public until now. Discover the truth! If you think you know Bob Crane before reading this book, you don't know him at all. Author profits will be donated to various charities in Bob's memory.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

'Best Wishes, From Hogan'

Bob Crane takes time to sign autographs
at a parade c. 1967 (notice he is wearing
a drum and holding drumsticks).
Although it may seem glamorous, I imagine being a celebrity is not always easy. I only know the smallest, briefest extent of being in the public eye. Most fans of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography are beautiful souls who I appreciate and try my very best to answer, even when I'm stretched to the limit in my own life. I've also had a handful of people who crossed the line and ventured into the scary realm of cyber-stalking. But by and large, the majority of fans are good, honest, lovely people. Without them, celebrities (and authors!) would not achieve or sustain their success. 

Bob Crane didn't care much about money or cars, or about being "famous." But he certainly adored his fans, and he tried so very hard to make them happy. Whether he was sitting in a restaurant enjoying dinner, standing in line at the supermarket, or enjoying a day at Disneyland with his children, Bob would stop what he was doing and scribble his name on a napkin, receipt, ticket, or whatever was handed to him. "Best Wishes, From Hogan," was his signature sentiment above his autograph.

Bob responded to almost all of his own fan mail. After Hogan's Heroes became a hit, and especially during the run of the series, he received tons of mail. How much is unknown, but what I do know is that he took time out of his already hectic schedule to answer as much of his fan mail as he could, rather than hand it off to an assistant or secretary. He likely would have answered all of it—because he would have genuinely wanted to—if only there were more hours in the day. To the best of my research, he was not one to use an "autopen," but instead, would sit for hours personally answering letters or pre-signing 8x10 glossies so that they would be ready for him to personalize and send off to the eager fan.

That's impressive. I absolutely love my author events and meeting people who want to learn Bob's true story, and I can honestly tell you that some of the best moments of my life have been experienced during book signings. But I will also say that signing even just fifty books over a two-day event is quite a feat. Signing autographs is fun, but it's also exhausting!


I love these two pictures so much!
The little girl standing there, 
in her little
Pettifor dress and pixie haircut, waiting 
ever so patiently
for Bob to sign her 
autograph book—and then, success!
She walks away triumphantly with Colonel Hogan's autograph!
She reminds me so much of me at that age.

I give Bob tremendous credit for his treatment and appreciation of his fans. His personal life was often interrupted by a good-natured fan who charged up out of nowhere wanting to get Colonel Hogan's autograph. And Bob would comply. Some celebrities can take on an air of entitlement, and they can seem unapproachable—almost god-like. Not so with Bob Crane. As many told us for his biography, Bob knew he was a star, but he didn't act like it—not on the set and not with his fans. He wasn't a "Bob Almighty," and despite his fame, he never forgot his humble roots. He was just Bob Crane, who just happened to be famous, and who treasured his fans, wanting to make their day just a little brighter by personally answering them.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

If You Like Johnny Carson on 'The Tonight Show,' Thank Bob Crane!

When most people think of The Tonight Show, they think of legendary Johnny Carson, who brought entertainment and laughter to millions over his thirty years as host (1962-1992). Carson became a late night television talk show phenomenon. But what most people don't realize is that in 1962, instead of Carson taking over as host, the then-reigning "King of the LA Airwaves" almost became the "King of Late Night."

Bob Crane wraps up a portion of his KNX-CBS
Radio Show (May 1964).
In 1962, right at about the same time Jack Paar was stepping down from The Tonight Show, Bob Crane was blazing a radio trail at KNX in Hollywood. He had built a dynamic name for himself in broadcasting, having maintained a successful radio career since 1950 on both U.S. coasts. After several years at KNX, Bob was given a new component to his popular morning show: live, unrehearsed celebrity interviews that aired daily. Bob was personable, smart, quick-witted, charismatic, funny, and a gifted interviewer. When a celebrity or notable person went on the air with Bob, informative hilarity ensued. He captivated his guests, who clamored to be on his show for the public and professional exposure he guaranteed them. It didn't take long for Bob to command the new hour-long segment and be hailed as the premiere celebrity interviewer of the time. 

Bob Crane with Jerry Lewis on his
KNX-CBS Radio show (c. 1963).
Used with permission from Scott Crane.
"The Bob Crane Show" was a tremendous hit for KNX, and according to salesmen working at KNX at the time, Bob made a ton of money for the station. Television studio producers noticed and had their eye on him, and when The Tonight Show producers started searching for a replacement for Paar, they approached Bob. Not only was Bob a natural behind the mic, but he was also no stranger to The Tonight Show, having appeared as a guest during Jack Paar's tenure and during the interim between hosts.

Bob balked at their offer, not wanting to transition his radio show to television and become pigeonholed as an emcee or TV talk show host because of his ambition to pursue an acting career. They were persistent, however, even paying for Bob to travel to New York (with his wife, Anne) to guest host for a week in 1962.

But when he returned to Los Angeles, his answer was still the same. No.

Bob didn't want to host a television talk show. He wanted to act. So instead of jumping at the chance to become the official host The Tonight Show, he accepted small, lesser-paying roles on television, such as on The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Donna Reed Show, all so he could hone his acting skills.

Bob Crane as a guest on The Merv Griffin Show
January 1966
In 1965, just before the premier of Hogan's Heroes, Bob told the press: "Art Linkletter and a lot of other good friends in broadcasting told me I was a fool not to branch out into the television emcee business and maybe become another Jack Paar or Johnny Carson. But I couldn't see it. Once you become identified as a TV emcee, you're dead as an actor, and actor is what I wanted to be more than anything else."

NBC considered other hosts for succeeding Jack Paar, but it was only after Bob Crane turned down their offer—repeatedly—did they give Carson serious consideration. I often say to people, if you like Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, thank Bob Crane!

I always enjoyed Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. I liked Jay Leno and also enjoy watching Jimmy Fallon as host. But when I watch, I catch glimpses of what could have been Bob's wit and humor in the host's antics and interview traits. And I can't help but wonder what The Tonight Show would have been like if Bob Crane had said yes.

~~~

Bob Crane on The Tonight Show, with Jack Paar (c. 1960):




Bob Crane interviews Jerry Lewis over KNX-CBS Radio (recorded c. 1962; re-aired 1976):



Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Happy Birthday, Bob Crane!

Many consider the number 13 to be unlucky, and those with triskaidekaphobia will do anything and everything to avoid this number at all costs. But for Bob Crane, who was born on Friday, July 13, 1928, it became what he called his lucky number.

Today, Bob would have been 88 years old, and in his short life of just shy of fifty years, he accomplished so much, and in fact, much more than most people do in an entire lifetime if they lived to be a hundred. Of his impressive career climb, Bob once stated: "As far as I know, nobody has followed the line of succession from radio-to-television-to-movies as I have in the past ten years or so. It's a long process, but I knew what I wanted and where I hoped to go."

And he was right. Bob always set goals for himself, and putting his mind to it, he achieved them. How many entertainers do you know worked in every medium of the entertainment profession? Bob was successful, and in some cases, a dynamic success in music, radio, television, stage, and film.

Bob Crane was:
  • An adept drummer and musician since his childhood, and he produced one record album.
  • A pioneer in the radio and broadcasting industry, and often referred to as a radio genius by his colleagues.
  • A successful television and film actor who took his acting seriously—more seriously than most people realize or given credit for. He performed his roles so well that he made it look easy, when in fact, he worked very hard at perfecting every role.
  • A talented theatre actor and director, who used his time on stage to further enhance his acting and directing skills.
  • A versed writer, who authored several news columns, a television pilot, and a variety show stage production based on what he envisioned was the Hogan's Heroes finale, entitled Hogan's Heroes Revue. He also rewrote sections of Beginner's Luck, and shortly before he died, he hinted at wanting to write his autobiography.
  • An avid reader who kept himself informed of every aspect of the entertainment and music industries. As the Nashua Telegraph published in 1966, "Bob Crane is one of the best informed persons on the world of entertainment, subscribing to and reading all trade publications and reading every book on the market concerned with the entertainment industry."
  • Self-taught and a self-starter, if he didn't know how to do something, he would take the time to learn how on his own.
  • Extremely devoted to his family. He loved them very much, and what he wanted most was for them to be happy and safe, and for there to peace and harmony.
  • A philanthropist and a natural helper. If someone needed advice or assistance, he was there. In addition to donating much of his time and talents to many charities and organizations regularly, he also helped out his family, friends, and colleagues whenever he could, even if just by imparting his words of wisdom to them.

In Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, as well as on this blog and elsewhere on our social media sites, I quote a passage from an audio recording Bob sent to his cousin, Jim Senich, who at the time was building his own radio career in Connecticut. Bob advised: "Eventually, what you're looking for is gonna happen, and by the time it does happen, you'll be that much better along the way to what you should be. Don't get discouraged, and just keep on plugging along, and what you want will eventually be yours. You know, there's nothing to stop it if you just keep on working hard. And by working hard, I mean doing the best job you possibly can. Everything happens for the best, and I believe it completely."

These are powerful words, and words that can be applied even today and in any situation. As for Jim, he took his cousin's advice seriously. He went on to achieve his own successful radio career, including working for  WICC in Bridgeport, Connecticut, as Bob did before him. As Jim talked with Linda and me for Bob's biography, he described his cousin, whom he still calls Bobby, to us this way: "The family really appreciates what you're doing for Bobby. We sure do. Bobby was just a big teddy bear. He was; he was a big teddy bear, and everybody loved him, and they didn't want to hear any bad things. Strange, people probably think he walked around with horns sticking out of his head, but he was a good guy."

Jim's son Eric Senich, who also maintains a rewarding career in radio, has graciously made Bob's audio letter to his father available for the public to enjoy. Take a few minutes and listen to Bob—not as a radio personality, not as Colonel Hogan on Hogan's Heroes, not as an entertainer—but as a person reaching out to help a member of his family by offering sound advice.

This is a pure example of the real Bob Crane. Today, on his birthday, Bob's family, friends, and colleagues, as well as his fans, continue to miss him very much. We will never know what treasures he would have given us had he lived on past his fiftieth birthday. But what we do know is what he gave to us during his fifty years of life: talent, joy, kindness, compassion, and generosity. And it was extraordinary.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Bob Crane: 'My Drumming'

Bob Crane plays drums, as his second wife
and Scott's mother, Sigrid Valdis (Patricia Olson),
and Freddy the Chimp join him
on the set of Hogan's Heroes
Bob Crane was just eleven years old when he first discovered the one thing that he would hold dear to him for the rest of his life: his drums. Wherever he went, his drums and drumsticks went with him, whether it was in school, on the radio, in his Hogan's Heroes dressing room, on television guest appearances, and on the road. He played his drums constantly both for enjoyment and to relieve stress. Hogan's Heroes costar Robert Clary recalled it was smart for the producers to allow him to play drums in his dressing room, stating it was not only a way for him to relax between scenes, but everyone always knew where to find him (just follow the drums!).

There is no question that Bob was a talented drummer. Music producer Stu Phillips, who produced the album Bob Crane, His Drums and Orchestra Play the Funny Side of TV, and also arranged many of the numbers on the album with Bob, talked with us about Bob's musicianship. When making the album, Bob was capable of keeping up with the orchestra's professional studio musicians—some of the best in the industry, brought a lot of fun to the recording sessions, and also had a blast creating the album. As Stu said, the look on Bob's face on the album cover says it all—he was having the time of his life! (Details of our interview with Stu Phillips are included in Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography). 

Bob Crane practices his drums in his
Hogan's Heroes dressing room.
Just as much as I love listening to Bob's airchecks, I also love to listen to his drumming. I have a great appreciation for music, and drums run in my family. My brother-in-law, both of my nephews, and some of my dearest friends are all drummers. They are a unique breed, drummers. And by observing them, I can absolutely envision what Bob had been like when it came to his drums and music.

Fans of Hogan's Heroes know that Bob played drums in two episodes of the series: in "Flight of the Valkyries" (season one), where he plays timpani, and in "Look at the Pretty Snowflakes" (season six), where he lets loose on a drumset during the number "Cherokee." But he also played drums for the Hogan's Heroes theme that rolls during the opening and closing credits, as well as all of the ancillary music during each episode. Knowing that neat interesting bit of classic television trivia makes watching the show even more fun to watch!

A few years ago, I had the honor and pleasure of staying with Scott Crane and his family as I spent three days going through all of his father's personal belongings as part of researching Bob's biography. Among the many items I sorted through were several cassette tapes that held his radio airchecks, random conversations, and a tape that Bob simply labeled, "My Drumming." This tape contains a solid two hours of Bob practicing or performing on drums, and it is, for lack of a better word, amazing. And that's not just because I am a fan or his biographer. This tape is further evidence of just how good of a drummer Bob was. It also shows just how much he loved playing drums and—like everything he did in his career—worked very hard to always improve his skills.

On January 10, 1967, Bob appeared on The Red Skeleton Hour, during which he played drums to a classical arrangement of "Norwegian Wood" by The Beatles. This is a rehearsal track of that number that Bob taped and saved on the "My Drumming" cassette. On The Red Skeleton Hour, the audience's applause drowns out some of his drumming, but here, there is no audience interruption because Bob recorded it during a rehearsal. Enjoy!


This recording is courtesy of Scott Crane.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Remember Bob Crane Not for His Murder, but for the Joy He Gave the World


Today, June 29, is a sad anniversary: the day we lost Bob Crane in 1978. But let's not dwell on the negative. I don't believe for an instant that Bob would want us to be sad. So let's instead remember him for all the good he did in life and the joy he brought to millions on Hogan's Heroes, radio, his drumming, and through his charity work! There was a whole lot of good there! 


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

On the Eve of a Sad Anniversary, a Bright Moment

Every year, on June 28, I think of Bob Crane's last day on earth. It's not a day I enjoy, and neither is tomorrow, when "This Day in History" trivia headlines will scream the words murder, sex, and scandal along with his name. But Bob had a full life ahead of him, one that included watching his children grow up and become successful, and one that included bettering his own life and moving forward in his career by breaking out of his typecasting as Colonel Hogan and taking on more dramatic roles.

But he would never get that chance. The sun set on June 28, 1978, and Bob would never see daylight again. A bright future was snuffed out.

For Bob's family, friends, colleagues, and scores of fans, June 29th is a sad anniversary. Bob Crane should never have been murdered. 

This year, however, thanks to Gery L. Deer, a journalist in Ohio who stopped by the Liberty Aviation Museum for my author event and unveiling of the museum's Hogan's Heroes artifact collection, there is a bright and shiny spot amidst the darkness.

Watch the video below, and then—share it. Help offset the negative by shining a new light on Bob Crane, a man described repeatedly by those who knew him as a ray of light with a sunny personality who routinely looked on the bright side of life.

Note: Remember, our author profits on sales of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography are being donated to various charities and organizations in Bob's memory.


Monday, June 27, 2016

A Phenomenal, Whirlwind Weekend: Barnes & Noble Author Events — Waterbury and Stamford, CT

Barnes & Noble, Waterbury, Connecticut
June 25, 2016.


People who know me know that when it comes to Bob Crane, I can become emotional pretty quickly. Emotions run the gamut: pure joy and elation when I see the public's opinion change from negative to positive right before my eyes; excitement and anticipation about my next author event; innocent happiness when I watch Hogan's Heroes or listen to any of his radio airchecks; sadness and helplessness over how his life was snatched away by the cruel hands of another; frustration that he never got to live long enough to realize any life goals past forty-nine years of age; and hot anger when the media choose to spend their time fixated on sex and murder, especially when we know there was so much more to who he was as a complete human being.

Dee Young (left) and Carol Ford
Barnes & Noble, Waterbury, Connecticut

June 25, 2016.
When I travel around the country to author events, I'm happily amazed at how quickly people switch their opinion about Bob from negative to positive. For decades, ever since Bob's murder on June 29, 1978, they have been force-fed scandal, hype, and quite often, incorrect information.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that they wanted it. In fact, what I'm discovering is that despite the media's attempt to fool their audience by highlighting only sordid details (and more often than not, without proper context), what people really want and prefer is the truth. And in Bob's case, the truth is overwhelmingly positive. I can't tell you how many times I have seen good people nod their heads in agreement about how the media often get it completely wrong. It doesn't surprise them that the media have a penchant for chiseling down a person's life story to shock and awe, and not much else. They have always liked Bob Crane, they tell me. They always suspected there was more to him, they admit. Time and again, they thank me for all of our hard work in getting the truth about Bob out there. Sometimes, they come up to me in tears, which affects me on a very profound level.

Most people really do care about Bob Crane; they just have not been given the chance to for fear of being ridiculed right along with him. That is, until now. This is the complete opposite of what one network representative told me last year, in person. "Your book will never sell," he said. "People don't want nice. They want scandal. That's what we give them because that's where the money is."

It's a long, difficult road, but one day at a time, and one person at a time, we are proving that representative wrong.

Dee Young (left) and Carol Ford
Barnes & Noble, Stamford, Connecticut / 
June 26, 2016.
This weekend, my one co-author Dee Young and I did two back-to-back author events in Connecticut: the first in Waterbury, where Bob was born and where members of his extended family still reside; and Stamford, where Bob grew up, graduated from high school, spent two years in the United States National Guard, married his high school sweetheart, worked as a watch repairman at a jewelry store, dreamed of working in radio and made his first wire recordings to send to stations, and spent his free time performing as the drummer in his jazz band. More than half of Bob's life was lived in Connecticut, and despite his many successes and fame, he always called Connecticut home. He never forgot his roots.

When I go to author events, I don't just show up and sit at a table with a stack of books. I bring a full display, one that includes screen-used Hogan's Heroes props, autographed photos, poster boards containing rare photographs from Bob's entire life, his high school yearbook, and much more. I want people to enjoy the event, not just smile cordially at me as they walk past to the "New in Fiction" table or magazine rack. For many, Hogan's Heroes brings back fond childhood or early adulthood memories, and I want their visit to the bookstore that day to be fun and memorable, as well as educational.

Eric Senich, son of Bob Crane's cousin Jim Senich,
with Carol Ford.
Barnes & Noble, Waterbury, Connecticut
June 25, 2016.
Both the Waterbury and Stamford signings were a terrific success! In both stores, several people who knew or were connected to Bob stopped in to see us: a member of Bob's family; a radio enthusiast who has been a strong advocate of our efforts for years; a gentleman who worked with Bob at WBIS in Bristol, CT, in 1951; the brother of one of his close childhood friends; one of his dearest friends from high school; the contact from Stamford High School who met with me back in 2006—and allowed me to have a copy of the Class of 1946 yearbook; and the daughter-in-law of Bob's best friend from high school. It made me so incredibly happy to see all of them and for them to see our efforts finally realized and successful. Other shoppers from the area were surprised to learn that "Colonel Hogan" was born in Waterbury and hailed from Stamford, and they loved discovering his real story. And that makes my heart so happy and enlightens my spirit.

Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography author event.
Barnes & Noble, Stamford, Connecticut / 
June 26, 2016.
Photo courtesy of Barnes & Noble, Stamford.
This was, without question, an amazing weekend. Being with members of Bob's family in Waterbury and getting to spend time with them touched my heart deeply, and being with some of the people in Stamford who loved him as a friend and colleague made me overjoyed. I get overwhelmed (in a good way), but days like these are truly life-changing. These beautiful people who loved Bob (and still love him) mean so much to me, and they stay with me. Near or far, they become part of my own life story, and it's something I cherish on a daily basis. Bob surrounded himself with some of the most radiant and gracious individuals I have ever had the honor and pleasure to know, and they mean the world to me. Seeing their joy and happiness because of all the positive energy coming from this book and our hard work humbles me beyond measure.

Researching, writing, and publishing Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography was a daunting task and a labor of love; and marketing and promoting the book, while fun, is time-consuming, expensive, and often very exhausting—physically and emotionally.

But every single bit of it is all worth it. 

~~~~

Big thank you to the Barnes & Noble stores in Waterbury and Stamford, Connecticut, for hosting our author events! Special thanks to Robin Masiewicz, Assistant Store Manager  (Waterbury location), and Kai Connolly-Raub, Community Business Development Manager (Stamford location), as well as the friendly and helpful staff at each store. Dee and I appreciate all your hard work in preparing for and running the events, and for caring so much about Bob Crane and his true story!