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.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Official Statement about the Re-Investigation of Bob Crane's Murder (11/23/16)
"We—my coauthors and I, members of Bob Crane's family, his friends, and his colleagues—are always hopeful that one day, the true identity of Bob's murderer will be known and justice can be served. However, this recent investigation did not reveal any groundbreaking information or provide a resolution, and the subsequent media coverage did nothing more than bring unnecessary heartache to many who knew, loved, and cared about Bob. We do not discuss or endorse any speculative theories as to who may have committed the crime. We encourage those who want to know more about Bob Crane to discover his complete and true life story in Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography. All author profits are being donated to various charities in Bob's memory."
—Carol Ford, author, Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Bob Crane Show - January 1, 1964 / New Year's Day Tribute to 1940s Big Bands

It's been quite awhile since our last post, but not without good reason. Much energy has been going into the organization and writing of Bob Crane's biography, and that is still on target for a 2014 publication date. But as 2013 draws to a close, I wanted to thank all of you for your support, as well as let you know that we will once again be re-nominating Bob for consideration and induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2014. Since this campaign began in 2011, it has grown and reached every corner of the globe. Many who either knew Bob, worked with him, or who work in the broadcasting and/or entertainment industries support Bob's induction and have officially endorsed his nomination.


It is a shame that Bob Crane has not yet been properly recognized for his work in radio or television. However, it is our ongoing hope that despite this oversight, every time someone visits our blog or Web site, and eventually reads our book, a clearer picture of this man comes into view. Bob Crane was more than just Colonel Hogan or a murder victim. He was simply a human being, who was a caring and doting father, who was a good friend, who was a hard worker, who gave back to the world through much generosity and acts of charity, who has been called a ray of sunshine by those who knew him, who was not perfect but was trying to overcome his demons, and who was a rare talent in the fields of music, broadcasting, television, theatre, and film. 

In this clip from the January 1, 1964, KNX New Year's Day broadcast, Bob provides a tribute to the Big Bands of the 1940s ~ the music he loved best. Enjoy, and Happy New Year! ~Carol Ford

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Laffter, Sweet and Profane - KNX-CBS Radio Promotional Album for 'The Bob Crane Show' (c. 1961)

To truly appreciate all that Bob Crane did in radio, one must listen to his KNX 5th Anniversary Show. KNX took portions of Bob's 5th anniversary program and included them on an album: Laffter, Sweet and Profane. This album promoted both Pat Buttram's and Bob Crane's programs and was distributed to potential advertisers.

Here is Bob Crane's side of the record presented in its entirety (listen for George Jessel, Pat Boone, The Great Coogamooga, and Jonathan Winters!). From the liner notes: "Crane approaches something close to genius in integrating his commercials with show-stuff. While he sometimes fractures a sponsor's message, he reassembles the pieces and augments and embellishes said message in such a manner as to increase the plug's effectiveness. This is a matter of record. Crane sells. Crane pitches hard. Add to this that he has the area's fastest-expanding morning audience, and you have a degree of value that should make time buyers drool."

So sit back, relax, and enjoy!

 
KNX-CBS Radio promotional album:
"Laffter, Sweet and Profane"
The Bob Crane Show / circa 1961

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Actor's Actor: Bob Crane, Donna Reed, and Lessons in Acting

Bob Crane as Dr. Dave Kelsey.
The Donna Reed Show / "Friends and Neighbors"
April 4, 1963
by Carol Ford

It has been said that Bob Crane was born to play the role of Colonel Hogan on Hogan's Heroes. The American flier who took great pleasure in ridiculing impish Colonel Klink, the German Luftwaffe kommandant of Stalag 13,  was a natural fit for the brash, witty, and boyish Hollywood radio personality, who, for nine years, commanded the Southern California airwaves over KNX-CBS Radio. In fact, Bob Crane seemed to bring the character of Hogan to life so effortlessly that many people did not believe he was even acting. Two Emmy awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series were denied him for that very reason. But in truth, Bob had worked extremely hard at developing his acting, and his character on Hogan's Heroes was no exception. Colonel Hogan was not born overnight, and Donna Reed and The Donna Reed Show had played an integral part in Bob Crane's development as an actor.

Impact of KNX-CBS Radio
Prior to his work on Hogan's Heroes, Bob had devoted a great deal of time and effort to learning the acting profession, which included spending nearly two years as a regular on The Donna Reed Show. Through his work on The Donna Reed Show, Bob began to hone his acting skills, preparing him for greater things to come.

Before we get to The Donna Reed Show, however, we need to step way back to September 1956, when Bob first began working as a radio personality at KNX in Hollywood. In addition to music and drums, radio had been Bob's main career focus on the East Coast. By 1956, he had been working in radio and broadcasting for six years, and he had become a major presence in the Boston/New York City radio market through his work at WICC in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His primary sights were always set on New York City, but when CBS came calling about an opening in Hollywood, he saw a unique opportunity. KNX was not just a dynamic move up in radio for Bob; it would also open other doors, permanently altering his career path. When he accepted the job and moved himself, his family, and his radio show to the West Coast, he soon found himself strategically placed to explore the acting field.

Acting was a natural career progression for Bob, who had enjoyed the spotlight ever since gaining attention as the drummer in his high school jazz band, as well as in other professional and semi-professional jazz bands in the community. Now located in Hollywood, he realized his own potential of breaking into the performing arts. Comedians who were also fine actors, including Jack Lemmon, Jonathan Winters, Jerry Lewis, and Dick Van Dyke, caught his attention and became his idols, and he was determined to follow in their footsteps.

Bob not only believed acting was something he could do, it was something he wanted to do. But he was going to have to wait. His first contract with KNX included a five-year no-acting clause, preventing him from acting professionally while working at the radio station. Undeterred, Bob turned to local community theatre in Southern California, and he appeared in stage plays, such as Send Me No Flowers and Tunnel of Love. In 1959, he also filmed a segment of an unsold pilot for television, Picture Window, which was never produced.

After his first five years were up at KNX in 1961, Bob agreed to renew his contract, only this time with the no-acting clause removed. For the next four years, he would continue to renew with KNX on a yearly basis if KNX would agree to allow him to act professionally. Not wanting to lose their star radio personality, who by that time was one of the most listened to radio personalities in Los Angeles, KNX agreed.

By 1961, Bob Crane had established himself as a prominent Hollywood figure. Not only was The Bob Crane Show over KNX a terrific success, but he was also the only radio personality to host leading film, television, and music stars for live, unrehearsed interviews daily. During his tenure at KNX, he interviewed approximately 3,000 guests, and most of them were celebrities. His connections to the entertainment industry were strong and were serving him well, but initially, not quite the way he wanted.

'No' to TV Talk Shows
Because of Bob's tremendous success as a celebrity interviewer, he was in high demand, with talk show producers begging him to transition his radio program to television. The offers to host his own television talk show were tempting and would have paid well, but Bob was not the least bit interested. He spurned offers repeatedly, which included replacing Johnny Carson as host of Who Do You Trust? and Jack Paar as host of The Tonight Show (it then went to Johnny Carson). So dedicated was Bob to learning the skills of becoming a professional actor that he refused to become branded as a television talk show host.

"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," Bob said in a 1965 interview. "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."

Bob Crane can't resist a quick drumming stint with garage tools
as Carl Betz continues to work in the background.
The Donna Reed Show / "Friends and Neighbors" / April 4, 1963
To follow his dream of acting and pursue it as a serious profession, Bob opted to take small, lesser-paying roles in film and television. His earliest appearances on screen occur in 1961, when he can be seen in the films Return to Peyton Place and Man-Trap, and on television in the G.E. True Theater series. He is also heard but not seen in an episode of The Twilight Zone (as a radio announcer). Bob's big acting break came at the end of 1962, when he was awarded a significant guest-starring role on The Dick Van Dyke Show. His episode, "Somebody Has to Play Cleopatra," featured Bob's character Harry Rogers as part of a  lackluster community theatre ensemble, begrudgingly led by Rob Petrie, and it aired on December 26, 1962.

A Milestone Offer
One special viewer of The Dick Van Dyke Show had taken notice of Bob Crane. Donna Reed, who had also been a guest on Bob's KNX radio program and seemed to have a soft spot for the young, ambitious entertainer, liked what she saw on The Dick Van Dyke Show that night. Not long after Bob's episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show aired, the casting department from The Donna Reed Show contacted Bob and asked if he would guest star on their series.

Bob accepted with enthusiasm, and on March 14, 1963, he debuted in the guest-starring role of Dr. Dave Blevins on The Donna Reed Show in the episode "The Two Doctors Stone." Donna and her husband, Tony Owen, who produced the series, were impressed with Bob's performance. They had been looking for something new for the series, and Bob's off-beat and brash sense of humor was just the spice needed to balance Donna's sugar-infused storylines. Two new characters were created - Dr. Dave Kelsey and his wife, Midge - who would be next-door neighbors of Donna and Alex Stone. They offered Bob a seven-year contract to play Dave Kelsey, which Bob outwardly refused. 

Donna Reed, Carl Betz, Ann McCrea, and Bob Crane in
a scene from the episode "Friends and Neighbors."
The Donna Reed Show / April 4, 1963.
"The Donna Reed people saw The Dick Van Dyke Show I did," Bob explained in May 1965. "They gave me one short part on The Donna Reed Show. They liked it so much they said, 'We'll give you a contract for seven years.' I told them I didn't want to tie myself down for seven years. I agreed to do seven of thirteen shows - for very good money - but I told them I didn't think at the end of a year or two I would want to be doing the next-door neighbor."

Rather than locking himself into a mammoth seven-year contract, Bob signed a two-year contract with The Donna Reed Show to portray Dr. Dave Kelsey as part of the show's main cast, with Ann McCrea signing on to play his wife. During this time, Bob also maintained a full schedule at KNX and would dash back and forth from Columbia Square to Columbia Picture Studios between the two jobs. With the agreement in place, Dave Kelsey first barged in on Donna Stone and her family on April 4, 1963, in the episode "Friends and Neighbors."

Disheveled Dave! Bob Crane, Donna Reed, and Carl Betz
in a scene from the episode "Friends and Neighbors."
The Donna Reed Show / April 4, 1963.
'Friends and Neighbors'
In the middle of the night, Dave Kelsey shows up on the Stones' front doorstep, frustrated. He and his wife, Midge, have been living with her parents, and he's tired of sharing space with his in-laws, whom he refers to as "out-laws." Donna and Alex graciously allow Dave to spend the night in their home, and the next day, Alex has a talk with Dave over a game of golf. He suggests that Dave and Midge purchase the house that is for sale next door. 

The Kelseys do just that, and at first, all seems like it will work out. But to the dismay of Donna, Alex, and especially Dave, Midge announces that she does not wish to live in the new house, not when they are already living with "Mommy and Daddy." Dave is crestfallen, Alex is speechless, and it's Donna to the rescue. She talks with Midge, and soon, Dave and Midge move into their new home. To celebrate, Midge (with a little help from Donna) prepares a feast - roasted chicken with prune stuffing - for Dave and their dinner guests, Donna and Alex. The meal is a tasty triumph, and in true Donna Reed fashion, all's well that ends well.

Guy talk. Alex Stone offers his pal Dave Kelsey some advice
on marriage in the episode "Friends and Neighbors."
Bob Crane and Carl Betz / The Donna Reed Show
April 4, 1963

Advice from the Matriarch
About mid-way through Bob's run on The Donna Reed Show, Donna encouraged her young protege to hone his acting skills further. "Bob, why must you always be a comic? she asked of him once. "You could be a leading man." Her words resonated with him, and wanting to further educate himself, Bob took an acting course in the summer of 1964 taught by American actress and acclaimed acting instructor Stella Adler.

"I read in the paper Stella Adler, famous New York drama coach, is coming to town to give lessons for eight weeks," he said, "and I decided to enroll in the advanced workshop... You walk in that class, and Miss Adler looks you over. She digs in." 

This course was a big step for Bob, who continually sought to broaden his scope in the acting field. Bob held his own in the class, and although Stella Adler proved to be a tough instructor, she also admired his talents. Remarking on Bob's efforts during the course, Donna Reed noted, "Bob is funny, and he doesn't know it."

The Road to 'Hogan's Heroes'
Bob Crane delivered a terrific performance as Dr. Dave Kelsey, helping to win soaring ratings for The Donna Reed Show. However, Bob had outgrown the role, as he had predicted. He no longer wished to play the wise-cracking next-door neighbor, and instead, sought something else, something different. He wanted something fresh and cutting edge, something away from the role of a husband with a wife and kids, which he believed was a concept that had been overdone.

Dinner is served - Midge presents her celebratory meal to
her husband Dave and their guests Donna and Alex Stone.
The Donna Reed Show / "Friends and Neighbors" / April 4, 1963
"At the end of the first year, I said I'd go one more year," Bob explained. "But by about the middle of the second year, I said I wanted to do something else, a little wilder than the next-door neighbor and a nice doctor."

Around the fall of 1964, Bob asked to be released from his contract, which Donna Reed and Tony Owen granted. On December 1, 1964, Bob finished shooting his last episode, and walked out. For the remainder of the series, which aired its final episode on March 19, 1966, the character of Dr. Dave Kelsey was worked into the story lines by having him mentioned but not seen. For example, when Midge visits Donna, she will mention her husband Dave, but the viewer never sees him.

Freed from his role on The Donna Reed Show, Bob was once again highly selective in making a decision regarding a new series, this time, for the leading role. He turned down several lucrative offers, including the lead in Please Don't Eat the Daisies, another husband/wife/kids premise that he did not want. Then, opportunity came knocking. In mid-December 1964, he auditioned for and earned the role of Colonel Hogan in Hogan's Heroes (even though Richard Dawson auditioned for the role of Hogan, that part was never seriously intended for Dawson; the producers wanted an American actor as the lead). Colonel Hogan had been exactly what Bob Crane wanted. The pilot episode filmed on January 7, 1965, and the rest, as they say, is history.

On Hogan's Heroes, Bob Crane took what he had learned from The Donna Reed Show and Stella Adler's acting course and applied it to his current role. Bob worked exceptionally hard to perfect the character of Hogan. As the series matured, so did Bob's acting skills, and as a result, so did the character of Hogan. Over time, Hogan became less campy and slapstick and more level-headed and controlled, modeled after another of Bob's acting heroes, John Wayne. Bob turned Hogan into the serious leader of his men we now see on screen, and he became the leading man in his own series, as Donna Reed had encouraged. And he did it all so well that people did not even think he was acting.

Lasting Impression and Appreciation
For the remainder of his life, Bob was grateful to Donna Reed and the opportunity she had given him to cut his teeth in acting on her series. No hard feelings existed between Bob and Donna Reed and Tony Owen over his early departure from The Donna Reed Show. In fact, Donna and Tony had watched the premiere of Hogan's Heroes on September 17, 1965, and congratulated Bob on the success of his new program, saying "Our loss is America's gain."

Donna Reed was also a big fan of Hogan's Heroes. After original episodes would air, she would call Bob and provide words of wisdom and frank evaluation of the episode and his performance.

In 1969, when asked what Donna Reed had been like to work with, Bob Crane answered truthfully, "She was marvelous. I learned everything I know in the business from her."


______________________________________________________________
References
Anderson, J.E. (1965, August 23). Bob Crane is hoping for long POW term. The Miami Herald, p. 7B.
Rich, A. (1965, October 6). Citizen News, p. B-12
Witbeck, C. (1964, August 26). Donna's doctor's head and image trimmed. Evening Independent, p. 6B.

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This post is part of Me-TV's Summer of Classic TV Blogathon
hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association. Go to http://classic-tv-blog-assoc.blogspot.com
to view more posts in this blogathon. You can also go to http://metvnetwork.com
to learn more about Me-TV and view its summer line-up of classic TV shows.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Remembering Bob Crane: July 13, 1928-June 29, 1978

by Carol Ford

Bob Crane, circa 1965
Click on the photo to enlarge.

"He brightened everybody's life. Really, he was so witty. So original." -George Cukor, August 3, 1968, talking about Bob Crane and his radio work at KNX.

On the evening of June 28, 1978, Bob Crane had finished a showing of his play, Beginner's Luck, in Scottsdale, Arizona. The crowds adored the star of Hogan's Heroes, and they flocked to see him in his live theatre performances in dinner theatres across the country. Following the evening's performance, Bob did his usual stand-up routine for the audience, and after which, he remained in the lobby for awhile signing autographs. Bob loved his fans, and he thoroughly enjoyed meeting them and signing autographs any chance he had. In addition, his daughter, Karen, had just graduated from high school, and he had attended her graduation ceremony in Los Angeles the week prior. His wife, Patty, and their son, Scott, had also just spent time with him in Scottsdale over Father's Day, and he was choked with emotion at the gift he had received - a framed picture of Scott.

But later that night, things took a tragic turn for Bob. After the play, he and his friend, John Henry Carpenter (different from the film director) went to Bobby McGee's, a local restaurant, where, according to a waitress in her 1994 court testimony, the pair had engaged in an intense but otherwise normal conversation. Bob returned to his apartment with Carpenter. He spoke with his wife, Patty, as well as with his mother, by phone. Then, at some point during the early morning hours of June 29, 1978, Bob Crane was murdered as he slept. From the outset, John Carpenter was the primary suspect, and he eventually stood trial in 1994. He was acquitted due to lack of sufficient evidence that could prove he committed the crime beyond reasonable doubt. The case now cold, Bob's murder remains officially unsolved to this day.

Who killed Bob Crane and why will perhaps always remain a mystery. When his body was discovered in the afternoon of June 29, it sparked a media frenzy, not only about his gruesome murder, but also about his lifestyle. Without any attempt to understand why or to go deeper into Bob Crane as a person, the focus shifted to his proclivities to sex. The jokes began at the crime scene over his lifeless body, and they continue to this day.

However, for years, Bob had been struggling with a destructive force in his life. What he had convinced himself as being just the lifestyle of "a normal, red-blooded guy" had taken over, and he no longer could control it. In the months leading up to his death, Bob had been talking a great deal with Rev. Edward Beck, whom he knew as the manager of the Windmill Dinner Theatre circuit, where his play Beginner's Luck had shown in Scottsdale and other cities in the United States. Rev. Beck was a counselor, and during their conversations, Bob confessed that he had tried for several years to stop his addictive sexual behaviors on his own. When he realized that he could not, it shook him. He was in trouble. He knew it, recognized it as an addiction, and wanted out of it. He was seeking serious professional help. He planned to destroy the pornographic tapes he had made with consenting adult women when he returned home to Los Angeles after his play wrapped in just a few days. He intended to start his life over. With several new television projects in the works and a commitment to turn his life around, he was well on his way to making a comeback. 

But Bob never made it home.

People claim they know Bob Crane because they viewed the film Auto Focus. To me and to those who knew Bob intimately (nearly 200 of whom have talked with Dee Young, Linda Groundwater, and me for Bob's new biography), Auto Focus is a disgrace. Bob was much more than this film or the media have made him out to be since his death.

Addiction is not pretty. The struggle to overcome addiction is difficult and painful, and it is an ongoing process. One does not simply "recover" from an addiction. It is always there, waiting for a weak moment, to resurface. One who suffers from any form of addiction must battle it daily, constantly struggling to keep it from regaining control. Overcoming addiction is courageously accepting and dealing with the pain that caused the addiction in the first place. This is what Bob Crane had committed to doing, and for this, he should be commended, not ridiculed.

Bob Crane was neither a devil nor a saint. He was human. He had faults. He had weaknesses. He had strengths. He had virtues. He was not perfect, but he sought warmth and understanding and love and compassion. He was a man who loved to laugh. He loved life. He loved his work as a radio personality and an actor. He loved his music, and especially, his drums. He loved his family and his friends. He loved both his first and second wives dearly. And he loved and adored his children more than anything. He squeezed every second he could out of his short life of 49 years, and he left us much too soon.

On this day we mourn the 35th anniversary of his passing, but we also must remember his true legacy - to laugh, to smile, to work hard, to be kind, and to be a ray of sunshine in this often tired and weary world. This is what Bob Crane would have wanted, and this is how Bob Crane should be remembered.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Looking Ahead to 2014 for the National Radio Hall of Fame for Bob Crane

By Carol Ford
Here we go again!

The National Radio Hall of Fame has announced the inductees for the Class of 2013, and for the third year in a row, Bob Crane has been overlooked. We are left to wonder why.

Bob Crane in his KNX studio booth, Hollywood, CA
May 1964

The number of individuals inducted each year varies. I first nominated Bob Crane in 2011 after discussions with the National Radio Hall of Fame, who agreed he should be included. At that time, there was a public voting process, which is why this and all of our awareness campaign exists. However, in 2011, the National Radio Hall of Fame Steering Committee decided to forego public voting to honor a select few from the Golden Age of Radio. They assured me that Bob's nomination would remain on file for consideration in future classes. To keep his nomination active, I respectfully resubmitted the nomination in 2012 with the understanding that public voting would go forward as planned. But at the last minute, the Steering Committee changed the rules and suspended public voting indefinitely, claiming that they are the ones "in the know" - not the public - and therefore, should be the only voice as to who should be inducted. I again respectfully resubmitted Bob's nomination in early 2013 as I had in 2012. That he is not included again this year as a pioneer in radio is greatly disappointing. Bob Crane can be credited with so much in the radio and broadcasting industry, and to not recognize him properly is a travesty. So many who have already been inducted looked to Bob as a role model in the industry. It is a huge disappointment that he continues to be ignored.

Bob Crane in his WICC studio booth, Bridgeport, CT
Circa 1952

The question persists: Is he being ignored because of his proclivities to sex? Perhaps. But let's consider this. If everyone's private life were taken into account as criteria for any prestigious award, I think it would be a safe bet that there would be quite a few people missing from those lists of honor. Many individuals who have been honored for their work boast similar, if not more outlandish, proclivities than what Bob had done. And it is important to keep in mind two things - 1) Bob was only having sex with and photographing adult women with their consent, and thus, breaking no laws outside his wedding vows, and 2) he recognized this as a very serious and destructive force in his life, calling it an addiction, and sought professional help. None of this in his private life should have been hauled before the media and to the public in the manner in which it was, without any explanation or understanding, all for the sake of profit. If we're going to judge Bob Crane solely by his addiction, then every other person who has ever been inducted into any Hall of Fame or bestowed any kind of honor should be held to the same rigorous judgment as they are doing with Bob.

This does not mean we should do this. However, my point is that Bob should not be treated differently or viewed so harshly because of his addiction.

We look to 2014 with optimism. A new year. A new chance. A new book that tells the real story about Bob Crane. And in the meantime, I encourage you to spread the word. We will see him honored. We - Bob's family, friends, colleagues, and fans - our spirits are high, and we will not give up!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Will 2013 Be Lucky 13 for Bob Crane?

Beginning in 2011, we have been raising awareness about Bob Crane's extensive work in radio and broadcasting. Much of what he did in radio from 1950 to 1965 was unprecedented for its day, and Bob can, without a doubt, be credited with paving the way for radio personalities for generations to come. Over time, many have officially endorsed Bob's nomination, including WLEA in Hornell, NY; WICC in Bridgeport, CT; the Connecticut Broadcasting History organization; members of the Columbia Square (KNX) Alumni Group; and several of his radio colleagues. These outstanding professionals in radio and broadcasting strongly support Bob Crane's induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame. That he has not yet been recognized, considering his rich career in the industry and his dedication to it, is a travesty.

Simply put, Bob's work in radio included many elements:
  • The ability and allowance to play his own records, a ground-breaking move by the Engineers' Union in the mid-1950s.
  • His talents in music and drumming, which he incorporated into his radio show by playing along with songs.
  • Making fun with sponsors' commercials, and by doing so, including them as part of his show rather than a break from his show.
  • Bob was a gifted voice impersonator, having been labeled the "Man of 1000 Voices."
  • Thousands of sound effects.
  • The capability to locate a record, and then the exact groove in that particular record, within seconds to produce the exact sound effect or voice he wanted for that moment in his show.
  • The interviewing of approximately 3,000 individuals over KNX, most of them being celebrities.
  • For a sponsor to buy air time over KNX during Bob's morning program, the sponsor had to buy air time elsewhere during the day. There was a premium to be aired during Bob's show, and you couldn't just be aired over Bob's show. As a result, Bob Crane made KNX a lot of money from 1956-1965.
  • "Arguably the most listenable DJ in LA history, Crane helped uncover and establish several entertainment icons." (Harvey Geller, former Vice President and Editor, Cash Box Magazine (West Coast); Columnist, Feature Writer, Editor, and Sales Executive, Variety Magazine and Billboard Magazine; friend and neighbor of Bob Crane)

Bob Crane interviewed thousands over KNX-CBS Radio / 1956-1965
Click to enlarge the image.

So how is it that Bob Crane has not yet been recognized in the National Radio Hall of Fame? Keep in mind that his lifestyle was shocking only in that it was not what the public had imagined "Colonel Hogan" to be. Further, it did not define who he was. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, this was part of his private life, not anybody else's business except his own, and it was a side of his life that he was not at all proud of. According to Rev. Edward Beck, Bob had recognized his behavior as a powerful and destructive force in his life (he himself called it an addiction), and he was seeking professional help to overcome it shortly before his murder. In what way should any of this deny him of an honor that is so rightfully his? 

Bob's lucky number has always been 13. We are hopeful that 2013 will prove just as lucky, and we will see his induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame this year.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bob Crane: 'The Story of My Life'

By Carol Ford

While listening to some of Bob Crane's KNX airchecks recently, I revisited one from February 24, 1960. This particular recording was from a new evening KNX radio show featuring Bob Crane. It was produced in the same format as his morning program, with Bob interviewing celebrity guests, playing music, drumming along with that music, and incorporating his humor into commercials with wild antics, voices, and sound effects. With the success and popularity of Bob Crane's morning show, KNX had decided to try its luck at an evening program as well. 

In 1960, Bob was performing his daily program over KNX from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Monday through Friday, and on Saturday from 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon. The evening program added one more piece to his already hectic schedule, which included his breaking into acting. He had already added appearances in movies and on television to his growing resume, and The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Donna Reed Show were on the horizon.

Right at the beginning of this recording. Bob starts off by introducing the new evening version of the program and then explains a bit about relocating to California from the East Coast and settling in Tarzana, California, with his first wife and son Bobby. Then, a few seconds later, he says, "I'm going to tell you the story of my life."

As I have been writing Bob's biography and researching for longer than I can recall, when I first heard those words emanating from my computer speakers, naturally, I was a bit excited. Was Bob going to start talking about some of his life history? Would I have quotes right from the horse's mouth, so to speak, that I could include in his biography to help tell his life story?


The answer was, unfortunately, no. No sooner does he make that comment, and Bob begins to joke around. In traditional Bob Crane style, before you even realize what is happening, he had suddenly moved on to something else.

The other day, as I was writing and digging back into my files, checking and rechecking facts and quotes, trying my very best to make this as completely accurate as humanly possible, I remembered Bob saying how he was going to tell his life story in this aircheck. I thought of how wonderful it could have been to have even just a few hours to talk with Bob one-to-one, giving him a chance to say as much as he could say during the time allotted. It was at that point when I realized, no matter how accurate I am, no matter how perfect my research or how skilled my writing, despite that my colleagues and I will publish this book to the best of our ability, it will never, ever be as good as if Bob himself had written it. It is a subtle realization often overlooked during the course of researching and writing a biographical, and thus, historical work. It is a powerful realization none-the-less.

June 29, 2013, will mark the 35th anniversary of Bob's death. Perhaps this will be the year he receives proper recognition into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Hopefully, the same will soon be true of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And with luck and a lot of hard work, next year at this time, we will be holding Bob's new, published biography in our hands. 

But that Bob is not here to write his own autobiography, to tell us his life story in his own words and as he remembered it, is yet another loss for us. He would have had so much to say.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Refocusing on Bob Crane: A Friend Shares His Opinion of 'Auto Focus'

By Carol Ford

I know I have not posted in quite awhile - I wish there were more hours in the day! However, it has not been without good reason. I have been concentrating all of my writing efforts on Bob Crane's biography, and I'm happy to report that it is moving along well. I absolutely cannot wait for it to be written and published so that Bob's full and complete story can finally, after all these decades, be known. 

One individual whom Linda Groundwater and I interviewed for Bob Crane's biography was Bob's good friend and neighbor, Harvey Geller, who had been Vice President and Editor of Cash Box Magazine (West Coast), as well as a feature writer, columnist, reviewer, and sales executive for Billboard and Variety magazines. Mr. Geller had known Bob in Bridgeport, Connecticut, at WICC, and later, after both men had relocated on the West Coast, they reconnected while Bob was at KNX in Hollywood. He provided Linda and me with an interview rich with anecdotes and insights and fascinating history about Bob, information that has never before been shared and will be included in the book. Sadly, Mr. Geller passed away in March 2009.

In October 2002, Harvey Geller wrote a Letter to the Editor that was published in the Los Angeles Times. He had a very strong opinion about the film Auto Focus, which had just been released in theaters. We agree whole-heartedly with his opinion on the film, and although we have shared the link to the article many times, I am also sharing it again here. Mr. Geller sums up in a succinct letter exactly how damaging Auto Focus is and the reason why a new, serious biography about Bob Crane is so desperately necessary.

Source: Los Angeles Times / October 13, 2002
Refocusing on Crane - Harvey Geller discusses his friend Bob Crane
of Hogan's Heroes and his dissatisfaction with the film Auto Focus.

Now...Back to writing.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Jonathan Winters on The Bob Crane Show / KNX-CBS Radio (c. 1960)

We've included this clip before as part of another post, but we wanted to highlight it today in memory of Jonathan Winters, who passed away on Thursday, April 11, 2013, of natural causes at his home in Montecito, California. During his 87 years of life, the great comedian and entertainer had inspired countless individuals, many of them young, aspiring actors and comedians. One such peron was Bob Crane.

Jonathan Winters was a regular guest on The Bob Crane Show over KNX-CBS Radio in Hollywood (1956-1965). "Another great one was Jonathan Winters," Bob explained in a 1964 interview with Associated Press reporter Bob Thomas. "He held back the first time he was on because he didn't realize how far I went. Then he asked to come back again, and he was out of this world."

In fact, Jonathan Winters was so out of this world that he managed to do something that the majority of guests on Bob Crane's show were unable to do: get one up on the fast-talking radio personality. Most guests came on Bob's show fully aware that he would roast them a bit. In fact, although there were a few exceptions, the great majority of them enjoyed it and had just as much fun as Bob did on the air. But in an ad-libbed skit between Jonathan and Bob during one interview, Jonathan takes the upper hand and catches Bob off-guard, eventually rendering him speechless - a rare feat for any guest on Bob's show.

That clip is presented here in memory of both Bob Crane and Jonathan Winters, two of the best comedians this world has ever known.

  
The Bob Crane Show / KNX-CBS Radio
Bob Crane interviews Jonathan Winters / Ad-libbed routine
Circa 1960

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Bob Crane Show - The Wildest, Funniest Morning Program in Radio

Sometimes, it is best to let something speak for itself…

Flyer from KNX-CBS Radio (circa 1960) promoting Bob Crane
and his morning radio show.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter, Happy Passover, and Do Unto Others...

By Carol Ford

Bob Crane as Colonel Robert Hogan
in Hogan's Heroes.
I have been extremely busy lately, diligently writing Bob Crane's biography. So deeply involved am I in telling his life story that every so often, I have to go put on the TV or drop onto Facebook to bring myself out of the past and into the present. The telling of Bob's life story, as well as overseeing the cause for his induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame and Hollywood Walk of Fame, is fascinating and rewarding. It is also challenging. 

Thanks to Paul Schrader's "biopic" film AutoFocus, a lot of people who watched the film pride themselves on believing they know Bob Crane. They make grand, sweeping statements about him that they believe to be true. For every positive comment and supportive email I receive, I also get some rather heated notes from people who did not know Bob Crane but who have seen the film and/or read the book, and thus, felt compelled to write. "Haven't you seen AutoFocus?" they ask, wondering why I'm wasting my time and devoting such energy on a story that has already been told, and according to them, about a man who is not worth talking about except to ridicule.

I don't blame anyone for voicing his or her opinion. After all, if it's in the film and the earlier published book, it must be all-inclusive and accurate. Right?

Wrong. From the nearly 200 people Linda Groundwater and I interviewed, from close family to dear friends as far back as grade school to colleagues in radio, television, theatre, and film to the man who was helping Bob Crane overcome his addiction, the overflowing of sentiment and positive remarks was phenomenal. Most people used the phrase "balance the scales" as they shared their recollections of the man who they say was much different than the one depicted in AutoFocus.

As I write Bob Crane's biography, I will be accurate. I will be thorough. I will share his entire life without forgetting that yes, he was human, and no, he was not perfect. Not one person on this earth is. The book will be vetted as well as reviewed by original sources for accuracy prior to publication. Those who have been interviewed are not just contributors, they are active participants in the accurate telling of Bob Crane's life.

I will cover the parts of Bob's life that have been grossly overlooked. How, while working in radio, he became one of the most important figures in radio history, developing a technique that opened up radio like never before and interviewing close to 3,000 people - most of them Hollywood's most glamorous and important celebrities of the day. How, as a husband and a father, he was devoted and loving. How, as someone battling an addiction, was courageous enough to admit it as such and sought professional help. How, as an actor, he took his acting seriously and turned down offers to host television talk shows in favor of acting jobs so he could hone his craft. How, as a philanthropist, he gave back to the community and to charity, and usually for either nothing or for a nominal fee to cover transportation costs (if traveling out of town). How, as a victim of a brutal murder, his memory has received little or no respect in the decades that followed.

Recently, I discovered a similar situation regarding legendary actor and comedian John Belushi. Published two years after Belushi's death, Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi was authored by acclaimed journalist Bob Woodward. With Woodward's impressive resume and credentials, one would think Wired would be the Holy Grail about John Belushi. 

However, Wired missed its mark. Although interviewed at length by Woodward, Belushi's family and friends were terribly disappointed with the book after its publication, and they denounced it, claiming it did not do any justice to the man they knew. In 2004, John Belushi's widow, Judy, hired writer Tanner Colby to co-author a new book with her, this one entitled Belushi: A Biography, which was published in November 2005.

* * *

You be the judge. Here is an excerpt from Colby's article, "The Troubling Things I Learned When I Re-Reported Bob Woodward's Book on John Belushi," published on March 12, 2013. (Click here to read the entire article.)

One of the things that was so spectacular to watch during the filming was the incredible connection that [Belushi] and Landis had. During the scene on the cafeteria line, Landis was talking to Belushi all the way through it, and Belushi was just taking it one step further. What started out as Landis saying, “Okay, now grab the sandwich,” became, in John’s hands, taking the sandwich, squeezing and bending it until it popped out of the cellophane, sucking it into his mouth, and then putting half the sandwich back. He would just go a little further each time.

Co-star Tim Matheson remembered that John "did the entire cafeteria line scene in one take. I just stood by the camera, mesmerized." Other witnesses agree. Every person who recounted that incident to me [Colby] used it as an example of Belushi's virtuoso talent and his great relationship with his director. Landis could whisper suggestions to Belushi on the fly, and he'd spin it into comedy gold. 

Now here it is as Woodward presents it:

Landis quickly discovered that John could be lazy and undisciplined. They were rehearsing a cafeteria scene, a perfect vehicle to set up Bluto's insatiable cravings. Landis wanted John to walk down the cafeteria line and load his tray until it was a physical burden. As the camera started, Landis stood to one side shouting: "Take that! Put that in your pocket! Pile that on the tray! Eat that now, right there!"

John followed each order, loading his pockets and tray, stuffing his mouth with a plate of Jello in one motion. 

* * *

It should make one pause and reconsider. This is why, from the outset, that the research on Bob Crane's life and times for his new biography is an open book to all who participated. This telling will be accurate and not gloss over his life or minimize anything in it.

To apply this same exercise with Bob Crane's biography (as done with Belushi above), here is what Robert Graysmith says about Bob's school days in The Murder of Bob Crane (later retitled AutoFocus). It is the entire extent to which he covers Bob's school days:

Bob attended high school in Stamford, another manufacturing town. He was a good Catholic boy, but his grades were mediocre. The New York State line is only eleven miles from Stamford, and it was in New York City that the boy felt his future lay.

When Bob was fifteen he determined to become a musician; it was the swing era, and percussion was his passion. His favorite drummer was Gene Krupa. Bob loved his ear, his control, his sensitivity and intensity. Krupa, it was said, "did everything but skate on the ceiling," and Crane, as part of his rocking, foot-stomping audience, heard him whenever he could.

A favorite and recurrent dream of Crane's was instant success. "I wanted to be a drummer," he said, "like Gene Krupa..." His eyes would grow wistful as he continued, "I would have this fantasy. I would be at the Paramount Theatre in New York in Times Square, and Louis Prima's drummer would fall sick.

"The theater managers asked, 'Is there a drummer in the house?' I would run up on the stage and play--instant fame!" He sighed. "I never made it, though I never stopped practicing on the skins."

Bob dropped out of high school; he would feel insecure about it for the rest of his life.


Now, here's what Bob's school friends and classmates have told me about Bob for his new biography (and this is just a handful):

Bob had a way about him that could brighten the darkest day. He made others feel good about themselves with a generosity of spirit rare in a teenager or anyone. And we, the remainder of the Class of ’46, have remembered our Drummer Boy fondly throughout the years. We could use some of his sunshine now!

Bob was always in the limelight. Everyone knew who he was, even though we didn’t know him personally. He always had a smile. He most always had drumsticks in his hands. He would tap on lockers, bannisters, or whatever was around as he passed from class to class. Most students knew his name. We were proud to say he made it.

I remember Bob Crane sitting in back of me in school with his "sticks" (fifth grade). He became the "leader of the band" throughout our Stamford High School years. The best are never forgotten.

The school newspaper featured Bob in the April 1946 issue, stating, “His twinkling brown eyes and boyish smile have won him many friends among his classmates. His 5-foot, 11-inch frame is a familiar sight around SHS.” 

Notes: Bob Crane graduated from Stamford High School in 1946. Click here for program listing Bob's name.

Bob also sat in and drummed with many of the classic Big Bands later in life, including the Stan Kenton Orchestra, the Harry James Orchestra, and Rob Morris and the Band, among others. He also interviewed Gene Krupa over KNX, at which time, the two drummers challenged each other in one of Krupa's infamous drum battles.

* * *

As I have sat and talked at length with Bob Crane's family, his dearest friends, and his most trusted colleagues, and they so vehemently denounce AutoFocus, to the point of tears in some cases, how can that be ignored? They say to me, "I watched AutoFocus through parted fingers, as if watching a train wreck," or they just shake their heads and say, "No, no, no! This was not Bob Crane!" Instead, they say repeatedly he was kind, driven, compassionate, and talented beyond measure, and use words like "genius," "sunny personality," "joy," "funny," "smart," and "ray of sunshine" when describing him. This cannot be ignored.

Today is Easter Sunday, and Passover is drawing to a close. It is, for many, the most religious and spiritual time of year. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, however, I ask you to look at others with a bit more kindness. It's a pretty safe bet that you do not know their whole story.

"The best are never forgotten."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bob Crane on 'The Donna Reed Show' - 1963-1965

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Bob Crane's acting debut on The Donna Reed Show. After seven tremendous years on the air over KNX-CBS Radio in Los Angeles, a hilarious guest appearance on The Dick Van Dyke Show on December 26, 1962, and several other small acting roles, Bob was eager for more. Donna Reed had been a guest on Bob's KNX radio show, and she was enamored with the bright radio star and his on-screen potential. She offered him a guest role in the episode "The Two Doctors Stone," which originally aired over ABC on March 14, 1963. Having successfully won over Donna Reed, her husband and series producer Tony Owen, and audiences, Bob Crane was offered a permanent role on The Donna Reed Show, as next-door neighbor and friend of the Stones, Dr. Dave Kelsey.

Donna Reed, Carl Betz, and Bob Crane (as Dr. Dave Blevins)
in the episode, "The Two Doctors Stone."

It is often misreported that Bob Crane portrayed Dr. Kelsey right from the beginning of his work on The Donna Reed Show; however, he did not. In his first episode, "The Two Doctors Stone," he is credited as Dr. Dave Blevins, a friend and medical colleague of Alex Stone. In this episode, the pair of doctors spend most of the time convincing Donna that she cannot possibly be able to predict Trisha's (Patty Petersen, younger sister of Paul Petersen) cold by the inordinate amount of bananas she is consuming and trying to convince her to take a vacation with Alex. "I could always tell when Jeff was getting sick. He'd eat lots of bananas," she insists as Trisha gobbles up banana after banana. Donna is insulted when Alex pokes fun at her theory, and he tries to make amends. The episode concludes with neither Donna nor Alex being correct; Trisha does not get sick, but Jeff does, canceling any hope for their vacation.

Bob's work on this episode was impressive, and it led to Donna Reed and Tony Owen offering him the regular role of Dr. Dave Kelsey opposite Ann McCrea as his wife Midge. His first episode as Dr. Kelsey, "Friends and Neighbors," originally aired on April 4, 1963. The plot introduces the young Kelseys as they move in next door to the Stones. 

For the next two years, Bob Crane would add an unprecedented amount of spice to the usually sweet family television show. While working on The Donna Reed Show, Bob also held down his regular morning radio show aired over KNX Monday through Friday. He had also been performing a Saturday radio program over KNX, which he stopped doing in 1964. In addition to working on The Donna Reed Show and at KNX, Bob also continued to make public appearances and host celebrity events. It was a grueling schedule, to say the least.

Bob Crane and Ann McCrea as Dave and Midge Kelsey
on "The Donna Reed Show"

"I did The Donna Reed Show for two years," said Bob in a 1976 interview. "I did radio at the same time, and at 10:00 in the morning, I used to finish the radio show, run across the street, and do The Donna Reed Show...I used to get my make-up on during the 9:00 CBS News at Columbia Studios, across the street from CBS Radio. Then I'd run across the street and do the last hour of my radio show, which I had guests on."

In December 1964, a new situation comedy set in an Allied prisoner of war camp in World War II Germany was under development. Bob was cast as the lead in the pilot episode of Hogan's Heroes, and after CBS picked up the series for its Fall 1965 lineup, Bob was offered the role. 

Of course, Bob Crane accepted the part of Colonel Hogan, and the rest is history. Wanting to devote his full attention to Hogan's Heroes, and because of his already-intense schedule juggling both radio and television, he decided to leave his long-time job in radio at KNX. His final appearance as Dr. Kelsey on The Donna Reed Show was on April 8, 1965, in the episode, "Indoor Outing." 

The Donna Reed Show was one of the most successful television programs ever produced, and it continues to entertain audiences 50 to 60 years after its debut. Bob Crane had been seeking such an opportunity ever since coming to Los Angeles from the East Coast in August 1956. His work on The Donna Reed Show as Dr. Dave Kelsey made it possible for him to transition completely from radio into acting, and from there, he would go on to excel in the role many believe he was born to play, that of Colonel Robert Hogan on Hogan's Heroes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Remembering Charlie

February 13, 2010. I slid down into the comfy seat as I had done so many times before. My overnight bag rested on the luggage rack above me. Two precious contents—a small CVS bag filled with Valentine’s Day chocolates and a simply framed 8x10 photograph—were wrapped carefully in plastic bubble wrap to protect them for the nearly three-hour ride. My oversized purse, containing all the basic travel necessities of life—photo ID, some cash, iPod, Kindle, and Blackberry—was on the floor, stuffed between my left leg and the metal wall of the train. As Amtrak’s Northeast Regional Express pulled out of Bridgeport, Connecticut, at 6:12 p.m. on the dot, I already had my earbuds in, the music attempting to lull me into a temporary refuge from the events of not only the past week, but of the past few years. 

As the train chugged and rocked its way south through the Connecticut countryside toward Philadelphia, I gazed out the window at the blackness of night, unable to see anything but my reflection and tiny specks of light from street lamps and headlights. I draped my long, black, wool coat over me like a blanket, warding off the wintry chill that managed to force itself inside the heated compartment. How different from all of my other trips to Connecticut. How very different, indeed.

* * * 

Carol Ford with Charlie Zito
August 14, 2008
During the course of the last decade, I have met some wonderful people as the direct result of my involvement in researching Bob Crane's life and now writing his biography. I could never have predicted how many truly beautiful people I would meet and get to knowpeople who had known Bob either from school or radio or television or theatre or as a family member or even just in passing. Several have touched my heart and have become like family to me, and not the least of which was Bob's best friend from school, Charlie Zito. Born on February 16, 1928, Charlie had been in the same graduating class as Bob at Stamford High School. He and Bob had been "like brothers," and of their friendship. Charlie once told me: "Bob—what a guy. We were close. Really close friends. You know, he never gossiped or talked bad about anybody. Not if he thought it would hurt that person. He was a good guy. We would confide a lot in each other. I knew I could talk to him because I knew it wouldn't go any further. He would keep a confidence."

I first talked with Charlie in July 2008, and after careful consideration, he agreed to be interviewed for Bob's biography. Shortly after Charlie's interview, on August 14, 2008, I ventured to Stamford, Connecticut, to meet him. On that day, Charlie took me all around town, showing me his Stamford, as he had remembered it growing up in the 1930s and 1940sduring his and Bob's teenage years. On the tour were distinct landmarkswhere they, as kids, used to play baseball and football in Belltown Park; the houses they each grew up in; where they went to school; where they had marched in parades; where they used to hang out at the drugstore for a soda fountain; where they went to church and later were married; where they held their wedding receptions, and later, class reunions. Charlie's white 1980s Ford LTD with the bent antennae became a time machinea present-day Tardis or DeLoreanthat traveled back to a time long ago, to when Charlie and Bob were young and had their whole lives ahead of them.

Charlie in Belltown Park, Stamford, CT.
April 2009
I will never forget that first meeting. It had been a hot summer day, and I had taken the early morning train from Philadelphia's 30th Street Station up to Stamford. After arriving in town, I took a cab over to Charlie's house, and by the time I arrived, I looked like I had just run the marathon because of the blistering heat. Yet, Charlie did not seem to notice. Instead, he focused on my being so very tall, and he joked about our very opposite heights!

"You made it!" he said as I entered his home.

"I did. The train was right on time, my cabbie knew where he was going, and now I'm here. How are you?"

"Not nearly as tall as you!" Charlie gazed up at me in awe, as though looking up at the Washington Monument. "How tall are you?"

"Six-feet even. But I think I'm shrinking."

"I used to be five-ten. Do you believe it? I'll show you my driver's license if you don't."

Charlie and I became fast friends right from the start. After that first day of touring Stamford and seeing it like I had never seen it before, a lasting friendship was born. It was as if we had known each other our entire lives. We talked on the phone several times a week for hours on end. He would tell me of his Sicilian heritage and his wife's Canadian-French heritage, of his school days, of growing up during the Great Depression and the effect World War II had on him personally and on his generation as a whole, of his kids from the time they were born until the present day and how incredibly proud he was of all of them. Confidences were shared. Advice was offered. Serious discussions about life-changing events merged with light chatter about everyday things. There was never a lull in the conversation; there was always something to say.
Captain Zito after docking his boat, "The Coyote."
September 2008

When I ventured to Connecticut, I would always spend a full day with Charlie, whether it was just driving around town in his "time machine," cruising up and down Long Island Sound on his boat, having lunch at the diner, walking around Home Goods, shopping at United House Wrecking, Co.—one of the best antique stores I've ever been in—and laughing at "the ugly room," enjoying coffee and Linzer tarts at DiMare Pastry Shop (which makes Sicilian, not Italian patries, didn't you know); and most importantly, having ice cream from Cold Stone Creameryeven on the coldest, rainiest day in November.

On February 4, 2010, Charlie and I talked on the phone until about 11:00 that night. We made plans for my visit later in the month. One of the very last things he said to me on that call was, "Write the book," meaning Bob's biography. It meant the world to him to know his good friend was finally going to have his true story told. 

The next day, on February 5, 2010, I received an unexpected call from Charlie's daughter while I was at work. Charlie had suffered a heart attack and died suddenly that morning. I was stunned. Just like that, Charlie was gone. And when he left this world, he took a piece of me with him.

I attended Charlie's funeral, which was held on February 13, 2010, and afterward, his family gave me a little CVS bag containing a chocolate candy heart, which Charlie had bought in anticipation of my next visit, and it broke my own heart. They also gave me the framed photo of Charlie that had been placed in the sanctuary during the service. These precious treasures came home with me that night, resting comfortably in my travel bag on board the train.

Cruising on Long Island Sound with Charlie.
June 2009.
I still miss Charlie, and I will always miss Charlie. I knew him for eighteen monthssuch a short period of time in the grand scheme of things—and yet, it was a lifetime. Most people do not understand the friendship Charlie and I had. Charlie was 81 years of age when he passed away and would be 85 this year. I am half his age, coming up on my 44th birthday. Charlie used to say to me, "I don't know how to put into words what our friendship is. I don't think there is a word in the English language for it." He was right, and while there may not be a specific word or phrase for our unique friendship, there is a movie that comes pretty close—Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont. It is the best way I think I can explain it.

This blog and all of the "Vote For Bob Crane" Internet presence exist as an awareness vehicle so people can learn about Bob Crane and his work. It is an extension of what his full biography will be, and it is a place where people can hear his radio work and see him in various productions other than Hogan's Heroes. However, without people like Charlie Zito, many stories about Bob's life would have been lost forever. Charlie's testimonies are some of the most poignant and heart-warming I have ever heard, not only about Bob, but about people and life in general.

Today, I want the world to know Charlie. He was much more than "Bob Crane's best friend from school," as he will be described in Bob's biography. Charlie was many wonderful thingsa devoted husband, father, brother, grandfather, and uncle; a hard worker and skilled dental technician who owned his own business; a fantastic cook; a knowledgable and entertaining boat captain; a tremendous pianist and musician; a gifted conversationalist; a humble man full of laughter, life, and love; and a very dear friend. He is greatly missed and remembered fondly by many.

Charlie used to tell me that he hated to see a person cry—that if a person cried in his presence, he just could not bear it. Somehow, even knowing that, it does not change the number of tears I have shed over his loss. And somehow, I also know that he would be scowling at each and every one of those tears, and that thought does, indeed, make me smile.

Remembering Charlie. 

Charlie Zito was truly one of the best, and it has been my absolute honor and privilege to have known him and called him one of "my favorite people in the whole universe."




Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bob Crane and Mel Blanc - Two Men, Each of a Thousand Voices

By Carol Ford

When I was a kid growing up during the 1970s through the mid-1980s, I - along with most every other kid in America - relished in Saturday morning cartoons. At the time, I was an aspiring artist, drawing everything around me, and even making up my own comic books, complete with their own stories. I even attempted to make my own live-action cartoons by drawing in the corners of notebooks and flipping the pages to make my creations move. I had toyed with going to art school, but instead, obtained my English/Liberal Arts degree and then went on to pursue a career in writing and publishing.

Far and away, my favorite Saturday morning cartoons were Looney Tunes, produced by Warner Brothers, with the voice talents of the late, legendary Mel Blanc. Bugs Bunny was my favorite, but not far behind were the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Porky Pig, Sylvester and Tweety, Speedy Gonzales, Pepe Le Pew, the Tasmanian Devil, and Melvin the Martian.

Mel Blanc, of course, was the genius voice talent behind Looney Tunes as well as many other cartoon characters, such as Mr. Spacely in The Jetsons and Dino the Dinosaur and Barney Rubble in The Flintstones. At one time, he was providing 90% of the voices for cartoons produced by Warner Brothers, and thus, he became known as the "Man of a Thousand Voices." He had also worked as a regular on The Jack Benny Program, and further, had his own radio program, The Mel Blanc Show, which ran from September 3, 1946, through June 24, 1947. Mel Blanc died at the age of 81 on July 10, 1989. His epitaph on his headstone is simple: "That's All Folks," and beneath his name is inscribed, "Man of 1000 Voices."
During his tenure at KNX, Bob Crane provided countless voices and sound effects as part of his radio program - a technique and skill he had perfected since his childhood and his earliest radio days at WLEA in Hornell, New York, in 1950. Because of his extraordinary skill at being able to change his voice and impersonate just about anyone and anything, Bob had been dubbed radio's "Man of a Thousand Voices."

The other day, I was going through a collection of audio tape recordings given to me by Bob Crane's son, Robert Scott Crane. Most of the recordings are Bob's airchecks from KMPC in Los Angeles and KAYO in Seattle. One recording contains a series of voice impersonations, sound effects, and interview clips that Bob had simply labeled, "Bob's Best." And on this tape is a short clip of an interview Bob had done with Mel Blanc, which most likely aired during Bob's KNX show. The clip with Mel Blanc is not long, barely a minute at most, and leads into Frank Sinatra's "When Somebody Loves You" (lyrics by Sammy Cahn). But the real treasure here is not the interview itself, but the 10-seconds where Mel Blanc introduces Bob Crane's show in the voice of Porky Pig.

This 10-second clip of Porky Pig stuttering and stammering his way through the introduction to The Bob Crane Show and then giving up, calling it the Sammy Cahn Show, while short, is one of my favorite discoveries in any of Bob's airchecks. Two men, each with a thousand voices and geniuses in their own right, sharing air time together. 

Simply fantastic.