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

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."


  1. Well done, Carol, and looking forward to the fruit of your efforts. We're all behind you 110 percent (and you know who we are!).

  2. I also read that piece about Woodward's semi-trashing of Belushi in his book Wired and can definitely see where there could be correlations to Bob Crane & Auto Focus. Looking forward to hearing "the rest of the story."

  3. Can't wait & hope this book becomes a movie.


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For more about Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, which was published on September 17, 2015, visit