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.
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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

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):