Thursday, April 15, 2021

Bob Crane's 1978 Appearance on 'Celebrity Cooks' [Podcast]

It's so fantastic and extraordinary, it's become urban legend when discussing the final months of Bob Crane's life.

Celebrity goes on a national Canadian TV cooking show; breaks down; falls apart; rants about death, sex, and his impending divorce; is brought to tears; and shocks the studio audience. A station network executive pulls the episode from syndication following celebrity's murder because of an eerie sense of deja vu and premonition of the crime, as well as celebrity's depressed state and inability to stop talking about death and sex during the show's taping.

Such is the case with Bob's appearance on the Canadian television series, Celebrity Cooks

Or is it?

Bruno Gerussi and Bob Crane on Celebrity Cooks, January 25, 1978.
Photograph by Ron Goldman.

While researching Bob's life for Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, Linda Groundwater and I talked with three people directly affiliated with Celebrity Cooks: owner Derek Smith, talent agent Anne Kear, and stage manager Roger Packer. A fourth person connected with the series, photographer Ron Goldman, also provided a statement. All four were present on the day of Bob's episode taping, and all four emphatically agree—everything we thought we knew about Bob Crane's appearance on Celebrity Cooks, as based on a 1978 magazine article, referenced in Robert Graysmith's book The Murder of Bob Crane, and depicted in Auto Focus, is wrong.

In our latest episode of Flipside: The True Story of Bob Crane, Linda and I discuss Bob's appearance on Celebrity Cooks. We take apart the 1978 article that started the whole myth, and we provide answers from Celebrity Cooks as well. It will never cease to amaze Linda, me, or the folks from Celebrity Cooks that this brief moment of Bob's life, which is held up as an example of his life falling apart, never actually happened.

Listen to "09. Bob Crane’s 1978 Appearance on 'Celebrity Cooks'" on Spreaker.

For an earlier post about Bob Crane's appearance on 'Celebrity Cooks,' click here.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Becoming Colonel Hogan

Let's be honest. Bob Crane's German accent on Hogan's Heroes was pretty bad. In fact, it was terrible. It seemed everyone on the series could perform a decent (or in some cases, exceptional) German accent except for Bob. Larry Hovis (Sgt. Andrew Carter) was so good at it, in fact, that he could pull off a convincing—and a bit frightening—Adolph Hitler. 

But where others excelled, Bob seemed to fail. To some, it may even be a bit painful to hear him fumble a German accent with American accent overtones. Had this been real life, the Germans would have caught him in a New York minute.

Yet Bob was a gifted voice impersonator, having honed the skill in radio for fifteen years. In Hollywood, he was hailed as radio's "Man of a Thousand Voices" by KNX. He worked with Mel Blanc on a pilot for a new radio program, Superfun. And one of his first television "roles" was as the uncredited voice announcer in The Twilight Zone episode "Static," where he provides all of the voices on the radio.

It begs the question: If Bob Crane could perform all sorts of accents on his radio program, from a French fashion designer to race car driver Andy Granatelli, to an Einstein-sounding engineer, to a love-struck Russian, to a host of other "character" voices, then why could he not perform a decent (or even passable) German accent on Hogan's Heroes?

Simply, he was told—directed—to do it poorly. The directors thought it would be funny. "He wasn't supposed to do it well!" director and associate producer Jerry London told Linda Groundwater and me in our interview for Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography. "That was the comedy of it!" he said.

Linda and I discuss this in our latest episode of our podcast, Flipside: The True Story of Bob Crane. Bob didn't just become Colonel Hogan overnight. He was still quite inexperienced as an actor at the start of the series. This doesn't make him a bad actor, though. 

Early on his acting career, which consisted of community "little" theatre, guest-starring roles on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and The Twilight Zone, his big break on The Dick Van Dyke Show, and eventually, the regular role of Dr. Dave Kelsey on The Donna Reed Show, Bob made a decision to take acting seriously. He accepted coaching advice from Donna Reed, and in addition, at her suggestion, he took a course taught by legendary acting instructor Stella Adler. 

While the Hogan's Heroes directors and producers, and viewers of the series in its original run by extension, may have thought Bob Crane doing a botched German accent was funny at the time, it unfortunately does not age well. Viewers today watch and think Bob couldn't act, or worse, didn't care to learn how to act. This wasn't the case. He was following direction. And when a director tells you to do something, you do it. 

Indeed, Bob was learning. He came a long way on Hogan's Heroes. People learn throughout their entire lives, and the same was true for Bob. He continued to learn and hone the craft until the time of his murder in 1978. Many actors who worked with him believe he would have had found another hit series and enjoyed continued success as an actor and/or director had he lived.

In the end, Hogan's Heroes is a television show. We're supposed to suspend our belief and understand that no matter whether the German accent was good or bad, all of the heroes are speaking fluent, flawless German. Otherwise, they would have likely failed their first mission, right out of the gate. 

Listen to "08. Becoming Colonel Hogan" on Spreaker.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Bob Crane Biographers Carol Ford, Linda Groundwater Interviewed on 'The Claw's Corner'

It is always an honor to share Bob Crane's life story. There is always a lot to tell. Bob's life was full, and rich, and detailed, and sometimes, complicated. Like every human being, he had his joys and sorrows, his triumphs and set-backs, and his highs and lows. To tell his story properly and in the right context takes time. Occasionally, if the host agrees, we provide a thorough interview that can last several hours. 

My very first presentation about Bob Crane was in 2015 at the MidAtlantic Nostalgia Convention, and it was supposed to be one hour. I went on for about an hour and a half, and talking at the speed of light at the end! While my audience didn't seem to mind, the hotel staff who wanted to flip the room for the next event weren't too thrilled. 

On January 30 and 31, 2021, Linda Groundwater and I were interviewed about Bob Crane by Richard Cyr, host of The Claw's Corner. We always go into these interviews thinking, "Will we have more than an hour?" Because there's so much to say! Well, Linda and I provided Rich with four solid hours of our time. We loved it—because we love talking about Bob Crane.

In our book, Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, we provide rich details of Bob as told to us, in most cases exclusively, by more than two hundred prominent individuals from his life. Our book and all of our work attempt to remove judgment and stigma, allowing for perspective, understanding, and ultimately, clarity about Bob Crane, the human being. He was more than a murder victim. He should not be a target of ridicule. We don't paint him out as a saint, and we don't demonize him. We provide truth. And because we care so much about Bob and his family, friends, and colleagues, we talk about him properly—every chance we get.

Below is our two-part episode of The Claw's Corner. I hope you enjoy it! (And be sure to watch for the cameo by Cinnamon, Linda's energetic, happy-go-lucky puppy dog!) 

The Claw's Corner With Guests Carol Ford and Linda Groundwater Part 1

The Claw's Corner With Guests Carol Ford and Linda Groundwater Part 2

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Bob Crane — U.S. Armed Forces Radio Network (1968) [New Find!]

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I love it when I find new airchecks of Bob Crane's Radio Show. It's like a treasure hunt for me. They are so rare, and when they do surface, I'm giddy with excitement—like a kid at Christmas. I don't know what Bob will say, but I know I will be entertained. I might even learn something new.

My latest find was Part 2 of a show Bob recorded for the U.S. Armed Forces Radio and Television Network (AFRTN). Between 1967-1969, Bob recorded numerous shows for the AFRTN, during which he played songs, did some drumming, jibber-jabbered with his own pre-recorded voice impersonations, and interviewed guests or spliced in his pre-aired celebrity interviews from his time at KNX-CBS Radio. Many of these AFRTN recordings exist; however, they are incredibly difficult to find. 

Bob donated a lot of his time and broadcasting talents for many different charities, something for which he is given little to no credit. In October 1967, the following was published in the Valley News publication (Van Nuys, California) about his charity work:

Hogan’s Heroes own Colonel Hogan, Bob Crane, is one man who answers the call of civic groups, charities, and worthy organizations, no matter where they might be. Up to one-third of his free time is spent assisting and appearing in behalf of such groups. For instance, during his recent “HH” hiatus, he volunteered more than thirteen hours worth of Armed Forces Radio material. He brought laughs to the ex-POW convention in New Mexico. Pending is a grand marshal stint at the Richmond Tobacco Festival and full participation in the current Cystic Fibrosis Drive. And there’s more, much more. This “Hogan” is a real hero.

Think about that. One-third of his free time was donated to charity, which included United Cerebral Palsy, American Heart Association, the Arthritis Foundation, Funds for Dinah (a fund-raiser for an eleven-year-old Ohio girl with kidney disease who needed dialysis, but whose family could not afford the lengthy car trips to the dialysis clinic from their rural home), Operation Entertainment, entertaining U.S. veterans and former prisoners of war, public service announcements, and the list goes on.

In this recording, Bob includes his pre-recorded interviews with Otto Preminger, Bill Dana, Steve Allen, and Jayne Meadows, all of which originally aired on KNX in the early 1960s. 

I hope you enjoy our latest find! And don't worry—I'm always on the look out for more!

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Happy Holidays and All the Best for 2021

It's been one heck of a year.

For a year that kicked off a new decade and started out with so much hope and promise, 2020 quickly turned into the armpit of modern times. I can't think of anyone who hasn't been, in some way, negatively affected by something in 2020, not the least of which is how COVID-19 has impacted daily life. For some, it's been an inconvenience. For others, it has brought worry. Still others have experienced loss.

As the year crawled on, personal situations dictated scaling back our work here, whether it was on our blog, podcast, and social media pages. While none of us or members of our families have been diagnosed with COVID-19, thankfully, we have experienced other difficult events.

For me personally, 2020 delivered a hard punch. My father passed away on December 2, 2020, due to complications brought on by stage 4 glioblastoma of the spinal cord, which he had been bravely battling since early 2018. For almost three years, my family and I had been providing him around-the-clock care. He was so strong, and he fought so hard, but the cancer was stronger. These last few weeks have been terrible, but my family and I are comforted knowing he is out of pain and free of the prison his body had become. 

Linda Groundwater and Dee Young have had their struggles as well. It's safe to say 2020 has served up challenges to all of us.

But we're still here, and we aren't going anywhere. The simple reality is, like so many people around the world, we're just trying to get through, while staying positive and looking ahead to better times.

However, in the midst of all of this, 2020 did offer us some exciting opportunities! 

I'm so proud of Linda, who participated in a big project about Bob Crane. Due to the non-disclosure agreement she signed, I can't tell you anything more about it. (Sorry, no spoilers!) But I can tell you she did justice for Bob in a way that I was unable to do this year because of my family situation. And let me say, she is way better at this sort of thing than I am! That's all I can tell you right now, or I'll get tossed in the cooler. But keep an eye out for our announcement!

Secondly, I have written a feature article about Bob Crane, with a focus on his radio career, for RetroFan Magazine, which will be published in the March 2021 issue. Subscribe to RetroFan by clicking here. You can also purchase a single issue, if you prefer. Special thanks to Editor Michael Eury, who I met at the 2019 MidAtlantic Nostalgia Convention, for this wonderful opportunity!

And finally, we are still working on Bob Crane's recognition in the Radio Hall of Fame. The second we have new information, you'll be the first to know!

On behalf of Dee, Linda, and myself, we wish you health and happiness this holiday season, and a better, happier, healthier 2021!

Carol Ford

Sunday, September 20, 2020

2015 Bob Crane & Hogan's Heroes Presentation Scheduled for Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention 2020 Virtual Event

The Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention is holding a FREE virtual convention this year via Facebook (since they had to cancel their annual live event due to COVID). My 2015 presentation about Bob Crane and Hogan's Heroes is on the schedule!

I'm thrilled that my presentation is included! This was my very first presentation about Bob Crane, ever, which I gave on September 19, 2015, to launch Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography. Believe me when I tell you, I was so nervous, so please forgive any hiccups! But for anyone who has never been able to see my presentation and has wanted to, now you can! 

Bob Crane and Hogan's Heroes (slide show presentation by Carol Ford) 
Date: Friday, September 25, 2020 
Time: 11:00 a.m. ET 
How to Access: Visit the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention Facebook Page. After the designated time, you can watch the presentation on demand at your convenience through late Sunday evening (September 27). 
Cost: It's FREE! 
*Please consider making a donation to St. Jude's. The purpose of the convention each year is to raise money for St. Jude's, and they are in the process of organizing an online auction to go along with their virtual convention. 

Visit the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention Facebook Page for the complete virtual convention schedule.

For a recap of my experiences at the 2015 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, click here

Monday, July 27, 2020

Bob Crane Interviews Regis Philbin, LA Broadcaster Michael Jackson [March 3, 1965]

Can't listen on YouTube? Click below:

Note: Interview starts around the 51:00 mark.

On July 24, 2020, Regis Philbin passed away from cardiovascular disease in Greenwich, Connecticut. A legendary and much beloved talk show and game show host, his passing marks the loss of yet another Hollywood icon. I've always liked Regis Philbin, and I was saddened to learn he was no longer with us.

After hearing of Regis Philbin's passing, I recalled that in November 1969, Bob Crane had been a guest on his show, Philbin's People. I searched for the episode during the research phase of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, and I was hoping that since some time had passed, I'd now find a copy. I didn't find the episode of Philbin's People, but I did find something else.

A rare aircheck of The Bob Crane Show from KNX, dated March 3, 1965, surfaced, and to my surprise and delight, I now had over an hour of radio gold I had not yet heard. As if by Fate, Bob Crane's guests that day were Regis Philbin and Los Angeles broadcaster Michael Jackson (not the "King of Pop"). The aircheck was found in an estate sale, and while I don't know the folks over at Brat Productions, I'm happily indebted to their skillful restoration and preservation of this recording, and its transference from reel-to-reel to digital.

Believe me when I tell you, I own many rare recordings of Bob Crane's radio shows, and I've been hunting for them for decades. For me to find one that I haven't heard is a challenge. That being said, locating this particular aircheck, where Regis Philbin is Bob's guest and that Regis passed away just days before, is a little bit remarkable. I'm curiously intrigued by the supernatural and believe strongly in the Afterlife. I couldn't help but grin as this aircheck fell so easily into my hands, when earlier searches never revealed it (note, it was posted on the Brat Productions website in May 2016). I won't question it. I'll simply enjoy it!

Any day that I find a long-lost aircheck from one of Bob Crane's radio shows is like Christmas day for me. In the very least, it is another example of Bob's innovative work in radio, for which he should be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. At best, maybe in those previously lost minutes, he'll tell me something that I didn't know before.

The sweetest part of this aircheck is where Bob talks about going to the movies with his then-four-year-old daughter Karen. Bob took Karen to see The Sound of Music, and when the lights came on at intermission, she believed the film was over! And that was it! They had to leave without seeing the rest of the film! Bob says how he needs to go back to see the second half so he knows how the film ends.

Bob also talks about hosting a a late-night celebrity interview show, and he notes it is not easy (Bob routinely guest-hosted The Tonight Show for Jack Paar and Johnny Carson, and even turned down the offer to permanently host The Tonight Show following Paar's departure). Bob says, "I just read a review on the new late-night show on ABC that Shelley Berman was the host for the other night... The review in Variety today says, 'Forget it!' It says, 'Les Crane's show replacement had a mediocre start, and it went downhill from there.' I saw it. It's one of those things—a lot of comics, a lot of actors think that the Jack Paar-Johnny Carson routine is a simple one. They say, 'What do you do? You sit at a desk. What an easy way to make a buck.' And let them try it. And they all fall flat. That's a tough thing to do. As this reviewer says. Those late-night interview things all depend on who the guy is asking the questions. Otherwise you get nowhere."

This is poignant stuff. At the time, Bob was the only radio host to give live, unrehearsed celebrity interviews daily, which he did over KNX from 1958-1965. Bob Crane was very well versed in the topic of how to conduct a celebrity interview (or any interview, for that matter). His commentary here shows his respect for fellow interviewers, but this respect can be extended to our contemporary late-night talk show hosts (Stephen Colbert, you are my favorite!). It should also be noted that Bob had an incident while interviewing Shelley Berman on his KNX show, so I think there may have been a subtle revelry in his decision to include Variety's harsh critical review of Berman in his show.

Another item of interest with this aircheck is that in March 1965, Bob Crane was nearing the end of his radio career, even though he didn't know it at the time. In May 1965, he signed a new one-year contract with KNX, but by June 1965, he knew juggling two high-profile, full-time jobs was taking a toll on his health and well-being. As much as he loved radio, he decided to focus solely on Hogan's Heroes. He rolled the dice, gambled on the series, and he won.

In addition to filming Hogan's Heroes episodes for Season One throughout the spring of 1965, Bob stayed on as the morning drive host at KNX-CBS Radio. It was a grueling schedule—on the air from 6:00-10:00 a.m. every day, rushing to the set of Hogan's Heroes to rehearse or film, and then back to KNX to prepare for the next day's show. Bob usually got home around 9:30 or 10:00 p.m., ate his dinner with a newspaper propped up against a milk bottle, and hardly saw his family at all. Then he'd get up at the crack of dawn the next day and do it all over again. I can hear some exhaustion in his voice in this aircheck, especially at the beginning.

Bob Crane's KNX interview with Regis Philbin and Michael Jackson begins around the 51:00 mark, and I'm thinking that there are pieces missing to it because Bob's celebrity interviews typically ran for about 30 to 45 minutes (starting at 9:15 and ending at 10:00 a.m.). But it's so much fun to hear what we've got—Bob and Regis bantering, talking about the industry and telling stories, along with Michael Jackson, whose deep British intonation complements their often-frenetic tones. Regis also talks about the possibility of going into acting. This is not surprising because he had been trying, at least for a couple of years. Earlier, in 1963, Bob Crane and Regis Philbin were vying for the same role—not as talk show hosts, but as actors. Bob had auditioned for and won the role of Dr. Dave Kelsey on The Donna Reed Show. A little known fact is Regis Philbin was the other contender. For details, I'll direct you to our book, Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography. (Hey, I can't give it all away!) Regis and Bob also talk about the sudden cancelation of The Regis Philbin Show, which taped its last show on March 5, 1965 (just two days after this interview).

In all, this a beautiful interview, providing glimpses into the lives and careers of both Bob Crane and Regis Philbin, and I'm so glad to have found it. And that's my final answer.

Rest in peace, Regis Philbin.