Monday, July 3, 2023

Deliberate Deceit: How 'Auto Focus' Fails in Its Miserable Attempt at Portraying Bob Crane

It should come as no surprise that I don't like the film Auto Focus. Neither do my coauthors, Linda Groundwater and Dee Young. And most notably, neither did the vast majority of the people who talked with us about Bob Crane for Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography.

Having gotten to know Bob through hundreds of his closest family members, friends, and associates, we were privileged to learn who he was, what made him tick, and how he lived his life. We take our work seriously. This is, after all, a man's life. Neither his addiction nor his murder are joking matters. We are professional. We are thorough. We are factual.

The same cannot be said for Auto Focus director Paul Schrader. As writer David Edelstein proclaimed in his 2002 article, Video Killed the TV Star, "Almost every time I see a film by Paul Schrader, I think about what a sensational subject he has gotten hold of and how I wish that someone else had stepped in to bring it to life."

We have quoted Mr. Schrader before with regard to how he felt about Auto Focus. In the September 29, 2002, edition of The New York Times, Mr. Schrader stated, "My intent with Auto Focus is not to be true or definitive. People's actual lives are not really that interesting. And with Crane, I wanted to get at something meaty. Otherwise, who cares?" Among other things, he also admitted that "[John] Carpenter was not as important in Crane's life as he is in the film. It is a distortion."

In the same article, Bob's younger son Scott Crane rebukes Mr. Schrader's take on his father. "The movie is 'Auto Fiction!' he says. "Schrader's idea is to make my dad dark. 'Let's make him seedy' ... He's portraying a fiction as fact. Schrader has destroyed my father's reputation in the world."

Scott is 100% correct. We stand in solidarity with Scott and all those who see the film for what it is: Celluloid garbage.

This New York Times article, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. After combing through several resources about Auto Focus, it is clear as day that Mr. Schrader was not simply lazy in his research about Bob Crane for Auto Focus, he was intentionally wrong with conviction. It is unprofessional and unforgivable.

In our latest episode of Flipside: The True Story of Bob Crane, Linda and I delve into the motivation behind Auto Focus. We examine published quotes by Mr. Schrader and actor Greg Kinnear, and discuss how they and others affiliated with the film felt not just about making the so-called biopic about Bob Crane, but their opinions regarding the Hogan's Heroes star himself.

Access the articles mentioned in this episode: 

Transcript of the episode coming soon.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Bob Crane's Unsolved Murder — 45 Years Ago Today

In the early morning hours of June 29, 1978, we lost Bob Crane. As the Hogan's Heroes star slept in his Scottsdale, Arizona, apartment, he was brutally bludgeoned to death. It was a gruesome crime scene, and Bob's murder remains unsolved to this day, baffling detectives and law enforcement now for 45 years.

Bob had been appearing in his play, Beginner's Luck, in Scottsdale, and the run of the show was nearing its end. Bob was looking forward to returning home to Los Angeles on July 4, focusing on new television projects, reconnecting with his family, and working on bettering his life with the help of a professional therapist. But it was not to be. Bob left this world abruptly by the cruel hands of another just two weeks shy of his 50th birthday. Ever since, his murder and the scandal that followed have overshadowed nearly everything else Bob did in his life. So much of what he did was good, and yet, we don't hear much about it. As I was once told by a television executive, "Nobody wants to read the good stuff. They only want the dirt. Who cares about radio? Who cares about his charity work? Who cares about drums? That stuff will never sell."

We beg to differ.

It's all too easy to focus on the negative. Sure, it boosts ratings and brings in the money. And there is a lot of money to be made on murder and scandal. 

But when you are only served the "low-hanging fruit," you don't get to hear the whole story. You don't get to know the person, what made them tick, why they behaved in certain ways, and how they handled their successes, as well as their struggles. When you are only served up the crime and the dirt, it can have devastating effects in the court of public opinion. 

This couldn't be more true in the case of Bob Crane. Many will snicker and sneer when they see or hear the name Bob Crane, and there will be an avalanche of ignorant, hurtful, and hateful comments on social media. True crime enthusiasts will watch any number of investigative TV shows and/or podcasts, playing armchair detective and theorizing who dunnit. Even with their limited knowledge on the subject, they don't just think—they think they know—everything there is to know because a TV show or a movie or Wikipedia told them so, and you cannot convince them otherwise.

The truth is, and as we have been saying for nearly two decades, there is so much more to Bob Crane's life story than his starring role on Hogan's Heroes, his unsolved murder, and a stale tabloid headline. We are proud to be Bob Crane's official biographers, endorsed and supported by The Estate of Bob Crane. We are honored to have been entrusted with cherished memories from hundreds of people directly connected to Bob spanning his entire lifetime. These are not just little anecdotes collected from a few people making for an interesting compendium. They are full, detailed, reflective testimonies, woven together with painstaking research of archival materials into a rich tapestry that allowed us to form a deep understanding of Bob from nearly every facet, time period, and corner of his life. And since he is no longer here to do so himself, we will continue to share Bob Crane's complete and true life story every chance we get, humbly standing up for him and on behalf of so many beautiful souls who knew him well and loved him dearly—most of whom trusted only us to do so.

We might night never know who committed the crime or why Bob Crane was murdered. But we do know this—he continues to be remembered and loved by many: members of his family, his dear friends, his coworkers, and his fans. 

Rest in peace, Bob Crane. You are not forgotten.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

A Remarkable Life: A Tribute to Robert Clary

Portion of letter written by Robert Clary, sent to Linda Groundwater in 2008 regarding Bob Crane.
© Authors of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography.
Do not use without written permission.
—Linda J. Groundwater

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Hanging Around Rod Serling's 'Night Gallery'

Ever since I was a little kid, I have always loved Halloween. Anything spooky, or mysterious, or a little bit scary—count me in. When the days grow shorter and there's a crisp chill in the night air, I get out the fall decorations and begin stocking up on pumpkin spice. I even go on those campy haunted tours!

And I love a good ghost story.

Spooky season is right around the corner, so what better time to talk about Rod Serling's Night Gallery? I am certainly not alone when I say I am a great fan of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery. So just imagine my excitement when, earlier this year, I was invited to provide audio commentary for the episode "House, with Ghost" (starring Bob Crane, Jo Anne Worley, and Bernard Fox) in the bonus features section of the Night Gallery Season 2 DVD Blu-Ray release!


I was interviewed and recorded in the spring, and I am very happy with how the producers used my audio clips. In addition to my segments, the entire bonus commentary over the episode includes the narrator, who provides historical details of the episode (some based on my interview and our book Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography), as well as audio clips from notables affiliated with Night Gallery. Also featured in the bonus section is a segment of Bob's KNX radio interview with Rod Serling. 

Needless to say (but I'm gonna say it anyway), representing Bob in the audio commentary of his episode, as well as simply being a part of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, is such an honor, to say the least. Many thanks to Night Gallery DVD producer Jim Benson for this wonderful opportunity!

The 2022 re-release of Night Gallery Season 2 on HD/Blu-Ray was released in July 2022 and is available through Amazon and elsewhere.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Defender of the Truth: In Loving Memory of Bob Crane's Cousin Jim Senich

Jim Senich and his wife, Ellen (seated, front).
Linda Groundwater and her son, Andrew (back).
Summer 2010.
I learned today of the passing of Jim Senich.

I first met Jim when I decided to embark on the journey of writing Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography. I was given his name and contact details, because he worked in Connecticut radio, and Bob was his first cousin. I was hoping that he would be able to give me some information and that he would have some stories to tell, and perhaps other contacts. He, himself, was a contact.

But Jim became so much more than that. Not only did he succeed spectacularly at what I hoped for from a writer's point of view, he shared himself. He shared his family. He shared his home. He shared his friendship. Jim and his wife Ellen and their daughter Mary welcomed me and my son Andrew into their home when we visited back in 2010. I remember two sweet doggies. A wonderful Italian dinner. Music! Books! And hours of talk and laughter and true to heart, genuine conversation. A trip around Waterbury, and a sit-down in a local park, where we just spoke about life and its unexpectedness. And he was so happy to know Andrew, who nearly shared Jim's birthday—the two being born a day apart (though vastly different in years). He sent packages with baseball themed gifts even before they met in person, and my little boy, he was happy. And he knew he had a real friend in his "almost" birthday twin.

Life wasn't always fair to the "Great Dane," but Jim tried his hardest to look at it from a larger perspective. He was so proud of his family, and he had every reason to be. We did lose touch, in the end. I regret that. But I will hold him close in my heart, with thanks for all he was, and for all he is.

Jim, may you rest in eternal peace with the Lord that you love. Thank you for everything, my friend. Your memory will be in my heart always.

Linda Groundwater
July 25, 2022

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Dead Again...and Again: The Murder and Ongoing Destruction of Bob Crane

On June 29, 1978, Bob Crane was murdered in his sleep. He was just 49 years old, and only a couple of weeks shy of his 50th birthday. Despite numerous unproven theories, the crime remains officially unsolved to this day.

Following his murder, information about Bob's private life surfaced. It was placed on display for all to see—and judge, with no explanation or perspective. The cry rang out: Bob Crane, beloved star of Hogan's Heroes, had a secret "dark side." 

Over the decades, this side of his life has obscured nearly all else about him, and the proliferation of articles, television shows, documentaries, books, YouTube videos, and podcasts focusing on true crime and vulgar humor—not to mention Auto Focus—is unending and unrelenting. Bob Crane's sex addiction and unsolved murder are lucrative as well as convenient for a cheap punchline to a bad joke.

Since our book, Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, was published in 2015, we have continued to actively tell Bob's story with proper perspective to allow a more profound understanding of Bob as a complete human being. This is not an easy task. Just as researching Bob's life had its hurdles and barriers, so does being his official biographers. We've heard it all and seen it all. And a lot of what we've seen and heard from those who did not know Bob but who only think they know him—is just plain ugly.

Take, for instance, Fox News host Greg Gutfeld. Mr. Gutfeld thinks he is being so funny in his article, entitled, "Bad People Abuse Good Intentions," when he talks about a "transgender ex-Nazi bank robber." 

Mr. Gutfeld states:

Now, I could have done a mono on inflation or Joe Biden, but really not again. It's so boring. Thankfully, a producer offered this headline, quote, "Transgender ex neo-Nazi Robber to receive fast tracked gender confirmation surgeries." Wow. I'm so glad he's an ex neo-Nazi. But talk about a perfect storm of Gutfeldian content: trans, Nazi, gender surgery, prison. It sounds like a Hogan's Heroes after party at Bob Crane's condo. That dude was crazy. Read up on him, seriously. 

What on earth? What an uneducated word salad.

Let me remind everyone: Bob Crane had consensual sex with adult women only, whom he often photographed or videotaped with their knowledge and willingness to participate. Further, in the months leading up to his murder, Bob was seeking professional counseling in the attempt to break free of this lifestyle, which he came to understand and recognize as an addiction. He was hoping to better his life, but he was denied that opportunity because someone took his life away from him. In that moment, when his murderer bludgeoned him as he slept, that evil monster took away Bob's life and dreams of the future, as well as shattered not only his friends and loved ones, but his legacy as well. 

Murdered. Judged. Ridiculed. Legacy destroyed. 

We do know his true story. We do care. And so we tell his story. Often. Every chance we get.

Bob's so-called "dark side" is actually kind of boring. For those who take the time to learn about Bob, it becomes quite clear. Yet there are those who still try to be funny by resorting to their meager inventions of alternative facts to suit their pathetic narrative in the attempt to boost their ratings and generate sales. How heartless.

Co-Bob Crane biographer Linda Groundwater has this to say about Gutfeld's statement, and I whole-heartedly agree:

Carol sent me a message that included an excerpt from an article online by Greg Gutfeld from Fox. Ignoring the entire rest of the article (let's not bring politics into this, shall we?), there was this little bombshell in his commentary: 

"But talk about a perfect storm of Gutfeldian content: trans, Nazi, gender surgery, prison. It sounds like a Hogan's Heroes after party at Bob Crane's condo. That dude was crazy. Read up on him, seriously." 

It went right over my head the first time. I couldn't even fathom what I was seeing. I read it again. And then again. And it made me angry. It made me SO angry. Forty-four years ago this week, Bob Crane was murdered. An addict, yes. A man who had a lot of sex, sure. But a human being. A man who tried. A man who had consensual sex with women. Not a person who deserved to be the butt of some weak, derisive, throwaway humor by some hack out to get a guffaw through his ignorance of truth. 

People ask us all the time, why do we do what we do? 

THIS IS WHY. Feel free to direct Mr. Gutfeld to reality. You're never too old to be educated. And if he has the tiniest, tiniest, sliver of humanity in him, he'll take us up on the challenge to actually learn the truth. Somehow, I doubt he'll do it. Because people who make jokes like this about Bob rarely want to learn. It's easier to point and laugh and stay ignorant than it is to see his humanity. 

Bob deserves better. We will NEVER stop.

Linda J. Groundwater
June 28, 2022 

Monday, August 30, 2021

Bob Crane: Family Videos

During the course of what is now nearly two decades, my coauthors—Linda Groundwater and Dee Young—and I have seen and heard just about everything there is relating to Bob Crane's life and tragic death. As his official and authorized biographers, we have been granted exclusive permission to view and entrusted with Bob's personal belongings. Perhaps one of the most important pieces of research we've reviewed, however, is a movie reel. 

When you say the words movie reel in the same sentence as the name Bob Crane, how many of you thought of one thing? For the record (again), Bob engaged in amateur pornography with adult, consensual women who agreed to be filmed. (Yes, it's been investigated by the authorities, and yes, the women knew they were being filmed. Enough said—until the next time we have to say it.) 

Now that you've gotten that out of your system... 

The simple truth is that Bob recorded everything. He audio recorded. He photographed. He filmed. He journaled. He catalogued. He chronicled. And he did this with every single aspect of his life from the time he was a teenager throughout his entire life. When you put it all into perspective, the "naughty bits" constituted just a small piece of a much larger collection that was primarily composed of Bob's every day life.

In our opinion, one of the most important pieces of footage Bob Crane filmed was on Father's Day—June 18, 1978, just ten days before his murder. His wife Patty (Sigrid Valdis) and their son Scott had arrived in Scottsdale on a surprise to visit him. Reports claim he was upset by their visit. Bob and Patty were separated at the time and on the brink of divorce. However, Bob invited them over to his Scottsdale apartment. Because it was Father's Day, they gave him cards and a gift. Bob could never have imagined that in just under two weeks and right before his 50th birthday, his life would be cut short in that very same location, just a few yards from the living room where he received his cards and gift from Scotty, then just seven years old. 

To this day, Bob's murder remains unsolved. A great deal of speculation surrounds the murder of Bob Crane and who may have killed him, with much emphasis on John Henry Carpenter (different from the film director) as the primary suspect. In 1992, he was arrested. A trial followed, and in 1994, Carpenter was found not guilty. Arm chair detectives have a field day with this unsolved case, discussing their theories, making their jokes, deciding who they believe must have done it. 

Back to Father's Day 1978. I watched the Bob's family video taken on Father's Day 1978 for the first time while visiting Scott in 2013. I sat in Scott's living room with him, his then-soon-to-be wife, and his children, and we watched. And as I watched, I was mesmerized. Here was Bob Crane, the regular guy—a husband and father who didn't want his marriage to end. Not famous Colonel Hogan or radio personality; not murder victim; not tabloid headline. Since then, I have wished more people could see what I was seeing. This footage showed me, without question, how much of a loving father Bob was. It showed me how much he adored his family—just absolutely cherished his family, especially his children. And it proved without a doubt how much in love he was with his  wife—and how much she loved him, too, despite their marital troubles. 

When Linda was interviewed for the Autopsy episode about Bob Crane in November 2020, which aired in June 2021, she mentioned this video to the producers when talking about Bob as a family man who loved his family. They were astonished. They asked Linda, "How do you know about this video?" And Linda responded bluntly, "Because I have seen it."

Scott Crane has now made this video available to the public. I am so very happy he has done so because now you can see for yourself. This is not play acting for an audience. This is family. 

These are Bob Crane's home movies of himself and the people he loved: his wife, his children, his parents, and his friends. Bob Crane was a human being. He was also murdered. And his family and friends are still deeply affected by and mourn his loss.

No unauthorized use of any portion of this video—audio or video—is allowed without written permission of Robert Scott Crane. 
For all permission requests, click here.