Saturday, December 31, 2011

So Long 2011, Hello 2012! Best New Year's Wishes from Vote For Bob Crane

Well, Santa and his reindeer are back at the North Pole (with apparently a little help from Bob Crane here!), and the holiday season is coming to a close. It's been a little while since we've posted, but we've had good reason. It's been pretty hectic around here! For the past several weeks, in addition to celebrating the holidays with our families and friends, we've been busy at work planning for a whole avalanche of activity that will kick off in January 2012.

In mid-January, we'll be sending out a press release to the media announcing Bob Crane's nomination for induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Remember, you can support his induction in many ways, such as following us on Twitter, Liking us on Facebook, and sharing our posts and Tweets with your friends. You can also nominate Bob yourself by sending a letter directly to the National Radio Hall of Fame Steering Committee (click here for more details). Deadline for nominations is March 1st. And don't forget, the official ballot of Hall of Fame candidates will be released by the Museum of Broadcast Communications in either July or August for public voting, so stay tuned for details on how to vote. Anyone can vote, so we're counting on YOU to help see that Bob's extensive work in radio is recognized.

We are also in the process of building a new Web site (currently under construction) that will be launched in January. As soon as it's up, you'll be the first to know! 

The new year will also see some new information and interview clips with Bob and some famous folks. As Bob would say, we won't tell you who yet so we get you to listen to the whole show.

As we usher out 2011 and welcome in a brand new year, we want to thank you for all your support. We hope that 2012 will see Bob Crane's induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame, and with your help, we can make that happen!

Best wishes for a bright and shiny, happy and healthy New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Best Wishes to All of You This Holiday Season!

From all of us at Vote For Bob Crane, we wish you peace, happy memories, and all the joys of the season, now and in the new year. 
Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Parting Swimming Pools: Bob Crane Interviews Charlton Heston / c. 1960

One of the motion picture industry's most heroic actors of Biblical proportions, Charlton Heston had a rich Hollywood career and has been called "larger than life" by many, including his family. Immortalized in such iconic films as The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, El Cid, Planet of the Apes, and The Greatest Show on Earth, he also appeared in several television productions as well as on stage. During World War II, Heston served in the U.S. Army Air Force as a radio operator and aerial gunner, and achieved the rank of staff sergeant. A political activist, he held many firm beliefs and shared them openly, specifically against racism and for Second Amendment rights (the right to bear arms). Charlton Heston passed away on April 5, 2008.

When Bob Crane interviewed Charlton Heston over KNX-CBS Radio, he wasn't sure what to expect and had prepped himself for a serious interview. Heston turned out to be quite relaxed and very funny, telling Bob the story of how, on the first day of school, his teacher thought his name was Charlotte, asking repeatedly, "Where's the little Heston girl?"

In this clip, Bob asks Charlton about his current home, which had been located on a ridge overlooking Hidden Valley, California. The take-home message? Don't walk on other people's water when you're swimming in their pool!

Bob Crane / Interview with Charlton Heston
The Bob Crane Show / KNX-CBS Radio
circa 1960

Sunday, December 4, 2011

All Is Organized Confusion / Bob Crane and His Morning Radio Show

Pixyish KNX 'Morning Host' Seldom Lets Hearers Know What's Coming
by Elmer Gaede

No, he's isn't a Keystone traffic Kop.

He's just "the guy who talks to himself with a thousand voices."

But the gyrations of Bob Crane, the animated "morning host" of Radio Station KNX in Hollywood, certainly would conjure such a mental image for anyone who might be able to penetrate "the most closely guarded secret" since the A-bomb.

The secret undoubtedly wondered at by many of the thousands who are entertained six mornings a week from 6:15 to 10 by the energetic Bridgeport (Conn.) transplant, as they traverse the Los Angeles freeways to work or do their housework, is how he manages to intersperse - and spoof - his commercials so ingeniously with such pixyish recorded comments.

Listeners never know what's coming next. They're continually being surprised and caught off balance by the antics of his "thousand voices" on recordings - of which he has stacks and stacks. 

The voices might break into the middle of a commercial with kidding comments which peculiarly fit into the sense of the advertising message, or they might similarly introduce the commercial.

The result is that Crane's commercials are probably more closely followed by listeners than "ordinary" popular music and other entertainment he also provides.

It's nothing to hear him call a sponsor "cheap," as he did the other morning referring to one of the top advertisers, whose spot that time happened to be real short. And still the sponsors come!

All Is Near Chaos
Then there was the singing coffee commercial. Just as it got in the initial "pitch," came a childish "Look, mom, no cavities" - from another well-known recorded commercial - then a loud crash, followed by a harsh feminine voice saying: "Look again, ya little monster," followed by continuation of the coffee message.

That's four different recordings cut in and out with split-second timing.

The more involved feats of "recording magic" defy description - they really must be heard to be appreciated.

On his pledge not to disclose the "big secret," the writer was permitted to observe Crane in action. Secrecy is required by the arrangement which enables the happy-go-lucky pied piper to perform this recorded-voice legerdemain. 

It may be said, however, that it involves uncanny co-operation and complete understanding between Crane and his engineer - the man who sees that it goes out correctly over the airwaves.

It also involves a prodigious amount of almost continuous arm-waving, "body-English" and other physical gyrations by Crane.

The arm-waiving and other motions of course are his methods of signaling to the engineer - who gets almost as strenuous a workout as Crane, and really has to keep "on his toes."

And the strange part is that it is done entirely ad lib, without script - other than the sequence of musical recordings and commercials - mute testimony to the complete understanding between Crane and his engineers, Jack Chapman of Burbank, Mondays through Fridays, and Jay Cook of Sepulveda, on Saturdays. 

When he carries on one of his inimitable "conversations" with a recording, it seems that the person the the platter actually is in the studio. Bob goes through all the gestures, facial and otherwise, of a real conversation with another person, answering back, contradicting, arguing, etc. - even facing toward the recording as if it were a live being.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Source: The Los Angeles Times; Sunday, August 9, 1959.

Note: The "closely guarded secret" referred to in this article is that Crane received special permission from the Broadcast Engineers Union to be able to play his own records. His engineer would play the commercials and songs, while Crane played the records containing all the voices, skits, gags, and sound effects, which was imperative for the program's success. Bob knew exactly which record contained which voice or gag, and he could locate such tracks in mere seconds. In order for his show to work, he needed to spin his own records and not rely solely on the engineer, which was nearly universally unheard of in radio during that time.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Commercial Break! 1962 Dodge Dart 440

Today - being the day after Thanksgiving in America and also Black Friday - roads will be jammed with cars and stores mobbed with holiday shoppers. In December 1961, you might have been driving around in a brand new, 1962 Dodge Dart 440, or were perhaps considering purchasing one. This vital automobile came complete with a fold-down center armrest, a terrific steering mechanism, and full interior. 

Be brave. Buy one.

1962 Dodge Dart 440 Radio Spot
Bob Crane Show / KNX-CBS Radio
December 11, 1962

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks to Our Supporters / Thanksgiving 2011

It's hard to believe that it's been five months since we launched our campaign for Bob Crane's induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Over these last several months, we have entertained you with clips from Bob's radio programs, as well as provided interesting information about his careers in radio, television, theatre, and film. There is still much more to share, and we hope you tune in often! We have also garnered strong support from Bob's colleagues, his friends, members of his family, and not least of all, his fans. As we move into the holiday season, we wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for your support in this endeavor. We are thankful for you - because with your help, Bob's extensive work in radio may soon be fully recognized.

We have some pretty exciting events planned for January, including the launch of a new Web site and a strong push in the media. Keep an eye out for these plus other happenings in the early part of 2012.

Remember, there are several ways you can help support Bob Crane's induction into the 2012 National Radio Hall of Fame. You can send a letter of support to the Museum of Broadcast Communications (click here for instructions/deadline March 1, 2012). If you do, simply let us know, and we will happily include your name or business on our list of official supporters.

Secondly, once the ballot has been announced from the Museum of Broadcast Communications, everyone will have the opportunity to cast his or her vote. Information about voting will be released when it becomes available.

Finally, continue to share this campaign with your friends and colleagues. "Like" us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. The more, the merrier!

As those of us here in the U.S. prepare to enjoy our traditional Thanksgiving holiday, we would like to extend Thanksgiving blessings to all our friends in America and around the world. Again, many thanks to all!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bob Crane Interviews Ruth Waterbury / Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

One of the leading Hollywood reporters of her time, Ruth Waterbury (1896-1982) was the former editor of Photoplay and Silver Screen magazines, and since the 1920s, covered the entertainment industry for more than 50 years. In addition to writing for fan magazines and newspapers (such as the New York Daily News and the Los Angeles Herald), she also served as assistant to Hollywood gossip columnist Louella Parsons.

An expert on Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Ruth Waterbury authored two biographies of the iconic celebrities during the 1960s: Elizabeth Taylor: Her Life, Her Loves, Her Future; and Richard Burton: His Intimate History.

In July 1968, Bob Crane rebroadcast his interview with Ruth Waterbury over the U.S. Armed Forces Radio Network. Also present that day was Cecil Barker, producer and director of The Red Skelton Show. Here is a segment from Bob's interview, where he talks with Waterbury about her career, as well as the subjects of her two then-recently published books.

Bob Crane Interview with Ruth Waterbury and Cecil Barker
The Bob Crane Show / U.S. Armed Forces Radio Network
July 1968

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Veterans' Day Weekend - 'Operation Entertainment'

Sorry to say, we were hoping to have this up yesterday. Unfortunately, our sound hosting site is currently experiencing a problem with sharing files. We didn't want to wait any longer, and besides, we should be thanking our veterans every day! So while this is just a tad late, we wish all United States veterans a very Happy Veterans' Day weekend! And we THANK YOU for your service in the U.S. military, providing us with your protection so that we may enjoy our freedom. 

Operation Entertainment was a program produced by Chuck Barris and Bill Carruthers for ABC that ran in 1968. Actors, musicians, and other celebrities traveled across the country and around the world to entertain U.S. troops serving in the military. They entertainers performed on location at Navy, Army, and Air Force bases. In addition to Bob Crane, other hosts included Rich Little, George Carlin, Dick Cavett, Dean Jones, Dick Shawn, Tim Conway, Jimmy Dean, Roger Miller, Norm Crosby, Ed Ames, Flip Wilson, Don Rickles, Jim Lange, Phil Harris, and Dale Robertson. Among the entertainers were Vikki Carr, Donna Jean Young, Roy Clark, Louis Armstrong, Richard Pryor, Barbara McNair, Allen & Rossi, Minnie Pearl, Paul Lynde, Florence Henderson, Martha and the Vandellas, Shelley Berman, the Righteous Brothers, the Lennon Sisters, Arethra Franklin, Ray Charles and the Rayettes, Patti Page, Pat Buttram, Rodney Dangerfield, Kenny Rogers, Larry Storch, Stephanie Powers, and many more.

Bob Crane was the host of the November 1, 1968, episode, which was performed and recorded for servicemen and women stationed at Elgin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Performers included Teddy Neeley and his Band, comedian Pat Paulsen, singer Fran Jeffries, and the Lennon Sisters, among others. We have for you here the opening of that program, with Bob performing an opening stand-up comedy routine.

If you are a veteran who served in the U.S. military and would like the entire November 1, 1968, audio recording of Operation Entertainment, drop us an email (see sidebar on right), and we'll send it to you for free on CD. That is our special thanks to you.

Freedom is not free! Thank you for your service!

Operation Entertainment - November 1, 1968
Eglin Air Force Base, Fort Walton Beach, Florida
ABC-TV / Bob Crane, Host

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Melancholy Serenade - Theme to 'The Jackie Gleason Show'

Few can compare to legendary actor, comedian, and musician Jackie Gleason, whose extraordinary talents span from the 1940s through the time of his death on June 24, 1987. Born Herbert Walton Gleason, Jr., on February 26, 1916, in Brooklyn, NY, he was baptized as John Herbert Gleason. He started using the name Jackie C. Gleason at the age of 24 in the 1941 Warner Brothers film, Navy Blues

Although perhaps most widely known for his role as Ralph Kramden on The Honeymooners, Gleason was also an acclaimed musician and composer. even though he could not read or write music. He would "hear" a melody in his head and describe the tune to another musician, who would then write the music for him. Among Gleason's arrangements are the theme to The Jackie Gleason Show ("Melancholy Serenade") and The Honeymooners ("You're My Greatest Love").

Bob Crane performed and recorded his own arrangement of "Melancholy Serenade" on his album, Bob Crane, His Drums, & Orchestra Play the Funny Side of TV. Crane's impersonation of The Great One can also be heard throughout the number.

And away we go!

"Melancholy Serenade" - Theme to The Jackie Gleason Show (Bob Crane on Drums)
Bob Crane, His Drums, & Orchestra Play the Funny Side of TV
Epic Records - 1966

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bob Crane's Hometown: Stamford, Connecticut - Circa 1946

These photos are a series of screen shots from the 1947 film noir, Boomerang, starring Dana Andrews, Lee J. Cobb, and Jane Wyatt. Filmed on location in Stamford, Connecticut, the movie opens with a fantastic panoramic, 360-degree view of downtown Stamford.

This is how Stamford looked during the 1940s and how Bob Crane would have remembered his hometown. It was a bustling town and full of activity, where everyone knew everybody else. Stamford is where Bob grew up, attended school, graduated from high school, played in jazz bands, served in the National Guard, married his first wife (Anne), and spent the majority of his youth and young adult years.

You can learn more about Stamford's rich history by visiting the Stamford Historical Society's Web site. And if you have not watched Boomerang, it is highly recommended that you do! 

Old Town Hall on the corner of Atlantic and Main Streets, The church
spire for St. John's Roman Catholic Church is visible to the left.
Bob Crane's father worked in C.O. Miller's Department Store,
once located directly behind Old Town Hall on Bank Street.
Stamford, Connecticut, circa 1946.

Atlantic Street facing north and away from Old Town Hall.
Stamford, Connecticut, circa 1946.

Main Street facing east and directly across from Old Town Hall.
Park Row is to the left. This section of Main Street and Park Row no
longer exists. It is now the site of the Stamford Town Center
Stamford, Connecticut, circa 1946.

Main Street facing east and across from Old Town Hall.
Finlay Straus Jewelers, where Bob Crane worked from 1946 to 1950
as a watch repairman and salesman, had been located on the right side
of Main Street, about where you see the telephone pole. This section of Main
Street no longer exists. Today, it is the site of the entrance ramp to the
Stamford Town Center.
Stamford, Connecticut, circa 1946.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

'Arsenic and Old Lace' - ABC, 1969 / With Bob Crane, Helen Hayes, Lillian Gish, and Fred Gwynne

By Carol Ford

Promotion of Arsenic and Old Lace,
The Hollywood Reporter,

Wed., April 2, 1969.
The classic comedy-drama, Arsenic and Old Lace, originally written for the stage by Joseph Kesselring, depicts a day in the life of television critic Mortimer Brewster, who has just become engaged to Elaine Harper. Eager to share this happy news with his somewhat off-beat (and unbeknownst to him, occasionally murderous) family, he introduces Elaine to them.

Trouble begins for poor Mortimer from almost the moment he steps into the old, Victorian-style, eerie but outwardly cheery New England house, where his two spinster aunts reside with his psychologically challenged uncle. Before everything is all said and done, Mortimer discovers his aunts' macabre secret, attempts to cover it up, and is held hostage and almost killed by his brother, all while trying to justify his unfortunate relationship to these wildly eccentric and often dangerous people. If Mortimer has any advice for the world, it's don't look in the window seat and don't drink the Elderberry wine.

Bob Crane with Fred Gwynne, Lillian Gish, and
Helen Hayes in the 1969 ABC movie,
Arsenic and Old Lace.
Originally starring Cary Grant and Priscilla Lane, the 1944 movie adaptation directed by Frank Capra was a smash hit with audiences, even though Cary Grant confessed to hating the movie and regretted making it. More than two decades later, ABC remade the film for a 1969 Movie of the Week. This latter version, directed by Robert Scheerer, stars Bob Crane in the leading role of Mortimer Brewster, the increasingly confused nephew of the sweet but murderous Aunt Abby and Aunt Martha, played by Hollywood screen legends Helen Hayes and Lillian Gish. Sue Lyon costars as Mortimer's pretty fiance, and Fred Gwynne (of The Munsters fame) was appropriately cast as the criminal brother, Jonathan Brewster, who enjoys dabbling in the art of human butchery. Jack Gilford portrays Jonathan's sidekick, Dr. Jonas Salk (renamed in this adaptation), and David Wayne appears as Uncle Teddy, who believes he is Teddy Roosevelt.

Unlike the 1944 major motion picture with Grant, the 1969 version was performed as a theatre production and filmed almost entirely onstage. There are two main sets in the 1969 remake: the grand living room and the kitchen, with only a handful of scenes filmed outside and off-stage. Following the production, there is a curtain call by the cast, and the camera pans the applauding audience as the actors take their bow as they would after any theatre performance.

Bob Crane with Sue Lyon.
Arsenic and Old Lace, 1969.

The 1969 film was met with mixed and sometimes poor reviews. It seemed impossible to review this version without comparing it to the 1944 classic or screen giant Cary Grant. Modern critics further claim it bears too much of an ominous foreshadowing to Crane's own 1978 murder to be enjoyed.

Having recently watched the 1969 film, now more than forty years after its debut, I agree that some of that criticism is warranted. For example, the opening scene in a flashy dance club seems completely out of place with the rest of the film, and it's even difficult to hear Crane and Lyon exchanging their lines. The film editing is also not the best, and it bears all the choppiness one might expect of a late-1960s, low-tech production. Finally, it is difficult not to think of Bob Crane's gruesome murder when Mortimer nearly faces the same fate.

However, I also find the general dislike of the film by critics to be a bit harsh. When you look past these surface flaws and sad irony, and study the performance itself, what you see is a hidden gem. This 1969 film is not a late-night, made-for-TV flop; it is archived footage of these actors performing live, on stage, in front of a theatre audience - as they would have performed had they been on stage in any theatre production. And that, my friends, is almost impossible to come by. 

Bob Crane, Helen Hayes, and Lillian Gish rehearse
a scene for Arsenic and Old Lace.
Bob Crane starred in many theatre productions since the 1950s, including Cactus Flower, Send Me No Flowers, 6 Rms Riv Vu, Tunnel of Love, and Beginner's Luck, and he earned high critical praise for his performances. He had his sights set on Broadway, and at the start of his first summer theatre tour (Cactus Flower) in 1969, Crane admitted, "I'm hopeful it will serve as a springboard on Broadway." Watching Crane in this performance of Arsenic and Old Lace provides us with a glimpse of his stage talents, which he continued to hone until his death.

Upon learning he had won the part in Arsenic and Old Lace, Bob was overjoyed and humbled at the prospect of working with Helen Hayes and Lillian Gish. In a TV Guide article, he noted, "If someone had said to me, before it happened, would you like to work with Helen Hayes and Lillian Gish, I'd have said they were joking!" Bob also took the advice of Hayes, who had encouraged him to expand his acting style by appearing in more movies and stage plays during his summer hiatus from Hogan's Heroes. Hayes, who thought very highly of Bob, stated in the same TV Guide article, "I watch Hogan's Heroes regularly. This young man, Bob Crane, is a wonderful farceur, and there are almost none of them around anymore. He's habit-forming."

As for the 1969 ABC adaptation of Arsenic and Old Lace, it is extremely difficult to find. Hopefully, ABC will one day release the film on DVD. This film is a rare treat, and one that I encourage you to discover.

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Efron, E. (1968, August 3). Think John Wayne. TV Guide, pp. 25-27.
Pullen, G.C. (1969, June 8). Hogan's hero has eye on future. Plain Dealer.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bob Crane - Drums Along the Radio Studios

Bob Crane playing drums in his dressing room on
the set of Hogan's Heroes. Wherever Crane went,
his drums went with him.

If you were living in Southern California between the years 1956 and 1965, you most likely tuned into The Bob Crane Show over KNX during the morning drive-time hours. More often than not, Crane would play drums along with various records, and the louder and faster the song, the better! Academy Award-winning producer and acclaimed public speaker "Toastmaster General" George Jessel once said to Bob during a KNX interview, "I'm fascinated by what you're doing - just what it is that you're doing, I don't know. But I've never seen so much action in my life. Drums, and he's got all sorts of things over his ears, and concoctions. He looks like...I'm trying to think of what he looks like." Musician Pat Boone, also in the studio that day, added, "He looks like an astronaut" (regarding Crane's headset), after which Jessel joked, "Either that, or a Jew who has gone mad!" (To listen to this interview, click here.)

KNX staff who worked with Crane have equated watching his show to watching a spectator sport. He was non-stop, grabbing for a record, playing a tune, drumming along with that tune, going right into a commercial and from there into a skit, then back to the commercial again. Further, he could locate a specific track within any given album with split-second accuracy, just in time to insert that 3-second cough or voice or other gimmick before moving on to the next thing. This was before cassette tapes and long before digital media. He had to know and locate each track precisely - which he did.

It was not unusual for Bob to have a set of drums with him in the KNX studios. He had worked his drumming into his radio programs on the East Coast, and later, as an actor, he would keep a drum set in his dressing rooms. For the nine years he spent at KNX, however, his drumming was a show staple.

In this clip, Bob drums along with a classic tune from My Fair Lady, "Get Me to Church on Time," performed by Van Alexander and the Band. Crane's drumming comes through loud and clear, and this is a terrific example of his ability to incorporate his musicianship into his radio program. Unfortunately, there are a few seconds of "dead air" toward the end, but it comes back fairly quickly. Enjoy!

"Get Me to Church on Time" from My Fair Lady
Van Alexander and the Band (Bob Crane on Drums)
The Bob Crane Show / KNX-CBS Radio
March 9, 1962

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Commercial Break! Columbia Records - March 1957

It isn't unusual for a DJ or radio personality to read a commercial from a sponsor, whether live or recorded. For Bob Crane, however, commercials were just another avenue to include gimmicks, sound effects, or voices. In the clip presented here (scroll to bottom of post), Crane promotes a new offer from Columbia Records, only to have his sidekick, "Charlie," objecting to the type of music Columbia is trying to sell. 

Why would a company even bother buying air time when it knew the product or service was fair game for a hearty roasting?

The beauty of Crane's style of humor is that it got people to listen. How many times do you change the radio station when a commercial comes on? Or in broader terms, fast forward through your DVR to skip the commercials? Probably quite frequently. These days, perhaps the only time we choose to watch commercials is during the SuperBowl. Why? Because they are clever, different, and often funny.

On Bob Crane's radio show, listeners stayed put to hear the commercials on a regular basis. They wanted to hear the advertisements because they never knew what Crane might do next. He made people laugh, and for that, advertisers rarely backed out, but instead, paid top dollar to be on Crane's show. It doesn't matter what time or place or medium. If you can get people to want to watch or listen to commercials, that's genius. And that is the word so many of Bob Crane's radio colleagues have used to describe him.

Columbia Records Buy of Broadway Commercial
The Bob Crane Show / KNX-CBS Radio
March 27, 1957

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Commercial Break! The 1964 Rambler Convertible

The Rambler, manufactured mostly during the 1950s and 1960s by American Motors Corporation (AMC), was one of the most popular vehicles of its time. In 1963, the full Rambler line received the Motor Trend Care of the Year award. It ceased production in 1969, and in 1987, AMC was purchased by Chrysler. It became the Jeep-Eagle arm of the Chrysler Corporation, which continued to manufacture the Jeep Cherokee line started by AMC.

This radio spot features the 1964 Rambler convertible as it was promoted over The Bob Crane Show in May 1964.

1964 Rambler Convertible Car Commercial
The Bob Crane Show / KNX-CBS Radio
May 1964

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bob Crane / Keenan Wynn KNX Interview - 1964

Keenan Wynn (third from left), in a scene with
Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in
the 1965 classic film, The Great Race.
Keenan Wynn, born Francis Xavier Aloysius James Jeremiah Keenan Wynn on July 27, 1916, in New York City, was a fine theatre and character actor of the 1940s through the mid-1980s, having appeared in numerous films and stage productions throughout his career. Son of vaudevillian and later character actor Ed Wynn, he appeared in countless films, including Dr. Strangelove; Annie Get Your Gun; The Absent-Minded Professor; Herbie Rides Again; Kiss Me, Kate; Finian's Rainbow; Once Upon a Time in the West; and The Great Race; among others. His television appearances include The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford; The Troubleshooters; Dallas; Call to Glory; and many more. He also provided his voice talents to Rankin-Bass and brought the Winter Warlock to life in Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. Keenan Wynn passed away on October 14, 1986, from pancreatic cancer.

As a guest on The Bob Crane Show over KNX in the spring of 1964, Keenan Wynn talked with Bob about his father. In this segment of the interview, he explains how the elder Wynn seemed to have a penchant for ignoring what would have been some profitable investments!

Bob Crane / Keenan Wynn Interview Segment
The Bob Crane Show / KNX-CBS Radio
Spring 1964

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Stamford High School Class of 1946: The Spirit of '46

This past weekend, it was my honor and privilege to attend Stamford High School's 65th class reunion in Stamford, Connecticut, as a special guest. On Sunday, October 2, 2011, fifty-seven of Bob Crane's high school friends and classmates from the Class of 1946, along with their guests, gathered at the Italian Center in Stamford to catch up, have fun, and reminisce. 

The Stamford High School Class of '46 had been large, with 537 seniors graduating on June 5, 1946 - Bob Crane being one of them (despite sources that allegedly claim he "dropped out of high school"). A strong-spirited, close-knit, and determined group, they grew up during the Great Depression and went through their high school years during the entire span of World War II. These members of "The Greatest Generation" were the first class from Stamford to graduate after the official end of the war. Now all in their early 80s, their numbers have dwindled and their bodies have aged, but their collective spirit still shines bright.

Their memories of Bob are fond, some reaching back to elementary school days in the 1930s, when they were about five years old. Walking to school, singing songs, playing baseball or football, and oh! Those drums! Wherever Bob went, the drumsticks went with him.

Bob Crane's High School
Graduation Portrait.
Courtesy of Stamford
High School.
In junior high school, Bob and some of the neighborhood kids formed a jazz band. By the time they got into high school, the band was going strong, and it was a staple at all school assemblies. The band, which was named the Catino Band and later, in Bob's senior year, the Crane-Catino Band, would also play for functions and gigs throughout Stamford, Greenich, Norwalk, Darien, and other surrounding Connecticut communities.

Bob's school friends remember him as a happy, good-natured kid; a bit reserved yet always ready with a quip to make them laugh; a caring individual with a sensitive side who would worry if he hurt someone's feelings; extremely talented, especially in music; and someone with a "sunny personality" who they enjoyed being around and who they knew would achieve his goals. When he became a terrific success in radio and later "made it big" on Hogan's Heroes, they celebrated hugely.

In June 1976, Bob flew back east to his home town of Stamford, where he attended his 30th class reunion. Happy, eager, and full of energy, Bob had enjoyed every second of his time with his school friends. He beamed with school-boy giddiness as he circulated among his peers; they, in turn, adored their "drummer boy" and were overflowing with pride at all his accomplishments.

Bob Crane performing in the jazz band during
a Stamford High School class assembly in 1945.
Courtesy of Stamford High School.
It was the last time Bob and most of his school friends would see each other, for just two years later, he would be found murdered. His classmates had been stunned and greatly saddened when they learned of their friend's death. It was unfathomable to them that their happy-go-lucky friend and classmate who had always been so full full of life would have been the victim of such a horrifying crime or been caught up in something that most likely led to his untimely death. Realizing Bob had been seeking professional help at the time of his murder, they only wish he had done so sooner, which may have prevented the tragedy from occurring. Despite scandalous media hype in print and on screen, to this day, numerous members of the Class of '46 remain proud of their drummer boy and do not hesitate to stand up for him. They want people to know: "Bob Crane was a good guy."

Having gotten to know so many of Bob's school friends over the years, it was certainly a wonderful personal experience for me to see them as a group - as the Stamford High School Class of 1946. I am most grateful to the two class members - Charlie Zito and Jane Golden - who extended the invitation to me and asked if I would attend as their special guest. All of these elder yet beautiful souls have wrapped themselves around my heart while granting me the rare opportunity to time travel to a point in history when they knew Bob Crane as a fellow classmate, when they were all young and full of hopes and dreams, and when their adult lives were just about to begin.

Above: The Stamford High School 1946 Graduation Program. 
Bob Crane's name appears as a graduate in the right column.
On file at the Stamford Historical Society, Stamford, CT.
Click once on each image and then again in the new window 
for a higher resolution version for easier reading.

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This post is dedicated to Charlie Zito.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The 1976 Chrysanthemum Festival, Bristol, CT / Bob Crane - Grand Marshal

Bob Crane made countless public appearances during the height of his radio and acting careers. From grand store openings to charity events to military functions to awards ceremonies to parades, Bob was regularly called upon to take part in such occasions, and he routinely accepted the invitations.

Bob Crane, right, prepares to
address the audience during a
1970s speaking engagement.
On Sunday, September 19, 1976, the 15th Annual Chrysanthemum Festival took place in Bristol, Connecticut. The festival, launched in 1962 as the Fall Festival and now affectionately known as the "Mum Fest," highlights Bristol's achievements and proud accomplishments. Crane, having worked at WBIS radio in Bristol in 1951, was grand marshal of the 1976 Mum Festival Parade and took part in the opening ceremonies.

The previous day, the city of Bristol held a reception in his honor, during which the native Connecticut radio personality recalled his time at WBIS. "I worked right about where I'm standing now," Crane said. "WBIS radio was on the second floor, and a department store, Kresge's, was below, and I ate at Kresge's lunch counter" ('Hogan's Heroes' star recalls job in Bristol, 1976).

Bob also spoke of his humble and meager beginnings, having lived in a boarding house during his early days in Connecticut radio and needing to keep perishable food items on the windowsill in the wintertime because he had no refrigerator. "My biggest problem was if the sun came out because in a day, I'd have sour milk. I used to play a couple of records, then run up the hill to check on my milk."

It has been a common belief that Bob Crane was a lot like his character, Colonel Hogan, on Hogan's Heroes. During the Mum Festival reception held in his honor, Bob stated he was "a lot like the Hogan that is fun-loving, but I'm nothing like the Hogan that's a hero. I faint at the sight of a hangnail."

As part of his role as grand marshal, Crane was presented with "a key to the city, three giant yellow mums from Mayor Henry J. Wojtusik, a clock from the Mum Fest Committee, and a hard time from a garland of mums he cut through to open the 15th annual festival" (30,000 watch Mum Parade, 1976). Since Bob had such difficulty cutting through the garland, 1976 Parade Master of Ceremonies Val McCormack joked, "You'd never escape from that prison" (Flaum, 1976).

The 50th Anniversary of the Mum Festival was held on Sunday, September 25, 2011, in Bristol. Bill Schwab, who was the chairman of the 1976 festival, served as one of the 2011 parade's marshals and happily recalled meeting Crane, describing him as "charming" and "delightful" (Majerus, 2011).

Mum Fest Parade goers in 1976 would agree. Smiling broadly, Bob Crane received enthusiastic applause as he led the parade through his one-time home streets of Bristol, Connecticut.

To learn more about the Annual Chrysanthemum Festival in Bristol, CT, click here.

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30,000 watch Mum Parade. (1976, September 20). The Hartford Courant, p. 16.
Flaum, D. (1976). Actor leads parade. The Hartford Courant, p. 17A.
'Hogan's Heroes' star recalls job in Bristol. (1976, September 20). The Hartford Courant. p. 17A.
Majerus, J. (2011). All aboard for fun: Mum Fest riding in style. The Bristol Press. Retrieved from

Articles from The Hartford Courant are courtesy of Bill Dillane.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Theme from 'The Green Hornet'

Comic book characters are the hottest new trend these days, and The Green Hornet is no exception. This legendary character, created by George W. Trendle, Fran Striker, and James Jewell, made his radio debut in the 1930s, and has since been seen on TV and on the big screen. The latest film adaptation opened in January 2011 and starred Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, and Christoph Waltz.

From 1966 to 1967, The Green Hornet television series was revived, and its theme song made the cut onto the album Bob Crane, His Drums, & Orchestra Play the Funny Side of TV. Crane thoroughly enjoyed making the album because he was able to showcase his drumming skills, and musical and creative talents. According to music producer Stu Phillips, "At the recording sessions, Bob was always 'on.' Jokes flew thick, fast, and funny. The most talented studio musicians were his audience, and Bob had them enjoying every session." (Album Liner Notes)

Theme from The Green Hornet (Bob Crane on Drums)
Bob Crane, His Drums, & Orchestra Play the Funny Side of TV
Epic Records - 1966

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Bob Crane Show: "...The Wildest, Funniest Morning Program in Radio"

This promotional flyer distributed by KNX in the 1960s highlights the station's leading personalities and newsmen. Here, The Bob Crane Show is hailed as the "wildest, funniest morning program in radio," with Crane being the only radio personality hosting live, unrehearsed celebrity interviews daily.

(Click once on each image below and then again in the new window to view in a larger format for easier reading.)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Commercial Break! American Dairy Council for Milk / 1964

Right from the earliest days of his career in radio, Bob Crane experimented with sound effects and gimmicks, and using them in commercials. One of his first gimmicks ever in 1950 was the sound of Elsie the cow being milked right in the WLEA studios. According to Bob himself during a 1961 presentation to LA College: 

Bob Crane, circa 1965
Originally, I started out with the simplest gimmick...I was using a little salt shaker that I filled with water. And we had Borden’s as a sponsor. This was up in Hornell, New York. And I would take a glass and the salt shaker. And I’d say, “Borden’s guarantees fresh milk... Go ahead. Go ahead, now, Bessie.” Or no, I think it was Elsie the cow. And I would use the salt shaker as a sound effect with the water coming out going into the glass. And I’d make believe I was milking the cow. And how fresh can the milk be?! ...This is how I got into the gimmicks thing. Then finally I decided if I could do it with sound effects, why not voices. Then I started adding voices.

Eventually, Crane would invent and perform more than 1,000 different voices during his radio routine by the time he left KNX in 1965.

Here is a clip of a milk commercial that aired over KNX in 1964. Too bad Elsie the cow doesn't make an appearance here! But it's still a fun, nostalgic listen. (If only some of those very early recordings from New York and Connecticut still existed...)

American Dairy Council - Milk Commercial
Bob Crane Show / KNX-CBS Radio

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Hollywood Legend Is Born: 'The Bob Crane Show' Debuts Over KNX-CBS Radio - September 3, 1956

Bob Crane KNX Portrait / Gabi Rona,
Photographer. Original autographed photo
from the personal collection of Carol Ford.
On September 3, 1956, Bob Crane launched his radio show over KNX-CBS Radio in Los Angeles. Within a very short period of time, he took the West Coast by storm, quickly earning himself one of Southern California's top radio seats, rivaled only by Dick Whittinghill at KMPC. Over the course of the next nine years, Crane and Whittinghill would combat each other over the airwaves, and while Whittinghill often edged Crane out in the market share by mere fragments, it was Crane who became immortalized in radio history as "King of the LA Airwaves."

By 1957, Bob Crane had become a household name and an advertiser's dream (or nightmare!). Gimicks, drums, 1,000 voices, and more than 3,000 individuals, most of them celebrities, had become staples on Crane's show in the early morning Pacific Coast hours. Listeners came to expect one thing from their frenetic morning man: the unexpected. 

Early KNX ad promoting 'The Bob Crane Show.'
September 1956

Journalist and news reporter Leo McElroy worked with Bob at KNX as the station's booth announcer from 1960 to 1963. He recalled how Crane had been discovered by CBS and lured from the East Coast in 1956: "CBS put the word out by asking their CBS radio stations across the country, 'Who do you have that’s causing you trouble in your market?' And WEEI in Boston had the biggest horror story. They had this guy in Bridgeport, CT, who was just killing them. So CBS solved two problems at once. They solved WEEI’s ratings problem, and at the same time, they found KNX a morning guy, and he shows up out of Bridgeport, CT, and just takes over."

And take over the West Coast, Bob did. Friend and Variety Magazine Editor Harvey Geller remembered: "The number-one guy was Dick Whittinghill at KMPC, who had the biggest audience. But Crane had the people inside the industry - the movie industry and the record industry - so he had, I think, a better audience."

Crane also had the sponsors. Through his innovative routine of integrating various gimmicks, voices, drumming, and gags into the commercials, companies that had purchased 15 or 30-second ad spots usually ended up with a minute or more of airtime as Crane knocked around their product or service.

Yet, Bob was careful, and he was conscious not to go too far with his gags. In a 1961 presentation to LA College, Bob urged the next generation of radio personalities: "If you’re ever in doubt, if you think something is a little bit off-color, you’re debating it. If you have to debate it, then don’t do it. If you reach that point where you’re thinking, should I say that? Then don’t say it. 'Cuz you’re gonna offend somebody. If you gotta think about it, then they’re gonna think about it. They’re gonna hear it at home and say, 'Ehhhh?'

KNX-CBS Radio / Columbia Square
Los Angeles, CA / circa 1960
In Leo McElroy's recently published memoir, he recalls his friendship with Bob as well as working along side of him. He states: "Being on duty during Crane's show was immensely entertaining. He played records, but interspersed with them were comedy voice tracks and his frequent drum solos. He didn't hesitate to interrupt commercials, and sometimes, a 30-second ad might take three or four minutes to finish." In a separate conversation, McElroy added: "So much of Bob’s show seemed to spring from his brain instantaneously. I think that for many of us, it was hard to tell what was pre-thought and what was something that just suddenly cropped up. He managed to make it appear that it was spontaneous even if it wasn’t."

In 1963, McElroy was let go from KNX as part of a reduction in staff. However, he soon began receiving phone calls from other stations looking to hire him. Leo later discovered that Bob had contacted those stations, stating, "You want the guy who can beat me in the ratings? Leo is the guy!" When Leo tried to thank Bob, Bob wouldn't hear of it. "In my dictionary," Leo states, "when you look up the word 'friend,' it's still got Bob Crane's picture on it."

Bob Crane KNX Postcard / circa 1960

Despite the catchy title, "King of the LA Airwaves," Bob Crane's work in radio has been severely under-recognized over the years. Speaking of Crane's push to change radio in ways that had previously been unimaginable, such as spinning his own records, McElroy states, "Bob did things in radio that opened up a lot of doors and a lot of possibilities for other people. Some of the result has been good and some of it has been God awful. But nonetheless, he unwrapped the box and opened it up."

Further, those who knew Bob Crane well - those who worked with him and called him friend - will attest that his memory has been treated unfairly since his death. "Bob was kind," Leo remembers. "He was kind to those he worked with. He was kind to those he knew. He was a guy who quite obviously cared to make their lives a little easier, a little nicer without intruding himself on them. I really honor him for that. This was a friend who wanted nothing in return, and had he the opportunity to do something nice, he would do it. He did it for me, he did it for others, and he did it because he was a kind man."


Of the many celebrities interviewed by Bob Crane, Richard Chamberlain was a favorite guest. Here, in this early 1960s radio clip, Chamberlain helps Bob try to give away a $500 stereo system to a contest winner. Their efforts go awry when the winner has a rather difficult time comprehending the situation! 

Bob Crane / Richard Chamberlain / Contest Winner
Bob Crane Show / KNX-CBS Radio

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Leo McElroy's book, ...But You Can't Report That!, was published on May 10, 2011. Leo currently works as a consultant in Los Angeles and stays active with community theatre, most recently directing the successful production of Dinners with Augie at the Geery Theatre in Sacramento, CA.

Harvey Geller passed away on March 12, 2009, following a brief illness. He was 86. In 2002, he voiced his opinion about Auto Focus in a Letter to the Editor to the LA Times, claiming the way the film presented Bob Crane was severely "out of focus." To read the letter, click here.

For a partial listing of celebrities interviewed by Bob Crane, click here.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Commercial Break! Ralphs Grocery Store / Los Angeles 1964

For those of you on the West Coast, you'll enjoy this vintage radio spot for Ralphs Grocery Store, as read by Bob Crane over KNX in 1964. What's mostly interesting are the prices! Listen as Crane speed-reads through this ad, and you'll long for the days when nickels and dimes actually bought you something.

Ralphs Grocery Store Commercial
The Bob Crane Show / KNX-CBS Radio
May 1964

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bob Crane and United Cerebral Palsy

Bob Crane with his wife Patty; their son, Scott:
and Eliot Dober, Connecticut State
Director for United Cerebral Palsy.
United Cerebral Palsy Telethon - 1976
Photo courtesy of Eliot Dober.
Bob Crane spent a great deal of his personal time volunteering for various charities, and not the least of which was for United Cerebral Palsy. He had close ties to the organization; a dear friend, Eliot Dober, from Bridgeport, CT, who Bob had met while working at WLIZ/WICC in the 1950s, suffered from cerebral palsy. 

Eliot and his family had owned a portion of WLIZ radio when Bob began working at the station in April 1951. (On November 17, 1951, WLIZ purchased WICC, and Bob's morning show then moved over to WICC.) At that time, Eliot was 15 years of age, and according to Eliot, "I was in and out then, hanging around. And was a real pest!" Eliot remembered Bob being very patient with him during that time, and even gave Eliot the opportunity to go on the air with him. They remained friends after Bob left Bridgeport and moved to Los Angeles in 1956, and Eliot took several trips out to the West Coast to visit him.

Throughout his life, Eliot was a strong advocate for individuals with disabilities. In 1977, he was appointed by the governor of Connecticut to the position of Executive Director of the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities for the State of Connecticut, and he served in this role until 1994. Further, he also acted as the Connecticut State Director for United Cerebral Palsy.

As State Director for United Cerebral Palsy, Eliot asked Bob if he could host the local Connecticut edition of the United Cerebral Palsy Telethon, and Bob always agreed. Generally, a celebrity would be paid handsomely to host a telethon nationally - around $20,000 in the 1970s. Bob turned down the national offers (and the big bucks), and instead, flew back east to Connecticut to do the local edition, accepting only $2,000. Bob hosted the United Cerebral Palsy telethons locally in Connecticut for three years: 1976 through 1978.

Eliot passed away on July 30, 2010, at 74 years of age. Before his passing, he remembered Bob this way: "I will be honest with you, he got along with everybody very well. And everybody liked Bob. I want people to remember the good things about Bob. He gave of himself, and he was a good person. A positive person. He wasn’t a bad guy - Bob was just Bob. And nobody is all good or all bad."

Friday, September 2, 2011

Who's Who in Radio - WICC and Bob Crane, 1953, Bridgeport, CT

In March 1953, the annual publication Who's Who in TV & Radio ran a short biography about Bob Crane, announcing the young, local celebrity as a growing sensation on the East Coast. By this time, Crane, who was then just 24, had already established himself as a prominent radio personality at WICC in Bridgeport, CT, and was climbing the career ladder as quickly as he was climbing the audience share ratings. His brief biosketch reproduced from the magazine (shown here) offers an overview of Bob's successes in radio and music, both of which had been dreams of his since childhood. In 1953, after just two short years, Bob was already a radio star in his own backyard...and advancing rapidly.

From Who's Who in TV & Radio
"In Your Own Backyard"

"Here are America's home town favorites, 36 stars who shine on Main Street, USA. Disc jockeys, newsmen, musicians, and comics, their names are magic to a vast host of admirers."
Bob Crane, Who's Who in TV & Radio, 1953, p. 92.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Commercial Break / Delmonte Tomato Sauce / 1964

It's quite possible there is not one canned good left on the shelves of stores here on the East Coast today as we hunker down and brave Hurricane Irene. Hope you have all stocked your shelves with batteries and non-perishable food items, especially Delmonte Tomato Sauce. And of course, straws.

Stay safe everyone! 

Delmonte Tomato Sauce Commercial
The Bob Crane Show / KNX-CBS Radio

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bob Crane in the News: 'Man in Pursuit of Himself' (TV GUIDE - February 27, 1965)

Because of his extensive work in radio and television, Bob Crane was often featured in trade magazines and newspapers. This article, which ran in the February 27, 1965, issue of TV Guide, explains Bob's successful career in radio, his desire to act, his role of Dr. Dave Kelsey on The Donna Reed Show, and his "frenetic" schedule of holding down two very high-profile and demanding jobs (he worked at KNX and The Donna Reed Show simultaneously) over the course of two years. 

Overall, this article is fairly accurate, with a few exceptions, one being the reason why Bob Crane left The Donna Reed Show. Whatever the rumors, the simple fact is that Bob left The Donna Reed Show merely because he was offered the role of Colonel Hogan on Hogan's Heroes. Further, Bob was not as under-educated as the writer of this article states, and whether Bob was insecure about himself or not, he was, without question, very intelligent.

Bob loved his work in both radio and acting. He worked hard at everything he did, and he was a perfectionist. Well-skilled in the art of self-depreciating humor, Bob also often ridiculed himself first before anyone else. He did this so well, in fact, that his "jokes" occasionally became "fact." For instance, Bob's high school classmates recall that he used to kid around, saying he never graduated from high school. Somewhere along the way, the statement that Bob dropped out of high school became a matter of record even though he actually graduated in 1946 and later took a course in radio station operation at Bridgeport University in 1949. This is just one of countless examples of how Bob's life history has been badly distorted in recent years. 

At the end of this article, Bob shares his feelings regarding what other people thought of his work in radio and the entertainment business. He says, "People say to me, 'Aw, you're just naturally funny. You don't have to work at it.' I don't care if that's what they think. But man, I do work at it. I work hard."

We couldn't agree more.

(Click once on each image below and then again in the new window to view in a larger format for easier reading.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bob Crane - Master of the Remix / Paula Prentiss KNX Guest

On December 11, 1964, Paula Prentiss was a celebrity guest on The Bob Crane Show over KNX in Los Angeles. By that time, Ms. Prentiss had established herself as a successful comedic actress, starring in such films as Where the Boys Are, Bachelor in Paradise, and The Horizontal Lieutenant. In 1965, she starred in What's New Pussycat.

During Paula's interview, Bob played the theme song to The Horizontal Lieutenant...and as you know by now, he doesn't just simply play the record. Take a listen, as Bob chitchats the whole way through and then adds his own soundtrack to the film's score.

Bob Crane / Paula Prentiss Guest
"The Horizontal Lieutenant" Theme Song (and Remix)
Bob Crane Show / KNX-CBS Radio
December 11, 1964