Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 Hurt, but Don't Fear the Reaper

It goes without saying that 2016 has been, when it comes to losses of prominent individuals, perhaps one of the worst years on record. From David Bowie to Debbie Reynolds, and everyone in between, I can't think of one person who hasn't been affected by the punches 2016 has pulled.

Loss hurts, and grief is perhaps the most personal of all human emotions. Nobody can tell you how to grieve, how long to grieve, or who you should grieve for. If someone touched your life, no matter how close or how far, when that person dies, you feel it. A little piece of you goes with them, your life is forever changed, and by default, that year becomes marred.

Like all of us, Bob Crane experienced loss throughout his life. During the 1940s, he watched family members and friends march off to war, some never to return. One of his most profound losses occurred in February 1976, when his father died suddenly. He was devastated, and 1976 became one of his worst years because of his father's death. Like all human beings, Bob experienced all human emotions, but one thing he was not was a depressed person. On the contrary, he was a positive person. He mourned his losses as anyone would, but he didn't let negativity weigh him down. He rose above it. 

Personally, 2016 was a pretty amazing year for me, to the point where I actually feel a little guilty given the tragedy and heartache this year will always represent to the world. Yes, I, too, had my own times of turmoil, but I also had phenomenal author events and book signings. I got to see (and touch!) Hogan's bomber jacket. I made some terrific new friends. My family and friends are healthy and doing well. But best of all and most unexpectedly, I met an extraordinary person—someone who helps me to roll with the punches, jump over the valleys, distinguish between reality and what's just an illusion, and when I get frightened in all this darkness, concentrate instead on the light. My life is better and brighter simply because he's in it.

As 2016 draws to a close, let's try not to focus on the negativity this year forced upon us. Rather, stay positive and concentrate on the good it provided as well. Continue to celebrate the lives of those we lost—the famous and the not-so famous alike, this year and in years past—and honor them by embracing their legacies. Life is short. Live it well!

Happy New Year, and wishing you all the best in 2017!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Tribute to Bernard Fox — Dr. Bombay, Colonel Crittendon, and So Much More

Bernard Fox with Bob Crane on Hogan's Heroes.
This photograph was in my collection for years before
I donated it to the Liberty Aviation Museum. It is now
part of their official Hogan's Heroes display.
In 1998, I was in the process of a major life transition. Recently divorced, I was picking up the pieces from a bad marriage and moving forward. As part of that process and as a diversion, I enjoyed watching Hogan's Heroes, my favorite television show since my childhood. 

During that time, I did something I rarely ever did: I wrote a fan letter. And the person I wrote to was Bernard Fox. I told him how much I enjoyed his work as Colonel Crittendon on Hogan's Heroes and asked for an autographed photo. Within a few weeks, he wrote back, his gorgeous calligraphy handwriting inscribed on the photo, as well as the envelope it was mailed in. At a time when I was at my lowest, he helped lift my spirits, and I'll never forget that.

I've always adored Bernard Fox in everything he did. From Bewitched to The Monkees to Hogan's Heroes, and countless other television shows, he made his characters shine. Seeing him in films such as The Mummy and Titanic was a joy. In fact, in one interview with Brenda Scott Royce (author of 'Hogan's Heroes': Behind the Scenes at Stalag 13!), he recalled his roles in both James Cameron's Titanic and the 1958 version of the maritime disaster, A Night to Remember.

"[In A Night to Remember]..., I was the fellow that saw the iceberg. And it has taken me forty years to work my way up from the crew to being a first-class passenger! ... [In Titanic, all] of the shooting was night shooting. Everything. We didn't even start on the ship until six, and we broke at midnight for lunch. And how James Cameron kept his humor, in the freezing cold at four o'clock in the morning, I don't know, but he did."

Bernard Fox, Larry Hovis, and Bob Crane in the
Hogan's Heroes episode, "The Crittendon Plan."
Fast forward ten years, and Dee, Linda, and I were in the process of researching Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography. We contacted Bernard Fox, who respectfully declined a full interview. However, he did correspond. He wished us well on our endeavor, stating that he enjoyed working with Bob very much. Unfortunately, he also told us that his days were spent primarily going to doctor appointments. Seeing photographs of him from recent Bewitched gatherings posted by co-stars and friends only reinforced the sad truth that he was nearing the end of a fantastic life journey.

While researching Bob's life, we learned a whole lot, and one big piece of his life story often overlooked is his work in the theatre. It is typically written off as not much more than something Bob had to do to pay the bills and not necessarily something he enjoyed doing. His play Beginner's Luck became known only as the play he was performing at the time of his murder in June 1978. But Beginner's Luck and all of Bob's stage work was much more than just making ends meet financially. Bob loved the stage and craved the audience's reactions to his comedy. Beginner's Luck received rave reviews in the press on a regular basis, and Bob even aspired to take the play to Broadway or turn it into a feature film.

Bob Crane with Bernard Fox starring in the
theatre production of Beginner's Luck.
Bernard Fox was an integral part of Beginner's Luck. He starred in the original performance along with Bob, earning both actors their permanent place in the Cast roster at the front of the playbook. Audiences loved seeing the pair perform, their onstage chemistry being just as magical as it was on Hogan's Heroes, a testament to their professionalism and friendship.

No matter what role he played, Bernard Fox always looked like he was having fun. He is probably best known for his role on Bewitched, but it was his role as Colonel Crittendon on Hogan's Heroes that he proclaimed to Brenda Scott Royce he enjoyed the most.

"Colonel Crittendon was a marvelous schmuck," he told Royce. "I think I enjoyed Colonel Crittendon more than Dr. Bombay. It was a wild character, and I totally reveled in messing up every attempt to escape. I really liked the outrageous behavior of Colonel Crittendon. And I may have got a little bit more comedy of my own in on Hogan's Heroes than I did on Bewitched. [Hogan's Heroes] was a lovely show and had nice people in it. Bob Crane, I miss very much."

Rest in peace Bernard Fox. You are already missed very much.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Holiday Contest 2016!

Another holiday season is upon us, and as we have done in previous years, we're going to give away some holiday presents! This year, we'll give away a hardcover edition of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography signed by all three authors, as well as a DVD set of the Hogan's Heroes season of your choice! Simply visit our Facebook page and look for the photo below. Then Like, Comment, or Share — easy enough! One lucky winner will be chosen at random on Monday, December 26. Good luck, and Happy Holidays from all of us!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Official Statement about the Re-Investigation of Bob Crane's Murder

Below is our official statement regarding Fox TV news anchor John Hook's new investigation into the murder of Bob Crane.

   "We—my coauthors and I, members of Bob Crane's family, his friends, and his colleagues—are always hopeful that one day, the true identity of Bob's murderer will be known and justice can be served. However, this recent investigation did not reveal any groundbreaking information or provide a resolution, and the subsequent media coverage did nothing more than bring unnecessary heartache to many who knew, loved, and cared about Bob. We do not discuss or endorse any speculative theories as to who may have committed the crime. We encourage those who want to know more about Bob Crane to discover his complete and true life story in Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography. All author profits are being donated to various charities in Bob's memory."
Carol Ford, author, Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Rod Serling's Night Gallery: 'House—With Ghost'

Night Gallery painting for
"House—With Ghost"
Nearly everyone I know likes a good ghost story (some more than others!). This is particularly true in the month of October as we build up to the scariest night of the year, Halloween. During this time, our fears of the unknown are heightened, and we're more acutely aware of things that might go bump in the night.

People are naturally intrigued about the Afterlife. What happens to us when we die? Do our souls live on in another dimension? Do some spirits hang around to either help or torment the living? Do ghosts really exist? We may not have the answers to such questions, but Hollywood certainly provides us with scores of chilling entertainment to feed our morbid curiosity.

Rod Serling successfully explored the supernatural and other elements of horror throughout his career, and his Night Gallery series (1969-1973) continues to send shivers down the spines of millions. Each painting on display in the Night Gallery has a tale of terror to share, and separately, these pieces of art correspond with their own segment in every episode. (Check out the paintings for yourself here.)

On November 17, 1971, Bob Crane guest-starred in the first segment of a Night Gallery episode: "House—With Ghost." In this segment, Bob played Ellis Travers, who is unhappily married to his wife Iris (Jo Anne Worley) and living in London. It just so happens that Iris has a peculiar hobby: conducting seances during dinner parties and playing with Ouija Boards in the hopes of making contact with restless spirits. This gives Ellis an idea. 

With the help of Mr. Chichester (Eric Christmas), a local historian and realtor of sorts, Ellis decides to find a house in the English countryside, and to please his wife, he wants one that is haunted. After describing to her what he considers the perfect house, Iris is convinced. They soon move out of their apartment and settle into their new home.

Ellis Travers (Bob Crane) comforts his wife, Iris (Jo Anne Worley),
after she is frightened by a menacing spirit.

But Ellis has more on his mind than just owning a haunted house. He's staging an elaborate plan, where Iris will eventually appear to become besieged by an unfriendly ghost, and after losing her mind and then her balance, will fall down the spiral staircase to her death. With Iris out of the way, Ellis will be free to move in with Sherry (Trisha Noble), a woman with whom he is having an affair. 

As Ellis hoped, they are not alone in their new house, and their ghost—Mr. Canby (Bernard Fox)—soon makes his presence known. And over time, his paranormal activities become increasingly more harrowing.

Ellis Travers (Bob Crane) feigns sadness after receiving bad news
from his wife's doctor (Alan Napier).

As part of his scheme, Ellis also talks to a doctor (Alan Napier) and asks him to examine Iris. But the doctor brings bad news: Iris has a rare medical condition and doesn't have long to live. Ellis, however, feels better than ever about his wife's impending demise. Now he doesn't need the unsettled spirit of Mr. Canby to do the dastardly deed for him; he can let nature take its course.

Mr. Canby has other ideas. He continues to torment Iris, eventually pushing her down the staircase to her death. Angry, Ellis confronts Mr. Canby, claiming he had changed his mind because she would have died of natural causes soon anyway. Mr. Canby is unaffected, and he presents Ellis with a bill for services rendered. For the rest of his life, Ellis must pay Mr. Canby's still-very-much-alive mistress a hefty sum to keep her happy—or else.

The ghost of Mr. Canby (Bernard Fox) presents Ellis Travers
(Bob Crane) a bill for services rendered.

I enjoy this episode for many reasons. First, I am one of those people who loves the Fall season, Halloween, and all the frightful festivities and entertainment that go along with it. And of course, that includes a good ghost story! Bob Crane also enjoyed Halloween, and each year, when his kids were little, he took them Trick or Treating around the neighborhood.

I also love that Bernard Fox costars with Bob in this episode. These two actors and friends worked alongside each other often. Fans of Hogan's Heroes know Bernard Fox as Royal Air Force Colonel Rodney Crittendon, one of the few who kept Hogan off balance. What a lot of people don't know, however, is that throughout the 1970s, Bernard Fox worked with Bob on stage in many productions of Beginner's Luck (they both starred in its initial 1970 run in Chicago), and the pair received rave reviews in the press for their theatre performances. Bernard Fox genuinely liked "old Bob," as he called him, and was greatly saddened by the news of Bob's death.

Bob Crane with Bernard Fox in
Beginner's Luck.

This episode of Night Gallery is also one of Bob's first performances following the cancellation of Hogan's Heroes, which ended after six seasons on April 4, 1971. Originally scheduled to go one more season, Hogan's Heroes fell victim to what became known as the Rural Purge—a sweep of series cancellations by networks to clear the way for television shows that dealt with modern issues rather than just provide light humor.

In my opinion, Bob played Ellis Travers, who is a despicable character, quite well. This episode of Night Gallery marks the start of Bob's decision to play characters that were out of his comfort zone (those that were not comedy roles). Bob often appeared as the villain when guest-starring on various series, including Police Woman, Ellery Queen, and Gibbsville, to name a few, and this was a far cry from the United States Army Air Force hero for which he was best known. But most could only view Bob as Hogan—and nothing else. Many years would pass before directors, critics, and the public would begin to see beyond his Colonel Hogan persona and accept Bob as a versatile actor. His role on The Love Boat in January 1978 may be his best dramatic performance. However, his murder a few months later cast an eerie shadow over his Love Boat performance, and as a result, he does not receive the proper credit he rightfully deserves.

It's worth taking a second look at Bob Crane's acting roles post-Hogan's Heroes and viewing his performances with an open mind, minus the stigma of June 29, 1978, and the media blitz that followed. Rod Serling's Night Gallery: "House—With Ghost" is a great place to start!

This post is part of the Terror TV Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association.
Click the image above for more fabulous entries in this blogathon.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Last Few Months in Review and Future Plans

It's true. Everyone needs a hiatus, including me. The past year has been a whirlwind for me in promoting Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, as well as hopping from one place to another for book signings and presentations. And I've loved every minute of it!

But between juggling all of that, plus working at a demanding full-time job and on other writing projects, as well as spending time with my family and having some sort of a personal life (ha! What's that?!), I needed to take a little step back. That shouldn't be confused with abandonment, however! I'm still here, always ready and willing to combat the negative and tell Bob's true, complete story.

Past Events
Carol Ford with awesome 2016 MANC vendor neighbors
and new friends Josh Kennedy (left) and Mark Redfield
(Poe Forevermore).
I was thrilled to once again participate as a vendor at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, held in Hunt Valley, Maryland, from September 15-17, 2016. Over those three days, I reconnected with some great folks I knew from last year's convention, met a few people I knew through social media, and made some terrific new friends! You can browse through a selection of photos from the convention by clicking here. While I didn't present this year, I had a blast talking with people one to one at my table in the vendor hall. I'm looking forward to being a regular participant at the convention!

A few days prior to the Nostalgia Convention, I gave a full presentation at my hometown library in Gloucester County, New Jersey. It was a great success, and I have grown to love talking before a crowd. This comes as somewhat of a surprise to me because in the past, public speaking would usually make me very nervous, and I'd get cold feet! 

Carol Ford with Mitchell Hadley, owner of
It's About TV: Adventures in Classic TV
and AmericanCulture
, at the
2016 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention.
A favorite story I like to tell is the time I met Arlene Martel, who played Tiger on Hogan's Heroes. Arlene, who was a major contributor to Bob's biography and a tremendous supporter of our work, invited me, along with two of my dear friends, as her special guests to the 2007 ICON Convention in Long Island, New York. We spent the day with her in the vendor hall and then went to her presentation. Just before her talk, Arlene pulled me aside and specifically instructed me to ask her one simple question: "What was it like working with Bob Crane on Hogan's Heroes?" 

Following her talk and a short film composed of her works, she took questions from the audience. Several people raised their hands. I shrunk down in my seat! She answered questions about her role as Spock's bride on Star Trek, among other questions. But I was frozen! Finally, as she was wrapping the session up, she asked if there were any more questions from the audience. She looked directly at me and said, "Anyone? ANYONE!" My friend kept nudging me to talk, but to no avail! I was not budging, and it was not going to happen. Arlene was a little miffed at me following her session, but she was so sweet and kind, she didn't dwell on it. Arlene passed away on August 12, 2014, and I often think of that moment at her session, smile, and say, "I've come a long way, haven't I, Arlene?"

What's in Store for the Future?
In addition to more author events, we've got something big starting to simmer on the front burner. At this time, I can't divulge any details, but I promise you, you're gonna love it. For now, I'll just say...stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

'Best Wishes, From Hogan'

Bob Crane takes time to sign autographs
at a parade c. 1967 (notice he is wearing
a drum and holding drumsticks).
Although it may seem glamorous, I imagine being a celebrity is not always easy. I only know the smallest, briefest extent of being in the public eye. Most fans of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography are beautiful souls who I appreciate and try my very best to answer, even when I'm stretched to the limit in my own life. I've also had a handful of people who crossed the line and ventured into the scary realm of cyber-stalking. But by and large, the majority of fans are good, honest, lovely people. Without them, celebrities (and authors!) would not achieve or sustain their success. 

Bob Crane didn't care much about money or cars, or about being "famous." But he certainly adored his fans, and he tried so very hard to make them happy. Whether he was sitting in a restaurant enjoying dinner, standing in line at the supermarket, or enjoying a day at Disneyland with his children, Bob would stop what he was doing and scribble his name on a napkin, receipt, ticket, or whatever was handed to him. "Best Wishes, From Hogan," was his signature sentiment above his autograph.

Bob responded to almost all of his own fan mail. After Hogan's Heroes became a hit, and especially during the run of the series, he received tons of mail. How much is unknown, but what I do know is that he took time out of his already hectic schedule to answer as much of his fan mail as he could, rather than hand it off to an assistant or secretary. He likely would have answered all of it—because he would have genuinely wanted to—if only there were more hours in the day. To the best of my research, he was not one to use an "autopen," but instead, would sit for hours personally answering letters or pre-signing 8x10 glossies so that they would be ready for him to personalize and send off to the eager fan.

That's impressive. I absolutely love my author events and meeting people who want to learn Bob's true story, and I can honestly tell you that some of the best moments of my life have been experienced during book signings. But I will also say that signing even just fifty books over a two-day event is quite a feat. Signing autographs is fun, but it's also exhausting!

I love these two pictures so much!
The little girl standing there, 
in her little
Pettifor dress and pixie haircut, waiting 
ever so patiently
for Bob to sign her 
autograph book—and then, success!
She walks away triumphantly with Colonel Hogan's autograph!
She reminds me so much of me at that age.

I give Bob tremendous credit for his treatment and appreciation of his fans. His personal life was often interrupted by a good-natured fan who charged up out of nowhere wanting to get Colonel Hogan's autograph. And Bob would comply. Some celebrities can take on an air of entitlement, and they can seem unapproachable—almost god-like. Not so with Bob Crane. As many told us for his biography, Bob knew he was a star, but he didn't act like it—not on the set and not with his fans. He wasn't a "Bob Almighty," and despite his fame, he never forgot his humble roots. He was just Bob Crane, who just happened to be famous, and who treasured his fans, wanting to make their day just a little brighter by personally answering them.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

If You Like Johnny Carson on 'The Tonight Show,' Thank Bob Crane!

When most people think of The Tonight Show, they think of legendary Johnny Carson, who brought entertainment and laughter to millions over his thirty years as host (1962-1992). Carson became a late night television talk show phenomenon. But what most people don't realize is that in 1962, instead of Carson taking over as host, the then-reigning "King of the LA Airwaves" almost became the "King of Late Night."

Bob Crane wraps up a portion of his KNX-CBS
Radio Show (May 1964).
In 1962, right at about the same time Jack Paar was stepping down from The Tonight Show, Bob Crane was blazing a radio trail at KNX in Hollywood. He had built a dynamic name for himself in broadcasting, having maintained a successful radio career since 1950 on both U.S. coasts. After several years at KNX, Bob was given a new component to his popular morning show: live, unrehearsed celebrity interviews that aired daily. Bob was personable, smart, quick-witted, charismatic, funny, and a gifted interviewer. When a celebrity or notable person went on the air with Bob, informative hilarity ensued. He captivated his guests, who clamored to be on his show for the public and professional exposure he guaranteed them. It didn't take long for Bob to command the new hour-long segment and be hailed as the premiere celebrity interviewer of the time. 

Bob Crane with Jerry Lewis on his
KNX-CBS Radio show (c. 1963).
Used with permission from Scott Crane.
"The Bob Crane Show" was a tremendous hit for KNX, and according to salesmen working at KNX at the time, Bob made a ton of money for the station. Television studio producers noticed and had their eye on him, and when The Tonight Show producers started searching for a replacement for Paar, they approached Bob. Not only was Bob a natural behind the mic, but he was also no stranger to The Tonight Show, having appeared as a guest during Jack Paar's tenure and during the interim between hosts.

Bob balked at their offer, not wanting to transition his radio show to television and become pigeonholed as an emcee or TV talk show host because of his ambition to pursue an acting career. They were persistent, however, even paying for Bob to travel to New York (with his wife, Anne) to guest host for a week in 1962.

But when he returned to Los Angeles, his answer was still the same. No.

Bob didn't want to host a television talk show. He wanted to act. So instead of jumping at the chance to become the official host The Tonight Show, he accepted small, lesser-paying roles on television, such as on The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Donna Reed Show, all so he could hone his acting skills.

Bob Crane as a guest on The Merv Griffin Show
January 1966
In 1965, just before the premier of Hogan's Heroes, Bob told the press: "Art Linkletter and a lot of other good friends in broadcasting told me I was a fool not to branch out into the television emcee business and maybe become another Jack Paar or Johnny Carson. But I couldn't see it. Once you become identified as a TV emcee, you're dead as an actor, and actor is what I wanted to be more than anything else."

NBC considered other hosts for succeeding Jack Paar, but it was only after Bob Crane turned down their offer—repeatedly—did they give Carson serious consideration. I often say to people, if you like Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, thank Bob Crane!

I always enjoyed Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. I liked Jay Leno and also enjoy watching Jimmy Fallon as host. But when I watch, I catch glimpses of what could have been Bob's wit and humor in the host's antics and interview traits. And I can't help but wonder what The Tonight Show would have been like if Bob Crane had said yes.


Bob Crane on The Tonight Show, with Jack Paar (c. 1960):

Bob Crane interviews Jerry Lewis over KNX-CBS Radio (recorded c. 1962; re-aired 1976):

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Happy Birthday, Bob Crane!

Many consider the number 13 to be unlucky, and those with triskaidekaphobia will do anything and everything to avoid this number at all costs. But for Bob Crane, who was born on Friday, July 13, 1928, it became what he called his lucky number.

Today, Bob would have been 88 years old, and in his short life of just shy of fifty years, he accomplished so much, and in fact, much more than most people do in an entire lifetime if they lived to be a hundred. Of his impressive career climb, Bob once stated: "As far as I know, nobody has followed the line of succession from radio-to-television-to-movies as I have in the past ten years or so. It's a long process, but I knew what I wanted and where I hoped to go."

And he was right. Bob always set goals for himself, and putting his mind to it, he achieved them. How many entertainers do you know worked in every medium of the entertainment profession? Bob was successful, and in some cases, a dynamic success in music, radio, television, stage, and film.

Bob Crane was:
  • An adept drummer and musician since his childhood, and he produced one record album.
  • A pioneer in the radio and broadcasting industry, and often referred to as a radio genius by his colleagues.
  • A successful television and film actor who took his acting seriously—more seriously than most people realize or given credit for. He performed his roles so well that he made it look easy, when in fact, he worked very hard at perfecting every role.
  • A talented theatre actor and director, who used his time on stage to further enhance his acting and directing skills.
  • A versed writer, who authored several news columns, a television pilot, and a variety show stage production based on what he envisioned was the Hogan's Heroes finale, entitled Hogan's Heroes Revue. He also rewrote sections of Beginner's Luck, and shortly before he died, he hinted at wanting to write his autobiography.
  • An avid reader who kept himself informed of every aspect of the entertainment and music industries. As the Nashua Telegraph published in 1966, "Bob Crane is one of the best informed persons on the world of entertainment, subscribing to and reading all trade publications and reading every book on the market concerned with the entertainment industry."
  • Self-taught and a self-starter, if he didn't know how to do something, he would take the time to learn how on his own.
  • Extremely devoted to his family. He loved them very much, and what he wanted most was for them to be happy and safe, and for there to peace and harmony.
  • A philanthropist and a natural helper. If someone needed advice or assistance, he was there. In addition to donating much of his time and talents to many charities and organizations regularly, he also helped out his family, friends, and colleagues whenever he could, even if just by imparting his words of wisdom to them.

In Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, as well as on this blog and elsewhere on our social media sites, I quote a passage from an audio recording Bob sent to his cousin, Jim Senich, who at the time was building his own radio career in Connecticut. Bob advised: "Eventually, what you're looking for is gonna happen, and by the time it does happen, you'll be that much better along the way to what you should be. Don't get discouraged, and just keep on plugging along, and what you want will eventually be yours. You know, there's nothing to stop it if you just keep on working hard. And by working hard, I mean doing the best job you possibly can. Everything happens for the best, and I believe it completely."

These are powerful words, and words that can be applied even today and in any situation. As for Jim, he took his cousin's advice seriously. He went on to achieve his own successful radio career, including working for  WICC in Bridgeport, Connecticut, as Bob did before him. As Jim talked with Linda and me for Bob's biography, he described his cousin, whom he still calls Bobby, to us this way: "The family really appreciates what you're doing for Bobby. We sure do. Bobby was just a big teddy bear. He was; he was a big teddy bear, and everybody loved him, and they didn't want to hear any bad things. Strange, people probably think he walked around with horns sticking out of his head, but he was a good guy."

This is a pure example of the real Bob Crane. Today, on his birthday, Bob's family, friends, and colleagues, as well as his fans, continue to miss him very much. We will never know what treasures he would have given us had he lived on past his fiftieth birthday. But what we do know is what he gave to us during his fifty years of life: talent, joy, kindness, compassion, and generosity. And it was extraordinary.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Bob Crane: 'My Drumming'

Bob Crane plays drums, as his second wife
and Scott's mother, Sigrid Valdis (Patricia Olson),
and Freddy the Chimp join him
on the set of Hogan's Heroes
Bob Crane was just eleven years old when he first discovered the one thing that he would hold dear to him for the rest of his life: his drums. Wherever he went, his drums and drumsticks went with him, whether it was in school, on the radio, in his Hogan's Heroes dressing room, on television guest appearances, and on the road. He played his drums constantly both for enjoyment and to relieve stress. Hogan's Heroes costar Robert Clary recalled it was smart for the producers to allow him to play drums in his dressing room, stating it was not only a way for him to relax between scenes, but everyone always knew where to find him (just follow the drums!).

There is no question that Bob was a talented drummer. Music producer Stu Phillips, who produced the album Bob Crane, His Drums and Orchestra Play the Funny Side of TV, and also arranged many of the numbers on the album with Bob, talked with us about Bob's musicianship. When making the album, Bob was capable of keeping up with the orchestra's professional studio musicians—some of the best in the industry, brought a lot of fun to the recording sessions, and also had a blast creating the album. As Stu said, the look on Bob's face on the album cover says it all—he was having the time of his life! (Details of our interview with Stu Phillips are included in Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography). 

Bob Crane practices his drums in his
Hogan's Heroes dressing room.
Just as much as I love listening to Bob's airchecks, I also love to listen to his drumming. I have a great appreciation for music, and drums run in my family. My brother-in-law, both of my nephews, and some of my dearest friends are all drummers. They are a unique breed, drummers. And by observing them, I can absolutely envision what Bob had been like when it came to his drums and music.

Fans of Hogan's Heroes know that Bob played drums in two episodes of the series: in "Flight of the Valkyries" (season one), where he plays timpani, and in "Look at the Pretty Snowflakes" (season six), where he lets loose on a drumset during the number "Cherokee." But he also played drums for the Hogan's Heroes theme that rolls during the opening and closing credits, as well as all of the ancillary music during each episode. Knowing that neat interesting bit of classic television trivia makes watching the show even more fun to watch!

A few years ago, I had the honor and pleasure of staying with Scott Crane and his family as I spent three days going through all of his father's personal belongings as part of researching Bob's biography. Among the many items I sorted through were several cassette tapes that held his radio airchecks, random conversations, and a tape that Bob simply labeled, "My Drumming." This tape contains a solid two hours of Bob practicing or performing on drums, and it is, for lack of a better word, amazing. And that's not just because I am a fan or his biographer. This tape is further evidence of just how good of a drummer Bob was. It also shows just how much he loved playing drums and—like everything he did in his career—worked very hard to always improve his skills.

On January 10, 1967, Bob appeared on The Red Skelton Hour, during which he played drums to a classical arrangement of "Norwegian Wood" by The Beatles. This is a rehearsal track of that number that Bob taped and saved on the "My Drumming" cassette. On The Red Skelton Hour, the audience's applause drowns out some of his drumming, but here, there is no audience interruption because Bob recorded it during a rehearsal. Enjoy!

This recording is courtesy of Scott Crane.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Remember Bob Crane Not for His Murder, but for the Joy He Gave the World

Today, June 29, is a sad anniversary: the day we lost Bob Crane in 1978. But let's not dwell on the negative. I don't believe for an instant that Bob would want us to be sad. So let's instead remember him for all the good he did in life and the joy he brought to millions on Hogan's Heroes, radio, his drumming, and through his charity work! There was a whole lot of good there! 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

On the Eve of a Sad Anniversary, a Bright Moment

Every year, on June 28, I think of Bob Crane's last day on earth. It's not a day I enjoy, and neither is tomorrow, when "This Day in History" trivia headlines will scream the words murder, sex, and scandal along with his name. But Bob had a full life ahead of him, one that included watching his children grow up and become successful, and one that included bettering his own life and moving forward in his career by breaking out of his typecasting as Colonel Hogan and taking on more dramatic roles.

But he would never get that chance. The sun set on June 28, 1978, and Bob would never see daylight again. A bright future was snuffed out.

For Bob's family, friends, colleagues, and scores of fans, June 29th is a sad anniversary. Bob Crane should never have been murdered. 

This year, however, thanks to Gery L. Deer, a journalist in Ohio who stopped by the Liberty Aviation Museum for my author event and unveiling of the museum's Hogan's Heroes artifact collection, there is a bright and shiny spot amidst the darkness.

Watch the video below, and then—share it. Help offset the negative by shining a new light on Bob Crane, a man described repeatedly by those who knew him as a ray of light with a sunny personality who routinely looked on the bright side of life.

Note: Remember, our author profits on sales of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography are being donated to various charities and organizations in Bob's memory.

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Phenomenal, Whirlwind Weekend: Barnes & Noble Author Events — Waterbury and Stamford, CT

Barnes & Noble, Waterbury, Connecticut
June 25, 2016.

People who know me know that when it comes to Bob Crane, I can become overwhelmed with emotion pretty quickly. Emotions run the gamut: pure joy and elation when I see the public's opinion change from negative to positive right before my eyes; excitement and anticipation about my next author event; innocent happiness when I watch Hogan's Heroes or listen to any of his radio airchecks; sadness and helplessness over how his life was snatched away by the cruel hands of another; frustration that he never got to live long enough to realize any life goals past forty-nine years of age; and hot anger when the media chooses to spend its time fixated on sex and murder, especially when we know there was so much more to who he was as a complete human being.

Dee Young (left) and Carol Ford
Barnes & Noble, Waterbury, Connecticut

June 25, 2016.
When I travel around the country to author events,  I'm happily amazed at how quickly people switch their opinion about Bob from negative to positive. For so long, they have been force-fed hype and incorrect information, but doesn't necessarily mean that they wanted it. In fact, what I'm discovering is that despite the media's attempt to fool their audience by highlighting only sordid details (and more often than not, without proper context), what people really want and prefer is the truth. And in Bob's case, the truth is overwhelmingly positive. I can't tell you how many times I have seen good people nod their heads in agreement about how the media often gets it completely wrong. It doesn't surprise them that the media have a penchant for chiseling down a person's life story to shock and awe, and not much else. They have always liked Bob Crane, they tell me. They always suspected there was more to him, they admit. Time and again, they thank me for all of our hard work in getting the truth about Bob out there. Sometimes, they come up to me in tears, which affects me on a very profound level.

Most people really do care about Bob Crane; they just have not been given the chance to for fear of being ridiculed right along with him. That is, until now. This is the complete opposite of what one network representative told me last year, in person. "Your book will never sell," he said. "People don't want nice. They want scandal. That's what we give them because that's where the money is."

It's a long, difficult road, but one day at a time, and one person at a time, we are proving that representative wrong.

This weekend, my one co-author Dee Young and I did two back-to-back author events in Connecticut: the first in Waterbury, where Bob was born and where members of his extended family still reside; and Stamford; where Bob grew up; graduated from high school; spent two years in the United States National Guard; married his high school sweetheart; worked as a watch repairman at a jewelry store; dreamed of working in radio and began constructing amateur programs for his friends; and spent his free time performing as the drummer in his jazz band. More than half of Bob's life was lived in Connecticut, and despite his many successes and fame, he always called Connecticut home. He never forgot his roots.

When I go to author events, I don't just show up and sit at a table with a stack of books. I bring a full display, one that includes screen-used Hogan's Heroes props, autographed photos, poster boards containing rare photographs from Bob's entire life, his high school yearbook, and much more. I want people to enjoy the event, not just smile cordially at me as they walk past to the "New in Fiction" table or magazine rack. For many, Hogan's Heroes brings back fond childhood or early adulthood memories, and I want their visit to the bookstore that day to be fun and memorable, as well as educational.

Dee Young (left0 and Carol Ford
Barnes & Noble, Stamford, Connecticut

June 26, 2016.
Both the Waterbury and Stamford signings were a terrific success! In both stores, several people who knew or were connected to Bob stopped in to see us: a member of Bob's family; a radio enthusiast who has been a strong advocate of our efforts for years; a gentleman who worked with Bob at WBIS in Bristol, CT, in 1951; the brother of one of his close childhood friends; one of his dearest friends from high school; the contact from Stamford High School who met with me back in 2006—and allowed me to have a copy of the Class of 1946 yearbook; and the daughter-in-law of Bob's best friend from high school. It made me so incredibly happy to see all of them and for them to see our efforts finally realized and successful. Other shoppers from the area were surprised to learn that "Colonel Hogan" was born in Waterbury and hailed from Stamford, and they loved discovering his real story. And that makes my heart so happy and enlightens my spirit.

Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography author event.
Barnes & Noble, Stamford, Connecticut / 
June 26, 2016.
Photo courtesy of Barnes & Noble, Stamford.
This was, without question, an amazing weekend. Being with members of Bob's family in Waterbury and getting to spend time with them touched my heart deeply, and being with some of the people who loved him as a friend and colleague made me overjoyed. I get overwhelmed (in a good way), but days like these are truly life-changing. These beautiful people who loved Bob (and still love him) mean so much to me, and they stay with me. Near or far, they become part of my own life story, and it's something I cherish on a daily basis. Bob surrounded himself with some of the most radiant and gracious individuals I have ever had the honor and pleasure to know, and they mean the world to me. Seeing their joy and happiness because of all the positive energy coming from this book and our hard work humbles me beyond measure.

Researching, writing, and publishing Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography was a daunting task and a labor of love; and marketing and promoting the book, while fun, is time-consuming, expensive, and often very exhausting—physically and emotionally.

But every single bit of it is all worth it. 


Big thank you to the Barnes & Noble stores in Waterbury and Stamford, Connecticut, for hosting our author events! Special thanks to Robin Masiewicz, Assistant Store Manager  (Waterbury location), and Kai Connolly-Raub, Community Business Development Manager (Stamford location), as well as the friendly and helpful staff at each store. Dee and I appreciate all your hard work in preparing for and running the events, and for caring so much about Bob Crane and his true story!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Thank You Liberty Aviation Museum for a Spectacular 'Hogan's Heroes'/Bob Crane Biography Author Event!

Carol Ford, author of Bob Crane: The Definitive
Biography, during her author event at
The Liberty Aviation Museum,
June 11 and 12, 2016. (Photo by Dave Bishop)
Every so often, there comes a moment in one's life when there is so much goodness, it's difficult to process it all. You have to sit back and allow the moment, embrace it, and try not to question or understand it. Such has been, from Day One, my experience with the Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton, Ohio. It is the latest chapter in my own journey of discovering Bob Cranea journey that continues to overwhelm, illuminate, and surprise me.

A grass roots effort, Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography has humble beginnings and was a lengthy research process. Linda Groundwater, Dee Young, and I worked into the wee hours of the morning on almost a nightly basis (all while maintaining demanding full-time jobs and families). Over time, I met and got to know many prominent people from Bob's life, and in some cases, we became like family. After twelve years of thorough research and two years of writing, our hard work paid off. The book was finally published on September 17, 2015.

One would think that with our big, ambitious goal achieved, things would settle down a bit. But not so! Marketing and promoting a book is extremely important, often exhausting, and expensive, and I have been trying to line up as many book signings and author events that I can squeeze into my schedule and can afford.

In September 2015, I was honored to present the closing session at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Bob Crane's son entrusted me with his father's Hogan cap, which I displayed during my session, allowing fans to see it up close. It's not every day you get to be the keeper of one of the most iconic props in television history, and it was, up until that point, a pinnacle moment for me, both personally and professionally.

Carol Ford, seated, holding Colonel Hogan's 50 Mission Crusher Cap,
with her friends at work, just before sending the cap back to Scott Crane.
September 21, 2015.
And then, the Liberty Aviation Museum joined the party. I had just returned home from the convention, and Hogan's cap was barely back in Los Angeles, when I received my first email from the CEO of the museum. Never, in my wildest dreams, could I have imagined what was about to happen next. They have embraced Bob Crane and our book, and have helped take our efforts in telling Bob's true story to a whole new level. They have done something truly magnificent, and in doing so, have won a big piece of my heart.

In the world of museums, the Liberty Aviation Museum, located in Port Clinton, Ohio, is quite young, barely a toddler. A small band of loyal and dedicated World War II enthusiasts interested in preserving history had a vision, and that vision—a museum—became a reality. They broke ground in 2010 and opened their doors to the public in July 2012.

You may wonder how much a museum still in its infancy could acquire and offer to share with the public. The answer is—a lot. Conceived in the mid-1980s and registered on December 7, 1991, over the course of two decades, they amassed a collection of literally thousands upon thousands of important relics. Many are in dire need of restoration when they land at Liberty Aviation, but once in their possession, volunteers and staff spend as much time and money necessary restoring them.

And as CEO Edward Patrick states, they don't just acquire these items. They "rescue" them.

Situated on a landing strip near Sandusky Airport, the museum consists of two massive hangars with showrooms filled to the brim with artifacts and military vehicles and aircraft, mostly all from World War II. A few of their shining glory items are a fully restored and flyable North American B-25J Mitchell Bomber (Georgie's Gal), a PT-728 MTB Motor Torpedo Boat (Thomcat) (currently under restoration), a fully restored and flyable Avenger (GM TBM-3E Bomber, General Motors), a fully restored and flyable model 5-AT-B Ford Tri-Motor (the Tin Goose), and much, much more. Motorcycles, Jeeps, ambulances, countless other military vehicles, and mountains of military artifacts fill their showrooms. Their vast collection also includes items dedicated to Hollywood and its connection to the military, with many screen-used artifacts and uniforms owned by actors who served in the military on display. This now includes items from the 1960s television series Hogan's Heroes.

The Hogan's Heroes collection at the Liberty Aviation Museum
in Port Clinton, Ohio. An expanded display is in the works.
On September 30, 2015, the Liberty Aviation Museum won at auction Colonel Hogan's leather flight jacket (owned and worn by Bob Crane in Hogan's Heroes, and also worn by Frank Sinatra in Von Ryan's Express), Colonel Klink's uniform (worn by Werner Klemperer), and Sergeant Schultz's overcoat (worn by John Banner). I didn't even know Liberty Aviation existed when we set up a Go Fund Me campaign and, with the help of Hogan's Heroes fans, tried to "save Hogan's jacket." Our intention was that if we raised the funds and won the jacket, we would donate it to a museum. But we failed miserably, and I watched in dispair as the auction went up, bidding started, and then closed. Heartbroken, I went to bed that night wondering who the lucky private collector was and how he or she would care for this iconic item. Imagine my surprise when the CEO of the Liberty Aviation Museum contacted me the next day to inform me that they had won the jacket. I was literally on Cloud 9!

Since then, the museum has added several other items from the series to its Hogan's Heroes collection. Among them is the rest of Colonel Hogan's uniform (shirt, tie, pants, and his iconic 50 Mission Crusher Cap), graciously donated by Robert Scott Crane, son of Bob Crane and Patricia Olson Crane (Sigrid Valdis). I am beyond thrilled and overjoyed that the Liberty Aviation Museum is the official home of the authentic Hogan's Heroes artifact and prop collection viewable by the public, and they have big plans for an expanded display to be constructed over the next year. 

The Hogan's Heroes collection at the Liberty Aviation Museum
in Port Clinton, Ohio. An expanded display is in the works.
I couldn't have planned this better if I tried. I never could have ever prdicted that in less than a year following the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, not only would Hogan's jacket be safe in a museum, but his entire uniform would be back together again—for the first time in nearly forty years. It has found its new and permanent home, where it, along with other Hogan's Heroes artifacts, will be safely preserved and enjoyed by fans. And at the same time, people will discover Bob Crane's true story. It's impossible to miss his biography sitting right in the display case with the very uniform of the man who brought Colonel Hogan to life.

I can't even begin to tell you how incredibly happy this makes my heart! These may just be inanimate objects, but they are objects that signify not only an important piece of television history, but also Bob Crane's most important contribution to the television industry and his main achievement as an actor. And ironically, the timeline of the Liberty Aviation Museum runs interestingly parallel to that of Bob Crane's biography: right at about the same time I started researching Bob in 1985 as a kid digging in my local library, those who brought the Liberty Aviation Museum to life were laying the groundwork for its inception. It took decades and elbow grease for each of our projects to build and come to fruition. As Bob himself used to say, nothing happens overnight, and with hard work, patience, a little luck, determination, and perseverance, what you want will one day be yours. It's as if our two endeavors were always meant to one day converge.

The Hogan's Heroes collection at the Liberty Aviation Museum
in Port Clinton, Ohio. An expanded display is in the works.
We have forged a strong friendship with the Liberty Aviation Museum, and on June 11 and 12, 2016, they hosted an author/book signing event for me. I was completely humbled by their gracious hospitality and kind generosity, and my author event was a tremendous success. I was onsite for the entire time the museum was open both days, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. My table was right next to the Hogan's Heroes display case, and it was also a "reunion" for me and Hogan's cap! It was an oddly strange, yet wonderful and slightly overwhelming feeling—like seeing an old friend.

Visitors to the museum and attendees of my two presentations were curious, interested, and kind, and many were touched by what I had to say. I always remember the people I meet at these events—like the woman who travelled by train from Milwaukee, Wisconsin; the little boy who loves Hogan's Heroes so much, so I let him touch Colonel Hogan's cap; the lovely lady who had already read the book and came all the way just to meet me; the gentleman who was overcome with emotion after my presentation, telling me, "Thank you for this and for all you do." The man who came back to give me a mug with a photograph of a B-17 on it. The writer who kindly authored a beautiful article about the event a couple of days later. And so many more. 

Entrance to the Liberty Aviation Museum
in Port Clinton, Ohio.
June 11 and 12, 2016.
This is exactly why we're here: to show the world that Bob Crane was not evil. He was a good, kind, talented, and imperfect human being, with a full life—one that was cut short all too soon. When I present my session, people already know the ending. Bob Crane will be murdered on June 29, 1978, no matter how many times I tell his story. But what I get to witness is the reaction. It's not unlike watching the film Titanic. You know how the story ends before the movie even starts, but at the end, it hits you. You get choked up. You have gotten to know the characters who represent real people who lost their lives that night. They aren't just names on a page or a headline in a newspaper, or their belongings just artifacts in a museum. They were human beings. They were real. They had lives. And it gets to the core of people. This is what I see time and time again when I get to tell Bob's true story: compassion for and understanding of another human being.

I journeyed to Port Clinton to hold a book signing and see artifacts from a TV show I have loved since I was a kid—to see the revered jacket that I had so wanted to save and see preserved. I was not disappointed. The Liberty Aviation Museum not only met every expectation I had. It surpassed all of them. 

Because what I left with was so much more. Over this all-too short weekend, endearing friendships were made that I know will last a lifetime. I felt as if I had known these beautiful people forever—something I haven't experienced since meeting some of Bob's closest friends in Connecticut and then earning their friendships. 

Carol Ford, author of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography
with the Hogan's Heroes display at The Liberty Aviation Museum,
June 11 and 12, 2016.
The folks at the Liberty Aviation Museum are simply amazing. In addition to giving Hogan's jacket and all of the Hogan's Heroes props all the TLC and attention they rightfully deserve, the museum CEO and his hard-working staff are kind, gracious, and generous souls dedicated to preserving history and giving back to the community. They are bright stars that light up an all-too-often dark and frightening world. They seek out the good, and they strive to do good. I cannot think of anywhere else in the world where Bob Crane's Colonel Hogan uniform would be "at home."

It is so true. Put goodness out, and goodness will comes back in ways you could never possibly imagine.

Thank you to everyone at the Liberty Aviation Museum, especially Ed, Connie, and Terry, as well as the museum's restaurant, the Tin Goose Diner. I love these people so much, and I miss them all already! I will be a frequent flyer to the museum, and plans are in the works for my return at least on an annual basis (and I'm hoping for more often than that!). I will never stop gushing love and affection for the Liberty Aviation Museum! Goodness prevails. Always.

The Liberty Aviation Museum — Simply the best museum on earth!

We are extremely grateful to the Liberty Aviation Museum CEO and staff, and honored and humbled by their kind hospitality, generosity, care, and dedication to preserving history and giving back to the community. We encourage you to discover all that the Liberty Aviation Museum has to offer. Please support them by visiting them in person, and/or by donating directly to the museum or shopping in their online gift shop.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Memorial Day and Traditional American Values

I've posted this photograph and quote by Bob Crane before, but in honor of Memorial Day weekend, I'm sharing it again. 

Bob Crane was a huge supporter of U.S. Armed Forces and veterans, describing himself as a proud American. He appreciated and honored independence, individualism, courage, and patriotism. He was often described as being "color-blind"—in other words, he didn't care about the color of your skin or whatever made you unique. If you were genuine and kind, that's what mattered. And quite often, even when people were not particularly kind to him, he still tried to be kind to them.

Too young to have served in World War II, Bob served in the U.S. National Guard after graduating from high school in June 1946. Many of his relatives and friends served in World War II, including his older brother, Alfred, who joined the U.S. Navy in August 1943 and served in the Pacific Theater of Operations. Al was badly injured during the war but survived. Al is honored for his service in the U.S. World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. 

Al's experiences in the war affected Bob dramatically, making him very sensitive to the feelings of veterans. Before agreeing to play Colonel Hogan on Hogan's Heroes, Bob made sure the series would not offend veterans by insisting a trailer be shown to veterans groups in the Midwest. They loved the premise, saying that without humor, they never would have made it through the tough times. Bob was sold, he signed the contract, and the rest is history. 

After his tremendous success on Hogan's Heroes, he used his fame as a way to entertain veterans and active duty personnel. He frequently visited and spoke at veterans/military events, entertained at military bases, participated in Operation Entertainment, and donated much of his time to the U.S. Armed Forces Radio Network (Bob's recordings are all on file in the Library of Congress and are available for the public to hear upon request and appointment).

To those who courageously gave their lives, to those who bravely fought, and to those who now serve and protect us—Thank You.

Note: If you have not read Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, there's a lot about Bob Crane you don't know. His true story is worth learning, and you'll be glad you did. As many have told us, "Thank you! You have changed my negative perception of Bob Crane and given me my show [Hogan's Heroes] back." Put aside the hype and media glare and discover who he really was! Author profits are being donated to various charities in Bob's memory—including to veterans and the USO!