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!

Friday, May 27, 2016

2016 Author Events for Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography

Here's the 2016 Author Event Schedule (to date). New events are being scheduled regularly, so check back here, as well as the Events section of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography or Vote For Bob Crane Facebook pages, for up-to-date listings!
  • June 11-12: Liberty Aviation Museum (includes presentation both days), Port Clinton, Ohio
  • June 25: Barnes & Noble, Waterbury, Connecticut
  • June 26: Barnes & Noble, Stamford, Connecticut
  • September 12: Gloucester County Library (includes presentation), Mullica Hill, New Jersey
  • September 15-17: Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, Hunt Valley, Maryland
  • October 1: Collingswood Book Festival, Collingswood, New Jersey

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Bob Crane on The Del Moore Radio Show — 1960

I am constantly on the hunt for airchecks from any of Bob Crane's radio shows. The oldest aircheck I have is from November 1957, recorded about a year after Bob arrived in Hollywood and began his nine-year reign at KNX-CBS Radio.

While I have a vast collection of Bob's airchecks from KNX, KMPC, U.S. Armed Forces Radio Network, and several miscellaneous radio stations where Bob guest-hosted during the 1970s, I have yet to locate anything circa 1950-1956 from his East Coast programs (WLEA in Hornell, New York; WBIS in Bristol, Connecticut; and WLIZ/WICC in Bridgeport, Connecticut).

However, regardless of the station, whenever I discover a new recording that I have never heard before, it's literally like Christmas morning for me. I feel that kid-like adrenaline rush of excitement—of seeing that wrapped gift and wondering what's inside it.

I can't hit the little "Play" arrow fast enough.

Because for the next however-many minutes, Bob is going to talk. And he may just tell me something that I never knew before. 

And that is a treasure.

The other day, I found a rare recording that Eric Senich, the son of Bob's cousin Jim Senich, posted on his YouTube channel. The reel-to-reel tape was a part of Jim's collection, but it was in bad shape. In the video's description, Eric wrote that the tape "was so brittle, it was about to break into pieces." Thankfully, Eric was able to salvage this important recording and transfer it to a digital file, preserving a piece of Bob's life story and of Hollywood history.

Here, Bob is interviewed by Del Moore in 1960. Del Moore was a comedian, a television and movie actor, and a radio announcer. He is perhaps best known for his supporting roles in Jerry Lewis films, including The Big Mouth, The Patsy, and The Nutty Professor.

It's rare that Bob is the person being interviewed. On his KNX show, he was the interviewer, and one of the best there ever was. Bob was also a gifted storyteller, and this interview is pure joy. Personally, I loved the back story about his appearance in the 1959 pilot for Picture Window. At the time, Bob was in a five-year contract with CBS for his work at KNX Radio—a contract that had a very specific no-acting clause embedded in it. Yet, in 1959, well before his CBS contract (and the no-acting clause) expired, he gave a brief performance in this pilot episode.

When Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography was published, I didn't know how Bob had gotten around his contractual obligations with CBS to actually film Picture Window. One reporter suggested that CBS granted him permission, but other insiders claimed CBS would not have allowed it if they had known. It became a moot point because the series was never produced.

But in this interview, Bob will tell you himself exactly how it all came about. Not only that, but he'll tell you exactly what he thought of the no-acting clause—and he doesn't mince words! According to Bob in this interview, he was being inundated with offers to act long before 1960 and before the no-acting clause expired. He had to turn them all down because of that clause. And that's quite a bit different from other reports that claim he was begging producers for a chance at acting but nobody was interested in him.

It makes perfect sense because in 1961, you start to see him appear in films and on television. And that is exactly when his five-year contract expired, he renegotiated, and the no-acting clause was removed.
  • Man-Trap — 1961 
  • Return to Peyton Place — 1961 
  • The Twilight Zone —1961
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show — December 1962
  • The Alfred Hitchcock Hour — January 1963
  • The Donna Reed Show —March 1963-December 1964
  • Hogan's Heroes — Screen test December 22, 1964; Pilot filmed January 7, 1965

This recording is gorgeous. You simply can't put a price on it, this glimpse into the past—a "picture window" that allows us a few moments with someone who is no longer here.

But then, all too quickly, the tape ends. To me, it's like a cherished guest leaving all too soon.

I'll never stop searching for Bob's airchecks, for in them will likely be another golden ray of information to shine more light on Bob—a man with a story worth discovering.

The book may be published, but Bob isn't done talking yet!


Note: Jim Senich is a strong supporter of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography and was a major contributor to the book. Special thanks to Eric Senich for making this recording available.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Behind the Scenes: Researching the Life and Times of Bob Crane

If you research something or someone for most of your life, chances are, you're going to have stories about the actual research process. I have traveled all over the globe seeking to discover the truth about Bob Crane. And yes, I do have stories! I'll start sharing them here because they are perhaps just as important as the book itself. These stories show the heart and soul at the core of this endeavor, that it wasn't something done on a whim or to make a quick buck. My two coauthors and I genuinely wanted to learn the truth, and for me personally, those seeds of determination go way back.

When I was a kid back in the mid-1980s, once school let out for the summer, I used to stay with my grandparents for several weeks in the Poconos. One day, my Nana and I went to KMart to do some shopping. While she went off to get the necessities, I found myself over in the records department. And sitting right there, in the very limited soundtracks section, was this album. It was like striking gold! I was amazed by the description of the Hogan's Heroes Theme, which credited Bob Crane as the conductor. Later, I'd learn it was from his album, Bob Crane: His Drums & Orchestra Play the Funny Side of TV. But I didn't know that then! Yes, Nana bought me the record without skipping a beat, and it became a cherished possession of my youth. 

If you look at the back of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, you'll notice the photo is the same as the one used on the record album. I never wanted the cover photo to be of Hogan because Bob was more than just Colonel Hogan. But I did want and need a picture of Hogan on the back. I chose this photo because not only is it one of my favorite Hogan pictures (and that's tough to chisel down!), it also represents a lifelong dream finally coming true. 

It will also always remind me of childhood summers spent with my grandparents, shopping that day with Nana, and discovering this album—a little golden nugget that would one day lead to something far more profound than I could ever possibly imagine.

Back of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography cover jacket.