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.