Sunday, October 7, 2018

Interview about Bob Crane on 'The Redfield Arts Revue' Podcast

I love talking about Bob Crane. Seriously. I've been talking about Bob since my school days (i.e., going on forty years), and now, as his biographer, I embrace it. Discussing Bob's life and career—whether in person or over the airwaves—is exciting, rewarding, humbling, and at times, life-changing.

But I wasn't always so comfy getting up in front of an audience or going on the air. And in fact, I still get nervous knots in my belly in the minutes, hours, and days leading up to an interview or presentation. I've learned how to get over the stage-fright jitters, but that wasn't always the case.

In March 2007, I had the pleasure and honor of meeting actress Arlene Martel. As Hogan's Heroes fans will remember, Arlene was known for her role as Tiger in the series, and Star Trek fans will immediately know her as T'Pring, Spock's bride. In addition to her work as an actress, Arlene was also a writer. A few years before her death, she penned a script that she shared with us called, Whisper in My Good Ear, which she was hoping to have produced. 

Arlene was a tremendous supporter of Bob Crane's biography and our efforts on his behalf. She was one of the very first major celebrities and the first from Hogan's Heroes to agree to a full interview. It took some time to convince her that we were honest in our efforts to do justice to Bob because she—like so many others—had been burned by the media when discussing Bob. But once she was on board, she was in it all the way with us. She wanted so badly to have Bob's true story be told, and sadly, she passed away before our book was published.

In 2007, Arlene invited me as her special guest at the I-CON convention in Long Island, New York. I went along with two of my friends, and we were invited to sit with her at her table in the vendor hall for most of the day as she signed autographs. She was also slated to give a presentation that day, and before she went into the session room, she asked of me a special favor: "When I get to the Q&A part at the end, raise your hand and ask me about Bob Crane."

I felt the blood drain from my face. Arlene was giving her presentation in a large lecture hall on the SUNY campus, and while the room was not filled to capacity, the crowd that had filtered in for her session was large enough to intimidate me. I felt that familiar feeling of stage fright creeping in!

Arlene gave her presentation, and at the end, she asked the audience if anyone had any questions. A few people raised their hands and asked her about working with Leonard Nimoy ("delightful!"), and what it was like working on the set of The Monkees ("fun!"). The questions started winding down, and I had yet to even raise my hand! Soon, the questions ran out. 

Arlene looked around the room and asked, "Does anyone else have any questions?"

I shrunk lower in my seat.

"Anyone?" She looked in my direction.

I wished for invisibility as my friends nudged me. But I was sure at that moment, I was paralyzed. I couldn't budge. I couldn't even breathe!

Finally, Arlene looked directly at me, and with as much intensity as she could muster, she asked one last time but spoke directly to me: "Anyone!"

Yes, my moment of shining glory, ladies and gentlemen. I could not move a muscle, I was that petrified with stage fright.

Arlene wrapped up her session, thanked the attendees, and left the podium. As she came up to me, she said, "You didn't ask me the question!" I was ashamed. I felt awful. And while Arlene was a little miffed at me, she was fine and didn't yell at me too much!

I'm not sure exactly when I turned a corner and was able to overcome my stage fright. I have given presentations every year since Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography was published in 2015. I have been on the radio, on television, and done podcasts—and not just about Bob, but for my day job and other areas of interest. And every time I complete a successful presentation or interview, I think of Arlene and my less-than-stellar moment during her presentation. I then say to her in my mind, "I sure have found my voice now, haven't I, Arlene!"

Last month, at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, I had the pleasure of being interviewed about Bob Crane by actor, writer, and artist Mark Redfield for his new podcast series, The Redfield Arts Revue. This interview was recorded on Saturday, September 15, 2018, at 8:00 a.m., just before the vendor hall opened on the last day of the convention. We talked for about twenty minutes, and I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Because I loved every minute of it!

Many thanks to Mark Redfield for the opportunity to be
interviewed for his podcast, The Redfield Arts Revue.
To learn more about Mark's extensive work, click here.

Mark Redfield is also a talented artist, and he painted this
amazing caricature of Bob Crane as Colonel Hogan for me!
You can browse and purchase Mark's art work: click here.

Monday, September 17, 2018

2018 MidAtlantic Nostalgia Convention Highlights

Something very special happens every time I go to an author event and talk with people about Bob Crane. Granted, traveling around the country can be expensive and exhausting. But it is also highly rewarding, fulfilling, and rejuvenating. I wish I could go more places to meet everyone. Because when I talk with people about Bob Crane, ninety-nine percent of the time, people are either overwhelmingly appreciative of our work on his behalf, or I'm able to change their perspective of him from negative to positive, and in some cases, give them their show (Hogan's Heroes) back. And in nearly all cases, they are sad but also angry—angry at the wave of negativity that continually accompanies Bob's name in mainline media. Once they know the truth, they realize how badly Bob Crane has been wronged.

This past week, September 13-15, 2018, and for my fourth year in a row, I participated in the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland. I saw old friends, made new friends, and talked with attendees about Bob Crane. As is always the case, I had an absolute blast! In fact, this was my best year yet!

If you have never been, it is absolutely worth it. The celebrities are always friendly and welcoming, the vendors are hard-working and fun, and the attendees are excited and interested in what you have to say. Convention owner Martin Grams and his dedicated staff work tirelessly on the event to make it a memorable experience for everyone. To top it off, the convention raises money for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. What's not to love?

While at the convention, I am constantly reminded of why we're here to begin with: to set the record straight about who Bob Crane really was and to balance the scales. We provide truth and clarity, backed up with evidence and corroboration. It was never our intent to sainthood Bob; it was, however, our intent to reverse the ongoing negativity surrounding Bob, and share our findings and understanding with you.

As you would imagine, it gives me great joy to hear convention attendees who purchased the book in previous years return to see me and reiterate to me how much they "loved the book." That "it flowed." That "it was an easy read." That they "now understand who Bob was," completely and wholly, without biases or media glare. They continue to tell me how much they love Hogan's Heroes and his character Hogan, that they had no idea how instrumental he was to the radio industry and how he changed radio for generations to come, and that he loved his family more than anything else—his impetus for change and to better his life by combatting his sexual addiction and seeking to break free of it.

It was my great pleasure to meet several celebrities this year at the convention: Jan Smithers and Howard Hessman (WKRP in Cincinnati), and Ed Begley, Jr. (St. Elsewhere, This Is Spinal Tap,  The Accidental Tourist, and Auto Focus, to name a few).

In 2008, Mr. Begley and my research colleague/coauthor Linda Groundwater exchanged emails about our project; he had worked on Auto Focus, and his father, Ed Begley, Sr., was a guest on Bob's KNX radio show in the early 1960s. In that correspondence, Linda asked Mr. Begley if he would like to contribute to Bob Crane's biography. Mr. Begley felt he didn't know Bob well enough to contribute, but he did provide Linda with a very profound statement. He wrote: "I want to applaud you in your efforts to shed light on the life of Bob Crane... I wish you all the best in your endeavor and from the looks of the work that you’ve already done, you are accomplishing a most noble task. Again, I wish you great success."

I was honored to introduce myself to Mr. Begley, and I presented him with a copy of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography. As he held it in his hands, he very lightly tapped the cover with the palm of his hand. He then said, "Bob Crane was a good man. Thank you. Thank you so much." He later reiterated his appreciation to my friend Darin Peters, who was the graphic artist for the book. 

In pinnacle moments like this, I am very deeply honored and humbled, as well as reminded of how important our work on Bob's behalf is and always will be.

It's not always easy being on the front lines to defend Bob Crane. I've received hate mail and been ridiculed. I've been harassed and called names. But in the great scheme of things, that's only a blip on the scale and a flash in the pan before disintegrating into nothing. The positives outweigh the negatives—by far.

Look for me to return again to the MidAtlantic Nostalgia Convention in September 2019! Wild horses couldn't keep me from it!

Carol Ford with long-time friend Brian Dettling.
Carol Ford with friend and vendor neighbor Mark Redfield.
Learn more about Mark's work by visiting his website (click here).
Carol Ford with friend and convention vendor Mitchell Hadley,
author of The Electronic Mirror and owner of It's About TV.
Darin Peters (graphic artist/Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography).
with Ed Begley, Jr.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Bob Crane Hosts 1971 Epilepsy Telethon

As shocking as this may seem to some people, Bob Crane was more than Colonel Hogan, more than a murder victim, and more than the target of a posthumous tabloid scandal. He was a human being. And a good human being, too.

Hm. Imagine that. 

For instance, did you know that Bob Crane gave of his time and money, often and repeatedly, to good causes, charities, and specialty organizations? He entertained our troops by visiting military bases across the country and donated countless hours of his time to the United States Armed Forces Radio Network. 

His good friend, Eliot Dober, from Bridgeport, Connecticut, was the Connecticut State Director for United Cerebral Palsy (UCP). Eliot talked with us about Bob's generosity to him and the Connecticut UCP. He told us that Bob returned to Hartford, Connecticut, throughout the 1970s to host the local portion of the UCP telethon. Producers of the national UCP telethon wanted Bob to stay in California to host the national portion. They offered him $20,000 to do it, too. In the 1970s, that was a nice sum of money—money he could have used. He was not exactly well off financially during the 1970s, even though he was a major television star. 

But you know what? Money never meant a whole lot to Bob, but his family and friends did. Bob turned the national UCP producers down. Instead, he agreed to host the Connecticut UCP telethon for next to nothing, just travel expenses that he accepted from Eliot out of respect.

Bob did this regularly, not just for Eliot, but for many. And he did this because he genuinely cared about people.

On February 7, 1971, Bob Crane, along with Robert Clary, took part in a telethon that aired on WTMJ in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to raise money for the Mount Sinai Epilepsy and Neurological Center. Below is a rare photograph from this telethon, along with the caption that accompanied it in the local newspaper (dated February 8, 1971).

WRAPPING IT UP — Radio and television personalities closed a 20-hour telethon Sunday with a song. Leading
the singing in the Channel 18 studios was Robert Clary of the television show 'Hogan's Heroes.' Behind him were
(left to right) Jack Lee, radio program manager for WTMJ; Robert Crane of 'Hogan's Heroes;' Angela Cartwright
of TV's 'Make Room for Granddaddy;' and Ronald McDonald, a local clown. The show, sponsored by the Variety Club
of Wisconsin, raised money to fight epilepsy. Proceeds from the show go to the Mount Sinai Epilepsy and Neurological Center.

Never think that just because you read something in the tabloids or watch a dramatized biopic or a TV crime show that this is all there was to a person. Especially someone who is not here to defend himself. It's not all there is, and not by a long shot.

Human beings are complex creatures. Bob was as well, and imperfect, just like you and me. Everyone deserves to have his or her full story told. Part of Bob's legacy should be that he wanted to be good and to do good, and he did his best in that regard, despite being tripped up by human weakness.

As Bob Crane once said:

When I was a kid, I fell in love with Spencer Tracy in ‘Captains Courageous.’ That, to me, was the ideal. A good man, a brave man. What I would want to be. I’m still in love with that.

We're never going to change everyone's mind about Bob, and that's a shame. I'm proud I am Bob Crane's biographer and don't care if some people want to throw stones at me. Go on, then, if it makes you feel better. I can take it.

But as you think about yourself and the people you care about, you'll undoubtedly want the good aspects to be remembered—despite the flaws. And we all have flaws.

It's no different for Bob Crane.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Thank You Once Again, Liberty Aviation Museum!

What a weekend! It was my third year in a row visiting the Liberty Aviation Museum as their invited guest, and as always, I had a blast during my author event and book signing for Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography. I gave a presentation each day—July 28 and 29, 2018, and while I try to keep my talks to about an hour, I typically go over by about fifteen to thirty minutes. It's tough, if not impossible, to cram all of Bob's life into one hour, especially because there is so much to tell. 

The Liberty Aviation Museum is the official home of the Hogan's Heroes display, which they add to regularly. In addition to Bob Crane's entire Hogan uniform (donated by Scott Crane, with the exception of Hogan's bomber jacket, which was won at auction) and other props and memorabilia from the series, they also own Klink's and Schultz's uniforms, one of Klink's robes, the iconic coffee pot/radio listening device, and a piece of Schultz's uniform, altered to adjust for the warmer temperatures in Southern California. This is a permanent display, and it will never be put into storage or sold off. They aim to collect as many authentic items from Hogan's Heroes to add to the display, so fans of the series can enjoy. And I couldn't be happier!

The museum is also in the process of building a M*A*S*H collection, and they currently own Hawkeye's robe (worn by Alan Alda), as well as Lt. Colonel Henry Blakc's robe (worn by McLean Stevenson). You can learn about the Liberty Aviation Museum and all they have to offer by visiting the museum's website

I'm honored to count the folks from the Liberty Aviation Museum as some of my dearest friends. They are genuine, humble, kind, generous, and hard-working, and their efforts at the museum and in the community are commendable and not to be over-looked. Please consider making a donation to the museum through buying items in their gift shop, becoming a member, or planning a trip to visit. (And a hearty meal at the Tin Goose Diner—attached to the museum—is a must when you visit!) You will help the museum achieve its mission, and you won't be disappointed!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Bob Crane's 90th Birthday: July 13, 2018

It's hard to believe that Bob Crane would have been 90 years old today. Or perhaps 90 years young! I know and am close with many of Bob's friends from school and work, and they are all right around the same age—80s and 90s. And let me tell you, they have just as much life in them as any kid!

What would Bob have thought about the world today had he lived? It's difficult to say. While we can't know for sure, I do have my own thoughts on the matter. First, I believe he would have enjoyed technology, and he would have immersed himself in the world of audio sound files. How very different it would be for him today as compared to the 1950s-1970s! Bob also liked to stay informed about all subjects, from current events to entertainment, and I can see him being very intrigued by podcasts, devouring as many as he could possibly listen to in the span of each day. I'm not sure what he would have thought about social media, but I think he would have enjoyed the basic social aspect of it.

Most importantly, I believe whole-heartedly that he would have written a book—his autobiography. A few days before his murder, a reporter interviewed Bob in Arizona. He asked him some standard questions about Hogan's Heroes, about his play Beginner's Luck (which he had been performing at the time), and about his life in general.

During this interview, Bob mentioned that if he were ever to write his autobiography, he would title it Laughing All the Way to the Grave. He didn't go into detail beyond the idea for a title, but I imagine it would have happened. Bob was a writer, and he liked to make people happy and make them laugh. So at some point, I think he would have written a book that inspired, educated, and entertained. I think he would have talked about radio, and of course, his work on Hogan's Heroes. He might have enlightened us on his acting ambitions and how much he loved his drums. And had he overcome his addiction, he might have shed some light on that as well, urging people to be more tolerant towards others as opposed to judgment and ridicule.

As J.M. Barrie stated, "Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."

Words to live by, or at the very least, try to.

It's a shame we never got to know what life would hold for Bob Crane because he never got to live it to his natural end. What I can tell you is that his family, friends, and many of his colleagues loved Bob—genuinely. He was also not ready to die and didn't expect to die that night in June 1978. 

Last year, when I was at the MidAtlantic Nostalgia Convention, I spent some time talking with Dawn Wells (Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island). Following Bob's murder, Dawn spearheaded an awareness campaign to safeguard actors when they traveled to different theatres across the country. I gave her a copy of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, and when she took the book from me, she held it close to her, almost like she was holding a baby. And she said to me, "I loved him so much." That touched me so deeply, and I'll never forget it.

So what can I tell you on Bob Crane's birthday? Well, don't judge others, especially without knowing all of the facts. Stop for one moment and think. Bob Crane was a human being. He had family and friends, trials and triumphs, and emotions that ranged from happy to sad, as do we all. He sought to do good and to be good, and to make the world a better place through laughter. We all try to do our best and get by in this world that throws so many challenges at us.

Bob did the same. 

My birthday, ironically, is tomorrow—July 14. So for my birthday as well as for Bob's, shelve the negativity and shine a little light. Do a random act of kindness in Bob's memory. That would mean so much in a world that could use more of it.

Happy Birthday, Bob Crane. I'm glad your light still shines in my world!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

TV Guide Cover Photo Shoot | November 19, 1966

Hogan's Heroes fans know this TV Guide cover well. 

The November 19-25, 1966, issue of TV Guide included an article by Dick Hobson entitled, "The Strange History of A-5714." This article details Robert Clary's experiences during the Holocaust and how he felt about working on the set of Hogan's Heroes as a survivor of Nazi concentration camps.

Clary enjoyed working on the set of Hogan's Heroes, and to him, it was an acting job. He makes it very clear that there is no comparison between Hogan's Heroes and concentration camps. As he states in the article: "Stalag 13 is not a concentration camp. It's a POW camp, and that's a world of difference. You never heard of a prisoner of war being gassed or hanged. Whereas we were not even human beings. When we got to Buchenwald, the SS shoved us into a shower room to spend the night. I had heard the rumors about the dummy shower heads that were gas jets. I thought, this is it. But no, it was just a place to sleep. The first eight days there, the Germans kept us without even a crumb to eat. We were hanging on to life by pure guts, sleeping on top of each other, every morning waking up to find a new corpse next to you."

Bob Crane was sensitive to Clary's ordeal in concentration camps and the Holocaust, just as he was to war veterans, prisoners of war, and active duty forces. Before signing his contract to play the leading role of Colonel Hogan, Bob insisted that a trailer of the series be sent to veterans in the midwest for them to screen. Once they approved the show, claiming without humor, they never would have survived the war, Bob agreed to the role. Bob also spent a great deal of time defending Hogan's Heroes to critics and a wary public, and when reporter Stan Freberg joked, "If you liked World War II, you'll love Hogan's Heroes," he was outwardly disgusted. You can hear it in his voice in the interview below. Bob detested that line, stating repeatedly in interviews that it was in poor taste. 

It doesn't surprise me that Bob Crane shared the TV Guide cover with his Hogan's Heroes co-star Robert Clary. I don't know the details of how this cover originated. I doubt either of the two actors were paid. Typically, promotional photos and interviews were just that—done to promote the show, not as a money-making venture for the actors. In fact, all of the studio Hogan's Heroes promo photographs used in the media and on the trading cards were unpaid photo sessions. 

I'm a nut when it comes to photography, and I'm an avid photographer. I have always loved collecting photos from the set of Hogan's Heroes and of Bob Crane.* Imagine my delight when I stumbled on to the photo session from the 1966 TV Guide cover featuring Bob Crane and Robert Clary!

Bob looked after people. He genuinely cared about his family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers. He always went out of his way to help whenever and wherever he could, often at his own expense, and he didn't seek repayment or recognition. He did it simply because he wanted to—even for people who didn't like him. He would think nothing of lending money or helping people advance in their careers. So however his involvement in Clary's photo shoot for TV Guide came about, whether it was Bob's idea or Clary's or the studio's, it is evident these two had a blast during it.

Below are a few photographs from this session for you to enjoy. All eighteen of these slides— along with prints—will be donated to the Liberty Aviation Museum for inclusion with the Hogan's Heroes display.

*Note: No, not those photographs. Bob's amateur pornography comprised only a small percentage of his entire photo collection. Further, that collection was destroyed several years ago. I saw the trashed shredded photos and films first-hand.

Friday, June 29, 2018

40 Years Later: Rest in Peace, Bob Crane

Forty years ago today. 
June 29, 1978 — Scottsdale, Arizona.
Rest in Peace, Bob Crane. You are missed by many.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Rare Photographs of Bob Crane at KNX-CBS Radio

Not too long ago, I came across a series of photographs of Bob Crane at work behind the mic at KNX-CBS Radio. While these photos aren't dated, I estimate they were taken in the early 1960s, circa 1963/64. 

I'll always love Bob's portrayal of Colonel Hogan on Hogan's Heroes, the role some people say he was born to play. However, I'll always love his radio work more. Bob Crane has been referred to as a radio genius by his colleagues in the broadcasting industry, and very few can compare to his style and technique. From sound effects to celebrity interviews to playing drums to improvising on the spot to preparing skits—without question, he was a force to be reckoned with in radio.

You can hear clips of Bob's radio shows on our YouTube channel, and I encourage you to listen, if you haven't already. And we're always looking for more! So if you have any of his airchecks from WLEA (Hornell, NY); WBIS (Bristol, CT); WLIZ/WICC (Bridgeport, CT); KNX (Hollywood, CA); KMPC (Los Angeles, CA); or any station where he was a guest, please let us know. We want to preserve these recordings and make them available for people to listen. You can reach us through any of our social media sites or via the Contact Us form.

Moving forward, we're going to be ramping up the volume on raising public awareness about his work in radio. So stay tuned!

PS: It's good to be back!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

There's No Place Like...Stalag 13

Last year, we stepped away from advocating for Bob Crane. It was, by far, one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make. I have been working on Bob's behalf for most of my life. Yet as difficult as it was, moving away was necessary at the time. There was a lot going on in my own personal life and in the lives of all affiliated with Bob Crane's biography and our campaign for his induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Plus, the ceaseless negativity that surrounds Bob had reached a boiling point. It had taken a toll on all of us.

Breaks are necessary to refuel, recharge, and reset. But where Bob Crane is concerned, I can't stay away for long. Little by little, I started wanting to dive back in, to let the world know Bob's true story and to start bugging the heck out of the National Radio Hall of Fame Steering Committee. It's about time Bob is recognized for all of his unprecedented work in radio.

I've got some exciting things happening in 2018. First, I'll be at the Liberty Aviation Museum for the third year in a row on July 28-29, 2018. As you may know, the Liberty Aviation Museum is the home of the official Hogan's Heroes prop and uniform display, and I'm always happy (okay, thrilled!) to go to Port Clinton, Ohio, each year to sign copies of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography and give presentations. Then in September, I'll be back at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland. This will be my fourth year attending the convention, and I'll be honest—I love the people who plan the con and those who attend. I've made some wonderful friends there, and the thought of not seeing these folks every year makes me sad—so, of course, I have to go!

Finally, we have a big, collaborative project in the early planning stages. I won't divulge any more than that now, but it's a pretty big deal! I'm super excited for this opportunity, as are Dee Young and Linda Groundwater, who will also be participating. All three of us can't wait to get this project rolling. 

We're back. And we're stronger than ever.

"Be it ever so humble, there's no place like...Stalag 13."