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.