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!