Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Bob Crane, Sports, and the LA Dodgers

A little-known and rarely discussed fact about Bob Crane is that he loved sports. Not that it's a big deal. A lot of people love sports, including me! However, perhaps because his primary focus was music, the fact that Bob enjoyed either watching or playing a good game of football, baseball, or basketball is often overlooked.

But he was, indeed, a lifelong sports fan, and during his school days, Bob played many sports. Sometimes, he played on a school team (we published his junior high basketball team photo in Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography). He also played on several community intramural teams—basketball, baseball, and football, that we know of).

Bob met his first wife, Anne Terzian, while playing a game of baseball in the park when he was just fourteen years old. Bob's best school friend Charlie Zito also remembered that he and Bob met while playing on intramural sports teams in the Belltown section of Stamford, Connecticut—back around 1938 or so. As Charlie told me and as published in Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography:

     “We had a basketball team, and we’d play other schools and other neighborhoods. And Bob organized the whole thing. He got all the players among our friends, and he would keep a record of everything. We called ourselves the Belltown Commandos. The first season we lost all of our games. Bob, usually with his quip, said, ‘I think next year if we do this, we better change our name! Or nobody will show up to play!’ I think we won one game that year—and that’s because the other team didn’t show up! So we changed our name to the Belltown Braves.”

Not published in the book is that Charlie also told me that Bob once asked to borrow his football helmet and shoulder pads. "I'm still waiting to get those back!" Charlie joked with me shortly before his death in 2010.

Growing up in Stamford, directly across Long Island Sound from New York City, Bob chose the Brooklyn Dodgers as his favorite baseball team. When the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles before the 1958 season, Bob must have been elated! On November 13, 1957, he began a campaign (led by his little son Bobby, who at the time was six years old) to become the team's Dodger Bat Boy, which aired on his KNX morning radio show (click here to listen). Later on, after he gained fame as Colonel Hogan on Hogan's Heroes, Bob presented then-Dodgers team owner Walter O'Malley with a plaque-mounted model Jeep from Hogan's Heroes.

In honor of the Dodgers playing in this year's World Series, I decided to share several pictures of Bob presenting O'Malley with the Hogan's Heroes Jeep. Also included at the end is the team's official welcome to Bob at Dodger Stadium (courtesy of Scott Crane). I don't know the exact date these photos were taken, but they are circa mid-1970s. Enjoy!

Bob Crane with LA Dodgers team owner Walter O'Malley.

Bob Crane with LA Dodgers team owner Walter O'Malley.

Bob Crane with LA Dodgers team owner Walter O'Malley.

Bob Crane and LA Dodgers team owner Walter O'Malley.

Bob with his wife Patty, along with LA Dodgers team owner Walter O'Malley. The child in the photo is unknown.

Photo courtesy of Scott Crane.

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.