Monday, July 27, 2020

Bob Crane Interviews Regis Philbin, LA Broadcaster Michael Jackson [March 3, 1965]

Can't listen on YouTube? Click below:

Note: Interview starts around the 51:00 mark.

On July 24, 2020, Regis Philbin passed away from cardiovascular disease in Greenwich, Connecticut. A legendary and much beloved talk show and game show host, his passing marks the loss of yet another Hollywood icon. I've always liked Regis Philbin, and I was saddened to learn he was no longer with us.

After hearing of Regis Philbin's passing, I recalled that in November 1969, Bob Crane had been a guest on his show, Philbin's People. I searched for the episode during the research phase of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, and I was hoping that since some time had passed, I'd now find a copy. I didn't find the episode of Philbin's People, but I did find something else.

A rare aircheck of The Bob Crane Show from KNX, dated March 3, 1965, surfaced, and to my surprise and delight, I now had over an hour of radio gold I had not yet heard. As if by Fate, Bob Crane's guests that day were Regis Philbin and Los Angeles broadcaster Michael Jackson (not the "King of Pop"). The aircheck was found in an estate sale, and while I don't know the folks over at Brat Productions, I'm happily indebted to their skillful restoration and preservation of this recording, and its transference from reel-to-reel to digital.

Believe me when I tell you, I own many rare recordings of Bob Crane's radio shows, and I've been hunting for them for decades. For me to find one that I haven't heard is a challenge. That being said, locating this particular aircheck, where Regis Philbin is Bob's guest and that Regis passed away just days before, is a little bit remarkable. I'm curiously intrigued by the supernatural and believe strongly in the Afterlife. I couldn't help but grin as this aircheck fell so easily into my hands, when earlier searches never revealed it (note, it was posted on the Brat Productions website in May 2016). I won't question it. I'll simply enjoy it!

Any day that I find a long-lost aircheck from one of Bob Crane's radio shows is like Christmas day for me. In the very least, it is another example of Bob's innovative work in radio, for which he should be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. At best, maybe in those previously lost minutes, he'll tell me something that I didn't know before.

The sweetest part of this aircheck is where Bob talks about going to the movies with his then-four-year-old daughter Karen. Bob took Karen to see The Sound of Music, and when the lights came on at intermission, she believed the film was over! And that was it! They had to leave without seeing the rest of the film! Bob says how he needs to go back to see the second half so he knows how the film ends.

Bob also talks about hosting a a late-night celebrity interview show, and he notes it is not easy (Bob routinely guest-hosted The Tonight Show for Jack Paar and Johnny Carson, and even turned down the offer to permanently host The Tonight Show following Paar's departure). Bob says, "I just read a review on the new late-night show on ABC that Shelley Berman was the host for the other night... The review in Variety today says, 'Forget it!' It says, 'Les Crane's show replacement had a mediocre start, and it went downhill from there.' I saw it. It's one of those things—a lot of comics, a lot of actors think that the Jack Paar-Johnny Carson routine is a simple one. They say, 'What do you do? You sit at a desk. What an easy way to make a buck.' And let them try it. And they all fall flat. That's a tough thing to do. As this reviewer says. Those late-night interview things all depend on who the guy is asking the questions. Otherwise you get nowhere."

This is poignant stuff. At the time, Bob was the only radio host to give live, unrehearsed celebrity interviews daily, which he did over KNX from 1958-1965. Bob Crane was very well versed in the topic of how to conduct a celebrity interview (or any interview, for that matter). His commentary here shows his respect for fellow interviewers, but this respect can be extended to our contemporary late-night talk show hosts (Stephen Colbert, you are my favorite!). It should also be noted that Bob had an incident while interviewing Shelley Berman on his KNX show, so I think there may have been a subtle revelry in his decision to include Variety's harsh critical review of Berman in his show.

Another item of interest with this aircheck is that in March 1965, Bob Crane was nearing the end of his radio career, even though he didn't know it at the time. In May 1965, he signed a new one-year contract with KNX, but by June 1965, he knew juggling two high-profile, full-time jobs was taking a toll on his health and well-being. As much as he loved radio, he decided to focus solely on Hogan's Heroes. He rolled the dice, gambled on the series, and he won.

In addition to filming Hogan's Heroes episodes for Season One throughout the spring of 1965, Bob stayed on as the morning drive host at KNX-CBS Radio. It was a grueling schedule—on the air from 6:00-10:00 a.m. every day, rushing to the set of Hogan's Heroes to rehearse or film, and then back to KNX to prepare for the next day's show. Bob usually got home around 9:30 or 10:00 p.m., ate his dinner with a newspaper propped up against a milk bottle, and hardly saw his family at all. Then he'd get up at the crack of dawn the next day and do it all over again. I can hear some exhaustion in his voice in this aircheck, especially at the beginning.

Bob Crane's KNX interview with Regis Philbin and Michael Jackson begins around the 51:00 mark, and I'm thinking that there are pieces missing to it because Bob's celebrity interviews typically ran for about 30 to 45 minutes (starting at 9:15 and ending at 10:00 a.m.). But it's so much fun to hear what we've got—Bob and Regis bantering, talking about the industry and telling stories, along with Michael Jackson, whose deep British intonation complements their often-frenetic tones. Regis also talks about the possibility of going into acting. This is not surprising because he had been trying, at least for a couple of years. Earlier, in 1963, Bob Crane and Regis Philbin were vying for the same role—not as talk show hosts, but as actors. Bob had auditioned for and won the role of Dr. Dave Kelsey on The Donna Reed Show. A little known fact is Regis Philbin was the other contender. For details, I'll direct you to our book, Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography. (Hey, I can't give it all away!) Regis and Bob also talk about the sudden cancelation of The Regis Philbin Show, which taped its last show on March 5, 1965 (just two days after this interview).

In all, this a beautiful interview, providing glimpses into the lives and careers of both Bob Crane and Regis Philbin, and I'm so glad to have found it. And that's my final answer.

Rest in peace, Regis Philbin.

Monday, July 13, 2020

WMEX Interview with Official Bob Crane Biographers, Carol Ford and Linda Groundwater

On July 12, 2020, Linda Groundwater and I were interviewed about Bob Crane on WMEX by hosts Gary Leavitt and Keith Leavitt as part of their newly re-established program Gary Leavitt and Friends. What was supposed to be a twenty-minute interview on the Boston radio station, beginning at 6:30 a.m. and ending at 6:50 a.m. (ET), ended up going for more than forty minutes, concluding around 7:20 a.m.

Linda and I had hoped to go on the air together yesterday. When we get going about Bob Crane and his life and career, we are a powerhouse—and it is fun! But there was a technical difficulty. Linda was having trouble connecting from Australia. Unable to delay any longer, I started the interview a little after 6:30 and blasted through. Worried that Linda would not be able to get patched in, I rushed to try and cover as much as possible in our twenty-minute segment. Also happening on the side as I was speed-talking—me trying to figure out how to help Linda connect! 

Fortunately, Linda did get through, but they were not able to bring us both on together. After I talked about Bob Crane's early growing up years in Connecticut and his radio career, not to mention setting the record straight about Auto Focus (at a rapid pace and multitasking—who says I don't have radio skills!), Linda came on after me to discuss Hogan's Heroes and Bob's role in it in detail. It was a fun interview, and I am delighted that our segment stretched long past the originally allotted twenty-minute mark. Fantastic! Big thanks to WMEX and to hosts Gary Leavitt and Keith Leavitt, and deepest apologies to whomever we bumped!

Today marks what would have been Bob Crane's 92nd birthday. Born on Friday, July 13, 1928, Bob jam-packed so much life into his short 49 years. The only thing is, unlike how we were given an extension on our interview despite how much we crammed in there, Bob was not given an extension beyond 49th birthday. He was murdered on June 29, 1978—just two weeks shy of his 50th birthday. The crime remains unsolved to this day. During his time alive, Bob Crane accomplished so much, and I have no doubt he would have accomplished so much more had he lived.

When Linda Groundwater, Dee Young, and I were researching Bob's life for Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, we didn't know what we were going to learn. What we did learn was the truth

We continue our work on Bob's behalf because the truth is in stark contrast to the glaring tabloid headlines and the erroneous plot of Auto Focus (as a reminder, director Paul Schrader stated to the New York Times, "You know, [John Henry] Carpenter was not as important in Crane's life as he is in the film. It is a distortion... My intent with Auto Focus is not to be true or definitive. People's actual lives are not really that interesting. And with Crane I wanted to get at something meaty. Otherwise, who cares? Would you want to watch a movie about Alan Hale?"). 

To put it another way, if we had learned that Bob Crane had actually been a creep, freak, jerk, weirdo, asshole, and any other number of colorful adjectives used by the public in inadequate judgment of him since his death, we would have reported that as such and moved on. Rest assured, we would not have continued. But all of those words are not who or what he was. And because we know that, we have an obligation to Bob, his family, his dearest friends, and his coworkers to keep setting it right. More importantly, we have a moral obligation to the truth.

Take some time and listen to our WMEX interview (YouTube link above). Read our book. Listen to our podcast. Follow us on social media. Ask us questions. Discover who Bob Crane really was, and just as importantly, who he was not.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Liberty Aviation Museum, MidAtlantic Nostalgia Con — See You in 2021!

Sadly, both of our big author events have been cancelled for 2020.

First, due to personal family health concerns, I will not be able to make the trip to the Liberty Aviation Museum as originally planned at the end of July. However, the museum is currently open, so I urge you to check their website for updates on events. Remember, you can order Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography and other cool items in their online gift shop! All author proceeds from sales of Bob Crane's biography through the museum gift shop are donated back to the museum. Help them out with a purchase during this unprecedented year.

Second, since 2015, I have attended the Mid Atlantic Nostalgia Convention and have met so many wonderful folks there over the years! I was already unable to attend, but for all of the obvious reasons, the event has been cancelled for 2020. However, they will be holding a free virtual event, so be sure to like their Facebook page for updates.

I am so sad that I won't be able to see all of my friends this year at both events—owners, organizers, and attendees alike, but this was absolutely the right decision to make in both cases. I am planning to see everyone back at the museum and the convention in 2021! In the meantime, check back here and on our social media sites for virtual events, interviews, and new projects we have in the works about Bob Crane.

Take care, stay safe, and be well!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Why We Care about Hogan's Heroes Star Bob Crane

—by Linda J. Groundwater

Long post, but important to read, please. 

When Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography was conceived more than 15 years ago, the goal was to bring to the surface, the truth about Bob Crane. To separate the truth from the lies, the reality from the rumor, and the hidden gems and buried things that showed Bob as a whole, three-dimensional person into the light.

More than a decade was spent making this happen. We went from one person, to two, to three deeply involved in this expedition. And we picked up speed and momentum along the way, talking to anyone who was willing, who had ANY connection with Bob, be it professional, personal, familial. We had NO expectations. All we wanted was the truth, whatever it was.

What we learned surprised us, saddened us, made us joyful. Surprised that there was even more depth than we had imagined. Sad that a life so rich, and so full of potential and hope even in the difficult times, was cut short. Joyful, that there was so much good to tell, and that after so many difficult encounters, that the people who truly knew Bob finally had a chance to tell their truth to people who would listen, and tell it faithfully, without twisting it, or sensationalizing it, or making it fit an agenda.

Since its publication, our mission has been to spread the word about this man, about his truth, about his LIFE, and occasionally to dispel the falsities about his death. We have the support of his family, his friends, his coworkers, his estate. We represent no one but Bob himself-- we are not family representatives or anything of the sort. We do not make money from the sale of the book or from posting on these pages. We do not make money from the podcasts. Author proceeds are either donated to various charities and non-profit organizations, including to the Liberty Aviation Museum and charities of our choice, or go directly to funding our work on Bob Crane's behalf, such as the podcast and other projects. We are not out to support any particular point of view. As Bob's official biographers, we aim simply to tell the TRUTH.

With that in mind, we are grateful for the people who come to these pages looking for the true story of Bob Crane. Who want to know truth instead of fiction. We expect people come to this page because they already know that there's more to Bob than they have been told, or they want to know what that truth is. That they want to be educated. That if they have theories or ideas, that they are willing to be gently told the truth as we know it. Those who choose truth over ignorance will find this page to be a haven. Those who choose to cling to their false ideas by being abusive toward others on the timeline, by insisting on maintaining their false ideas despite being able to educate themselves (e.g.-- the truth has just been advised, or they can read the book, or listen to the podcast, or look at any of the firsthand sources that we provide), and instead of accepting that the truth is not what they thought, continue to spew vitriol, hate, and salacious untruths, will be removed and blocked from the page.

Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography is about truth. It's about fixing the wrongs and exposing reality. Abuse of Bob, his family or friends, the authors, or other members of the page is not welcome and those guilty of this will be removed without warning. Those who start out ignorant or uninformed are welcome with open arms. Those who stubbornly choose to stay that way in the rudest ways possible, will be removed.

Take a page out of Bob's own book: have a desire to learn. Learn the truth about Bob Crane.