Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Unsung Hero: The Generosity and Philanthropy of Bob Crane (Excerpts from 'Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography')

Bob Crane working the 1978 United Cerebral Palsy
Telethon in Hartford, CT.
February 1978.
There's a lot about Bob Crane you don't know.

Sure, it's easy for his murder and addiction to be sensationalized, but doing so leaves out what's more important: the whole truth. For instance, did you know that Bob gave regularly of his time and money to various charitable organizations and the community?

Bob didn't think much about money. It didn't impress him very much, even when he was struggling financially during the 1970s. He had learned to live within his means, and he had remained humble throughout his whole life, often giving of his time and money to many organizations.

Bob was raised in a middle-class family in Stamford, Connecticut, and worked hard for everything he ever owned. Charlie Zito, his best friend from high school, explained how, while as a teenager, if Bob wanted a new addition to his drumset, he would have to work to earn the money to get it. He didn't have things handed to him. After his dynamic success in Hollywood at KNX-CBS Radio and on Hogan's Heroes, Bob became very wealthy. But it didn't change him. He didn't "go Hollywood," as he used to call it. He remained, as family members, friends and colleagues recalled, down to earth, kind, and generous. He was just Bob—the same Bob they had always known long before his fame.

Bob genuinely cared about people, and as KNX colleague and friend Leo McElroy told Linda Groundwater and me during an interview for his biography: "Bob was kind to those he worked with and kind to those he knew." Whether it was for his brother, friends, colleagues, or people he didn't even know, or even when buying U.S. bonds at a lower percentage rate than the banks would offer "because this country's been good to me," Bob wanted to help and make the world a better place. And he did so regularly.

But as KMPC radio personality and Laugh-In star Gary Owens told us during his interview for the book, Bob doesn't get very much, if any, credit for his generosity and philanthropy. 

Below is an excerpt from Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, which will give you an idea of how much Bob gave back to the community and those in need, from his earliest days growing up in Connecticut and throughout his entire life. I encourage you to see past the glare of scandal and murder, and to learn what we've learned, not because we want to get rich, but because we want you to understand who Bob Crane really was. It's easy to get caught up in the hype, especially when that's the only information you ever receive. But once you read Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, we think you'll be surprised at what else you discover.

And because Bob gave so much to charity, we are doing the same. All author proceeds will be donated to various charities in Bob Crane's memory. 


The following excerpt is from "Chapter 7: Among the Stellar Elite"

Lending a Helping Hand
“Bob did many things for charity. I don’t know that he ever gets credit for that. But he appeared frequently at various charities, just giving of his time. That’s what you do, specifically in broadcasting. You’re not paid for it; you just do it! And you raise money for very worthwhile charities. So there are two sides to everything.”
—Gary Owens to the authors, July 14, 2008

Bob Crane was a tireless volunteer. He did much for charity and the community while starring on Hogan’s Heroes, but his devotion to this work started well before and continued long after it.
It began with his service in the United States National Guard from 1947 to 1949 in Stamford, Connecticut. Later, at WICC in Bridgeport, Connecticut, he served as program advisor for the Bridgeport Junior Achievement and participated in other community events, such as judging talent contests and serving as master of ceremonies for various organizations. Later, at KNX in Los Angeles, Bob was constantly on the move, participating in Auxiliary lunches, Kiwanis Club meetings, and telethons; making appearances at grocery or department stores to promote local events; and acting as master of ceremonies for countless organizations. Further, Bob held the title of Honorary Mayor of Tarzana, CA; was a member of the Tarzana Chamber of Commerce; and was the Tarzana Senior Ambassador of Good Will. 
After he moved from radio to television, Bob continued his charity work, volunteering with the U.S. Armed Forces Radio Network; Operation Entertainment; the Cystic Fibrosis Fund Drive; the Easter Seals, the Arthritis Foundation, Rheumatism Foundation Telethons; as well as hosting the United Cerebral Palsy Telethon on a regular basis. He also made regular appearances for different fund drives, including “Mesa’s Heroes” in Mesa, Arizona, which recognized leading citizens of the community; and promoting the American Lung Association Christmas Seals program.
In October 1967, the Valley News publication of Van Nuys, California wrote:

Hogan’s Heroes own Colonel Hogan, Bob Crane, is one man who answers the call of civic groups, charities, and worthy organizations, no matter where they might be. Up to one-third of his free time is spent assisting and appearing in behalf of such groups. For instance, during his recent “HH” hiatus, he volunteered more than thirteen hours worth of Armed Forces Radio material. He brought laughs to the ex-POW convention in New Mexico. Pending is a grand marshal stint at the Richmond Tobacco Festival and full participation in the current Cystic Fibrosis Drive. And there’s more, much more. This “Hogan” is a real hero.

The following are only a few of the organizations to which he gave his time.

United States Armed Forces Radio Network
Bob Crane donated his time with the U.S. Armed Forces Radio Network, where he conducted and recorded many more celebrity interviews for broadcast to American troops serving overseas. Many of these historic recordings are also available to the public through the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., by appointment.

Operation Entertainment
Eglin Air Force Base, Fort Walton Beach, Florida
ABC-TV / Bob Crane, Host
Bob made many visits to military bases, where he entertained troops and met with veterans and former prisoners of war. Operation Entertainment was a program produced by Chuck Barris and Bill Carruthers for ABC that ran in 1968. As part of this series, actors, musicians, and other celebrities traveled across the country and around the world to entertain U.S. troops serving in the military. The entertainers performed on location at Navy, Army, and Air Force bases. In addition to Bob, other hosts included Rich Little, George Carlin, Dick Cavett, Dean Jones, Dick Shawn, Tim Conway, Jimmy Dean, Roger Miller, Norm Crosby, Ed Ames, Flip Wilson, Don Rickles, Jim Lange, Phil Harris, and Dale Robertson. Among the entertainers were Vikki Carr, Donna Jean Young, Roy Clark, Louis Armstrong, Richard Pryor, Barbara McNair, Allen & Rossi, Minnie Pearl, Paul Lynde, Florence Henderson, Martha and the Vandellas, Shelley Berman, the Righteous Brothers, the Lennon Sisters, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and the Rayettes, Patti Page, Pat Buttram, Rodney Dangerfield, Kenny Rogers, Larry Storch, Stephanie Powers, and many more.
Bob Crane was the host of the November 1, 1968, episode, which was performed and recorded for servicemen and women stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Performers included Teddy Neeley and his Band, comedian Pat Paulsen, singer Fran Jeffries, and the Lennon Sisters, among others.

Davis Monthan Air Force Base
(Near Tucson, Arizona)
July 1967
When an actor prepares for a role, it is imperative that he or she gets into the character and really feels and understands the part. Without question, Bob did fit the part of Colonel Hogan very well. The character of Hogan was that of an officer in the U.S. Army Air Force, and several scenes from Hogan’s Heroes show Hogan piloting an aircraft, including a U.S Army Air Force P-51 Mustang. Bob prepared rigorously for his role as Hogan, and when the opportunity arose for him to climb aboard a real jet fighter as a passenger courtesy of the U.S. Air Force, he jumped at the chance.
Bob had been invited by the U.S. Air Force in July 1967 to speak at an officers’ dinner at the Davis Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona. His flight from Los Angeles was not aboard a commercial jet liner, however. Bob arrived at the Air Force Base via a T-33 jet fighter, piloted by then-Captain Jerry Chipman (now Colonel) of the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing.
Colonel Chipman stated, “I remember the occasion very well. I was a General’s Aide and instructor pilot in the T-33 at that time and was probably selected to pick Bob Crane up at LAX because of my experience in the aircraft. I believe his visit to Davis Monthan AFB (Tucson), was to speak at a ‘Dining In,’ which is a formal function at the Officers Club. He came across as a very personable guy and did not seem to be overly impressed with himself. I had taken a flying helmet and oxygen mask for Bob to use on the return trip from LAX. The helmet was slightly small, which caused some discomfort. However, Bob endured the flight and presented a great talk to his military audience.”
According to press releases of the event, Bob was given every flight maneuver possible, and after landing, he emerged “with butterflies in the stomach and a grin on the face.” It had been his first ride in the cockpit of a jet fighter.

Meeting with Veterans and  Former Prisoners of War
While he was starring in Hogan’s Heroes, Bob entertained many veterans’ organizations and former POWs, and he was always received warmly by both groups. Further, they were never short on stories to entertain him!
In 1970, Bob explained, “When the show is on hiatus, I entertain for a lot of veterans’ groups and ex-POW organizations. The men tell me a lot of things that happened to them when they were in POW camps, and I pass the stories along to our writers.”
The episodes “Cuisine รก La Stalag 13” and “Eight O’Clock and All Is Well” are based on real stories told by former POWs. Other episodes also incorporated such real-life tales. Many, if not most, former prisoners of war did not resent Hogan’s Heroes, and according to Bob, “They know it’s strictly for laughs. We walk a thin line, of course. We could do something in bad taste, but our executive producer Ed Feldman has guided us right so far.”

Public Service Announcements and Promotional Films
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Bob worked closely with several groups on public service announcements (PSAs) and promotional films, including for the United States Coast Guard, United States Air Force, and the Holy Childhood Association (on a Christmas PSA).
Bob and other members of the Hogan’s Heroes cast, including Werner Klemperer and Robert Clary, worked with Leo Finkelstein, Jr., PhD, to produce several military films for the U.S. Air Force. In return for their help, Leo recalled offering his assistance to them on their work with Hogan’s Heroes.
Leo stated, “I did indeed direct Bob Crane, but not in Hollywood. I was an Air Force film writer/producer/director back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and Bob (along with some other members of the Hogan’s Heroes cast) came out to Norton Air Force Base at San Bernardino and did some work for me for military films I was producing and directing. I found both Bob Crane and Werner Klemperer very enjoyable to work with—easy to direct and readily able to understand the rhetorical strategies I was using.”
Later, in 1970, Bob hosted an episode from the U.S. Air Force’s Propaganda Film Series – Volume 3: Vietnam/1965-1971. The episode, entitled “Friends and Neighbors – People You Know,” provides an overview of the work and importance of the United States Air National Guard in Vietnam. Bob hosted this half-hour long episode, filmed at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado.
Bob also made several PSAs for the military—one was a television commercial for the U.S. Air Force, where he encouraged young adults to join the Air Force and enter officer training. Another was an audio PSA for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy urging young men to consider an officer’s career in the Coast Guard.
Another audio PSA not affiliated with the military was for the Holy Childhood Association, helping to sell Holy Childhood Christmas Seals to provide food and clothing to mission children around the world.

In 1972, Bob participated in the educational film Patriotism, in which he explained to children the importance of being patriotic. Produced by Art Evans, this film was one of several educational productions Evans made for Oxford Films. Bob himself was extremely patriotic, often citing his appreciation for the U.S. military and his love for America. In an interview on August 3, 1968, Bob said, “I believe in independence, individualism, courage, patriotism—the traditional American values. People call me a flag waver. That’s right—I am a flag waver.”

Grand Marshal – Chrysanthemum Festival
Bristol, Connecticut
September 19, 1976
On Sunday, September 19, 1976, the 15th Annual Chrysanthemum Festival took place in Bristol, Connecticut. The festival, launched in 1962 as the Fall Festival and now affectionately known as the “Mum Fest,” highlights Bristol’s achievements and proud accomplishments. Bob worked at radio station WBIS in Bristol in 1951, and the city honored him as Grand Marshal of the 1976 Mum Festival Parade. He also took part in the opening ceremonies.
The previous day, the city of Bristol held a reception in Bob’s honor, during which the native Connecticut radio personality recalled his time at WBIS. “I worked right about where I’m standing now,” he said. “WBIS radio was on the second floor, and a department store, Kresge’s, was below, and I ate at Kresge’s lunch counter.”
It is a common belief that Bob was a lot like his character Colonel Hogan on Hogan’s Heroes. During the Mum Festival reception held in his honor, Bob stated, “I am a lot like the Hogan that is fun-loving, but I’m nothing like the Hogan that’s a hero. I faint at the sight of a hangnail.”
As part of his role as Grand Marshal, Bob was presented with “a key to the city, three giant yellow mums from Mayor Henry J. Wojtusik, a clock from the Mum Fest Committee, and a hard time from a garland of mums he cut through to open the 15th annual festival.” Bob had such difficulty cutting through the garland, that Parade Master of Ceremonies Val McCormack joked, “You’d never escape from that prison.”
The 50th Anniversary of the Mum Festival was held on Sunday, September 25, 2011, in Bristol. Bill Schwab, who was the chairman of the 1976 festival, served as one of the 2011 parade’s marshals and happily recalled meeting Bob Cranedescribing him as “charming” and “delightful.”
Mum Fest Parade goers in 1976 would agree. Smiling broadly, Bob Crane received enthusiastic applause as he led the parade through his one-time home streets of Bristol, Connecticut.

Arthritis Foundation Telethons
Bob performed with the “Novel Orchestra” that featured some of the era’s top stars during the finale of the 1967 Arthritis Foundation Telethon. In addition to Bob performing drums in the orchestra, Morey Amsterdam performed on cello, Jack Bailey on trombone, and Herb Shriner on harmonica. Bob was a regular participant in  annual Arthritis Foundation telethons throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

“Funds for Dinah”
Chatham, Ohio
November 23, 1977
In late 1977, Bob Crane traveled to Chatham, Ohio, to host a local fund drive—“Funds for Dinah”—in support of an eleven-year-old Medina County girl who had renal disease. Dinah Brooks required surgery to remove both of her kidneys in her fight against the disease, and she needed to travel three times per week to receive dialysis at the Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. After two years of making the long trips multiple times a week, the family’s car had broken down. The fund drive was to raise money to purchase a new car for the family, and funds that exceeded the Brooks’ family’s need were to be donated to other families facing similar circumstances.

Mitzi and a Hundred Guys
March 24, 1975
Actress Mitzi Gaynor assembled one hundred of the leading male movie and television celebrities in Hollywood to be part of a chorus for her television special. Bob was one of the first to sign on for the event, for which none of the stars would be paid. Instead, Mitzi made a sizable donation to the Motion Picture and Television Relief Fund in all of their names. Among the stars who participated with Bob Crane were Tom Bosley, Mike Connors, Telly Savalas, Peter Marshall, Dick Martin, Greg Morris, Vince Edwards, Marty Allen, Jack Lemmon, James Farentino, Ross Martin, Donald O’Connor, Bill Bixby, and Dean Jones.

United Cerebral Palsy Telethon
Hartford, Connecticut
Bob was especially dedicated to United Cerebral Palsy. He had close ties to the organization because his friend Eliot Dober from Bridgeport, Connecticut, had cerebral palsy. 
Eliot’s family owned a portion of WLIZ radio when Bob began working at the station in April 1951. At that time, Eliot was fifteen years of age, and according to Eliot, “I was in and out then, hanging around. And was a real pest!” Eliot remembered Bob being very patient with him during that time, and Bob had even given Eliot the opportunity to go on the air with him. They remained friends after Bob left Bridgeport and moved to Los Angeles in 1956, and Eliot took several trips out to the West Coast to visit him.
Throughout his life, Eliot was a strong advocate for individuals with disabilities. In 1977, he was appointed by the governor of Connecticut to the position of Executive Director of the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities for the State of Connecticut, and he served in this role until 1994. In addition, he also acted as the Connecticut State Director for United Cerebral Palsy.
As State Director for the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation, Eliot asked Bob if he could host the local Connecticut edition of the United Cerebral Palsy Telethon, and Bob always agreed. Generally, a celebrity would be paid handsomely to host a telethon nationally, and in 1970 and throughout the 1970s, Bob was offered $20,000 to host the national United Cerebral Palsy Telethon. Yet Bob turned down all of the national offers and the large sums of money, and instead, he flew back east to Hartford, Connecticut, where he hosted the local segment. He accepted only $2,000—just enough to cover travel expenses. In 1976, Eliot reported that Bob raised $97,000 for the Greater Hartford United Cerebral Palsy campaign, which equated to more than $400,000 in 2015.
        Eliot passed away on July 30, 2010, at 74 years of age. Before his passing, he remembered Bob this way: “He got along with everybody very well. And everybody liked Bob. I want people to remember the good things about Bob. He gave of himself, and he was a good person. A positive person. He wasn’t a bad guy. Bob was just Bob. And nobody is all good or all bad.”

Reprinted from Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography
© 2015 Carol M. Ford
Do not reproduce without written permission from the author.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Thanks to Barnes & Noble, Deptford, NJ, for a Terrific Author Event!

On Saturday, February 6, 2016, I had the honor of being the featured author at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Deptford, New Jersey, for a book signing of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography. The event was a huge success, and I want to thank the managers and staff at Barnes & Noble, Deptford, for their kind hospitality throughout the day. And I also want to give a big thank you to my family and some dear friends for coming to the book signing! (If you couldn't make it over, I know you were there in spirit!)

New author events are in the works, so keep checking back here and on our social media sites for dates and locations!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

'Hogan's Heroes' Fan Poll: Share Your Favorite Schultz/Klink Moments for Upcoming Blog-a-Thon

Attention Hogan's Heroes fans! Take part in a future post!

Our Vote For Bob Crane blog is a member of the Classic TV Blog Association (CTVBA). The CTVBA is hosting another blog-a-thon, and once again, we're excited to be taking part! The theme for this blog-a-thon is Sidekicks!

Naturally, when I heard what the theme was going to be, the first character I thought of was Sergeant Hans Schultz, sidekick to our beloved camp kommandant, Colonel Wilhelm Klink!

Here's where you come in! I'll be writing about Schultz being Klink's sidekick on Hogan's Heroes. Submit your favorite Klink/Schultz moments, and I'll use some of your feedback in the post. I'll keep it anonymous unless you really want me to include your name. You can enter either by commenting on this post below or contacting us via email (see form to the right; put SIDEKICK BLOGATHON in your email).

The blog-a-thon runs from March 6-8, 2016, so the deadline for submissions is February 29

Thanks, and have fun! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Bob Crane Biography Book Signing / February 6, 2016 / Barnes & Noble, Deptford, NJ

Beginning at 1:00 p.m. on February 6, 2016, I will be available at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Deptford, New Jersey, to sign copies of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography and answer any questions you may have. The winter weather can be a gamble in the Northeast, but I'm hoping that the snowstorm that clobbers us this weekend will satisfy Mother Nature until after my author event. Should there be inclement weather, however, I'll update this post and advise everyone on all of my social media sites. I'm looking forward to yet another fun and successful time meeting people and fans of Bob Crane and Hogan's Heroes! Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Excerpts from 'Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography' (Chapter 1)

Bob Crane was a fascinating, kind, gentle, caring, and generous person. He was not without faults, but then, the same is true for all of us. That his addiction and murder are continually scrutinized, to the exclusion of nearly all else, is wrong and just plain sad to me. There is a lot more to his story—660 pages worth!

More than anything, I want you to discover who Bob Crane was as a person. It's so important to understand that he was so much more than Colonel Hogan, should never be defined by his sexual addiction, and was not just a murder victim. He was a son, a husband, a father, a cousin, a friend, a coworker. He was a human being. And he was a good human being at that.

I want you to read Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography so badly, but not because I want to get rich off of it. 

All author profits are being donated to charity in Bob Crane's memory.

That is how much this book—and Bob's life—mean to me, my two co-authors, Bob's family, his friends, and all who loved him and cared about him. It's not about the money. It's about the truth. Bob deserves better, much better, than what has been dished out about him since his death.

So I will give you some excerpts over the next few weeks, chapter by chapter, from Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography. All I ask is that you allow yourself the chance to discover and learn. 


The following excerpt is from "Chapter 1: The Spirit of Stamford"
Alfred John Crane (Al, Jr.) was Bob's older brother. Charlie Zito was Bob's best friend from school. Don (Sappern) was also a close high school friend who played in the jazz band with Bob.

World War II was at its peak when Bob was in high school. There was food rationing. No more than two pounds of meat per family. Butter was unheard of. Sugar from Cuba had been cut off for fear of the trade ships being sunk. Three and a half gallons of gasoline per week were permitted unless it was to be used for something pertaining to one’s job. The war affected every part of life. For many, it meant enlisting in a branch of the service and going “over there” to fight. For those who stayed on the homefront, it meant volunteering and sacrificing—doing any and all that could be done to support the United States Armed Forces and help the Allies win the war.

Back row, left to right: Bob's father Alfred Thomas
Crane (Al. Sr.), his mother Rosemary, and his brother
Alfred John Crane (Al, Jr.) in his United States Navy
uniform. Bob is standing right next to his brother.
Others in the photograph are unidentified but
are believed to be relatives of the Crane/Senich family.
Photo is circa 1944, Stamford, Connecticut.
At night, windows were heavily draped, with no lights showing through. During air raid drills, Charlie Zito’s father, an air raid warden, went around to different neighborhoods ensuring lights were out. With the city of Stamford blacked out, Bob’s father would go to the rooftop of Stamford High School, where he and other volunteers would watch the night sky for enemy aircraft. If an enemy plane was suspected, it was reported.

Kids in school during that time had more of a “superman” approach to the war. Charlie explained, “You never really thought about dying at that age. If somebody was going to die, it wasn’t going to be us.”

Nevertheless, it was a very serious time for high school students. Gym class consisted of commando training, push-ups, and according to Charlie, “other more strenuous forms of torture.”

“We didn’t have gym,” Charlie recalled. “We went outside with gym shorts on—ice, snow, mud, whatever—and did calisthenics and ran around the track. They had somebody teaching us hand-to-hand combat. They really were trying to toughen us up.” 

Families with sons serving overseas on the front lines posted little flags in the shape of a pennant upside down in their windows. If you had one son in the service, you had one pennant or star. Some families had three sons in the service, so there would be three flags. If you lost a son, it was etched in black. Bob’s family displayed such a flag, and it came very close to being etched in black.

In August 1943, when Bob was fifteen years old, Al, Jr. joined the Navy, and on August 11, 1944, he reported for duty on the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) aircraft carrier. The Bunker Hill saw action in the Pacific Theater, and Al saw at least four major engagements while serving on duty. Al was on board on the morning of May 11, 1945, just three days shy of his nineteenth birthday. While supporting the Okinawa invasion, the carrier was attacked by two kamikazes, severely damaging the ship. Her losses included three hundred forty-six men killed, forty-three missing, and two hundred sixty-four wounded.

When it was learned that the ship had been attacked and badly crippled, the Crane household went into turmoil. “The waiting and the waiting and the waiting,” Charlie recalled. “Wondering did Al survive? It was just terrible.”

Communications in 1945 were not as they are today, and nearly three weeks passed before word arrived about Al’s fate. During those weeks of not knowing, which Charlie said seemed like an eternity, Bob would go to Charlie’s house often.

Bob was devastated by the possibility that his brother might have been killed. He held it together most of the time, but when he was with his closest confidants, he would let his true feelings show.

“I’ll tell you,” Charlie said, “if you really got into it with him, and I didn’t like to do that too much—I didn’t want to see Bob that way—he would be brought to tears. And so consequentially, when it got to that point, I would change the subject. And then he caught on, and then he would change the subject, and we’d forget about it for awhile. It just wasn’t the same. He didn’t want to upset his parents. He didn’t want his parents to think he was still going on with his life and having all the fun he was having at the time. He thought maybe they would get the wrong impression. He used to bring a drum with him, and he’d play, and I’d play piano, and we’d listen to some of my records. But it wasn’t the same.”

Al survived the attack, but not without physical and psychological injury. Seeking an escape out of the burning hull, he climbed up a red-hot chain out of the fire to the ship’s surface, and he was badly wounded. Later, he learned that his shipmate who had relieved him of his radio post shortly before the attack occurred was killed in the attack. While Al had been very proud to serve in the war and on the Bunker Hill, he would carry these scars of guilt with him for the rest of his life.

When word reached Stamford that Al was alive, “it was like Christmas,” Charlie recalled. “It had been sad, especially the not knowing. Every time you’d see it—what we used to do to have fun, it was always in the background. There was a war on. Your neighbors were being killed. Brothers were being killed. And not knowing for a long time that Bob’s brother did survive was horrible.”

The school was preparing to graduate Bob, Charlie, Don, and many of their classmates and friends early so they could enter the war. Their report date was to have been May 20, 1945. With Victory in Europe (VE) Day occurring only a few days prior, on May 8, 1945, they just missed their draft date by a mere fraction. Their parents breathed a sigh of relief, and instead of going off to fight a war, their kids continued on with school.

Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography
© 2015 Carol M. Ford
Do not reproduce without written permission from the author.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Rod Serling Hated 'Hogan's Heroes' — And That's Okay!

My mother hates Hogan's Heroes.

Yes, that's right. The woman who gave birth to the author who would one day write and publish a 660-page tome about the show's star despises the series that gave the world Colonel Hogan and made Bob Crane an international celebrity. Yikes!

My mom and I have a healthy, loving, mother-daughter relationship. She is the backbone of the entire family, and she supports my sister and me in all we do. She also likes Bob Crane as a radio personality and as an actor in general. And through the work of her rather determined and somewhat tenacious daughter, she has come to understand Bob Crane on a truer, more human level.

But Mom just never liked Hogan's Heroes. And for that matter, she never liked M*A*S*H or Doctor Who, but she can binge-watch NCIS and the Hallmark Channel's Christmas movies like it's nobody's business.

And so it goes. We all like and dislike certain things in the world. That's what makes us unique. If we want people to respect us for what we like, then the opposite must hold true. And if we dislike a certain television show or movie, it does not necessarily mean we hate the actors appearing in it. In most instances, we just don't care for the plot.

Recently, a Twitter discussion ensued about Rod Serling, the creative genius behind The Twilight Zone, and his abhorrence of Hogan's Heroes. His disgust of the series was so profound that his daughter, Anne Serling, felt compelled to include it in her highly acclaimed memoir, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling.

Serling's daughter doesn't hold back when she talks about her father's hatred of Hogan, Klink, and Schultz, and their World War II German POW camp antics. She writes:

One program, though, that we are never allowed to watch is Hogan's Heroes, about a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp. My father has a particular abhorrence of this show and no tolerance for how it perversely twists what happened in Nazi prison camps into something remotely comical. Years later, in a speech at the Library of Congress in Washington, it is clearly still on his mind.
'You take a show like Hogan's Heroes. Now, here you have a weekly, mirth-filled half hour that shows what a swinging ball it must have been in a Nazi POW camp. Now, there's a slight deviation from the norm in that there are good guys on this show; certainly, but there are no bad guys, at least not in the sense that we're used to recognizing our enemies as they appeared in old Warner Brothers films... 
'Now through the good offices of Hogan's Heroes, we meet the new post-war version of the wartime Nazi: a thick, bumbling fathead whose crime, singularly, is stupidity—nothing more. He's kind of a lovable, affable, benign Herman Goering. Now this may appeal to some students of comedy who refuse to let history get in the way of their laughter. But what it does to history is to distort, and what it does to a recollection of horror that is an ugly matter of record is absolutely inexcusable. Satire is one thing, because it bleeds, and it comments as it evokes laughter. But a rank diminishment of what was once an era of appalling human suffering, I don't believe, is proper material for comedy.'
He goes on to suggest that the success of Hogan's Heroes could lead to The Merry Men of Auschwitz, or Milton Berle in a new musical version of the Death March on Bataan, or a singular shot spectacular, The Wit and Wisdom of Adolph Hitler (pp. 133-134).

There is little doubt that Rod Serling loathed Hogan's Heroes. His words are harsh, and they cut to the quick. Any fan of Hogan's Heroes (and I'm one of them!) would leap to the show's defense. Robert Clary, who is Jewish, spent two years in concentration camps and lost many of his family members to the Nazis. Yet he wasn't offended by Hogan's Heroes and enjoyed portraying his character Corporal Louis LeBeau. Other series stars who were Jewish (or of Jewish heritage) include Werner Klemperer, John Banner, Leon Askin, and Howard Caine. Cynthia Lynn and her mother and grandmother survived German-occupied Latvia. John Banner is quoted as saying Schultz is, in fact, not stupid: "Notice that he survives." And Werner Klemperer agreed to play the role of Colonel Klink only if Klink were always made out to be the fool.

Bob Crane's brother almost died serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II (he was badly injured), so before Bob even considered signing the contract to play Colonel Hogan, he insisted that the producers show veterans and former POWs an early trailer to be sure they were not offended by the series. They loved it, saying without humor, they never would have made it through the war. Bob also spent a great deal of time defending the plot of Hogan's Heroes, saying it was not about making the Germans look foolish. Klink and Schultz are the buffoons, but the Nazis that visited the camp from Berlin had to be convincing as bad guys. He also defined it as a show that was a mock of authority, and according to his fan mail, people loved it when he gave it to Klink because they could relate: it was like giving it to the boss.

For Bob Crane: The Definitive BiographyHogan's Heroes director Robert Butler explained to Linda Groundwater and me that the backdrop of war was a crucial element in the success of a show. It just "works." The drama is heightened because any one of the good guys could "get drilled" at any time. He said you do "moments," where the viewer is given a taste of that wartime tension before the comic relief. 

An example of one of those "moments" comes from a fan favorite, "Will the Real Adolph Please Stand Up," where Sergeant Andrew Carter (Larry Hovis) impersonates Hitler for the first time (and really convincingly, I might add!). Carter stumbles onto his uncanny ability to impersonate Hitler rather innocently, and he makes the mistake of doing his Adolph schtick in front of his commanding officer, Colonel Hogan. And Hogan really lets him have it. Check out the 1:17 mark in the clip below:

This is what separates silly nonsense from smart comedy. Realism. There is no way Stalag 13 could have existed in real life, but the tension of war did. And Bob Crane and his fellow cast members capture that tension regularly throughout the run of the series. Hogan's Heroes was not allowed to grow, however, in the same way that M*A*S*H eventually did. It always stayed in the same formula week after week, and part of that is the era in which it was produced. 

But I can talk until I'm blue in the face. There will always be those people who just don't like Hogan's Heroes. They, including my Mom and Rod Serling, can't get past the horrors of war and the atrocities caused by the Nazis.

And that's okay.

In fact, it's more than okay. To each his own. What would we talk about if we were all exactly the same and liked all the same things?

All of this aside, what should not be confused is how Rod Serling felt about Bob Crane. Just because Serling hated Hogan's Heroes does not mean he hated Bob. He held absolutely no personal animosity toward Bob despite his utter dislike of Bob's star vehicle.

The truth is—Rod Serling did like Bob Crane. He simply disliked a television series. It could have been anybody in the title role of Colonel Hogan. Serling would have hated the series just the same. While it's a safe bet that Serling would have preferred it if Bob had declined the role of Hogan, his hatred of Hogan's Heroes was not a personal attack on his friend and colleague.

Bob Crane and Rod Serling enjoyed a long professional relationship over the years. Serling was a frequent guest on Bob's KNX radio program. Ironically, in the clip below (which aired live on December 11, 1961), they discuss those people who hate The Twilight Zone (in this case, the episode "The Shelter") and those who write compulsively to Serling to tell him about it. Serling's response is to quote the 1st Amendment, stating that there should be no abridging the freedom of speech or of the press. Regarding his hate mail, Serling says, "I'm delighted. Let them write anything they want. I don't think we're in trouble in this country if we let people say, talk, think, comment. This isn't our problem. It's when we start to abridge that."

In November 1960, Bob got his first major break in television. Rod Serling hired him to play the uncredited radio announcer in The Twilight Zone episode, "Static." Bob was known as radio's Man of 1,000 Voices, and he performs all of the voices heard on the radio in this episode. The episode taped on November 20, 1960, and Bob was paid $155.00 for his voice over work "of more than five lines" in the episode. "Static" aired on March 10, 1961.

During Bob's post-Hogan's Heroes days, Serling hired Bob to perform several times in his Zero Hour radio mystery series. And Bob also guest-starred on Serling's television series Night Gallery in the episode "House with Ghost" (also with co-star and friend Bernard Fox). Further, Bob's daughter, Karen Crane, grew up with Anne Serling, and the two remain friends to this day.

When all is said and done, Rod Serling simply didn't like Hogan's Heroes and wanted to let people know. He expressed himself constructively and without personally attacking any one individual, from Bob Crane to anyone connected with the series. I see Hogan's Heroes differently, as did Bob and many others. But I respect Serling's feelings and those of others who dislike the very program that I describe as brilliant and one of my all-time favorites. 

It's not the the end of the world if we are different from one another and have varying opinions. That's what makes life fun! We're only in trouble if, as Serling states, we start to abridge that diversity.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Bob Crane and John Banner Appear on 'The John Gary Show'—June 29, 1966

On Wednesday, June 29, 1966, Bob Crane made a guest appearance on The John Gary Show. Joining him were his Hogan's Heroes co-star John Banner, Vicki Carr, and Roger Williams. Similar to other programs of the era, The John Gary Show was a variety show and featured a lot of singing, dancing, skits, and of course, in this episode, Bob's drumming.

As a radio personality at KNX from 1956 to 1965, Bob interviewed thousands of celebrities, and in the early 1960s, John Gary was a guest on his show. Bob actually had two celebrity guests on the air that day—John Gary and Richard Chamberlain. Those who were present claimed that both were wonderful guests and that John Gary was "very sweet and so nice." Bob and his two guests had a great time on the air, and even encountered an awkward moment when he and Richard Chamberlain called the winner of a hi-fi stereo system, and took the winner completely by surprise! There is little doubt that John's experiences on Bob's KNX radio show led to him asking Bob to appear on his own program a few years later while Bob was on hiatus from Hogan's Heroes.

Bob loved music in general, and in addition to his drums, he loved to sing. During his early school days, he would walk to school with his friends, singing away and teaching his pals the lyrics of the day. But we never got to hear much of his singing on Hogan's Heroes or other works (with the exception of him singing along with songs on his radio shows, or on programs such as The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and The Hollywood Palace). But here, on The John Gary Show, Bob sings along with John Banner, "What Would You Do Without Me?"—and the two of them performing the number dressed in their Hogan's outfits is adorable and priceless! This episode is no longer available on YouTube, but scroll down to the bottom of this post for ordering information directly from John Gary's estate.



I'm happy to say that this episode is available for sale through John Gary's estate/website. If you're a Hogan's Heroes and Bob Crane fan, you won't be disappointed! Click the image below to be redirected to their website and order your own copy!
Be sure to check out their other items as well.