Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Bob Crane's 'Cavalcade of Turkeys' — Thanksgiving Day, 1972 (KMPC)

On November 23, 1972, Bob Crane hosted a special Thanksgiving Day program over KMPC Radio in Los Angeles. During his show, he played segments of a few celebrity interviews from his day s at KNX, including those of Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Lawrence, Hugo Montenegro, and Jerry Lewis. Here is the full recording of that special, split into two parts. The Condition of the tape had unfortunately deteriorated over time, but the slight imperfections in the sound quality do not take away from the joy of being able to hear this broadcast from Thanksgiving 1972!

Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Note: This recording was a part of Bob Crane's personal collection of his radio shows and is courtesy of his son, Scott Crane.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Last Time I Saw Paris (Robert Clary — Hogan's Heroes)

In honor of those who lost their lives in last week's terrorist attacks in Paris, as well as for so many others in attacks around the world: Robert Clary's version of The Last Time I Saw Paris, from the album 'Hogan's Heroes' Sing the Best of World War II.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Don't Get Discouraged — Everything Happens for the Best

It was early spring in 1962. and Bob Crane had been working in radio for twelve years, and at KNX-CBS Radio in Hollywood for six of them. He was at the height of his radio career, with his early morning drive-time show commanding the airwaves in Southern California. But he hadn't arrived at this position immediately. With meager beginnings at a jewelry/emporium shop in Stamford, Connecticut, in the late 1940s following high school graduation, Bob had climbed his way out of merchandizing and into radio, and up the proverbial career ladder.

It was only after he finally achieved broadcasting success in Los Angeles, however, when he was able to take a step back and evaluate his journey thus far. And he realized that, despite his own impatience, nothing happens overnight. Everything takes time. He called this the "idea of learning."

Bob's cousin Jim Senich was just starting his radio career in early 1962, and Jim was proud to follow in his older cousin's footsteps. But Jim was also discouraged at the response he was receiving. He saw Bob's success and was eager to achieve similar goals for himself. Bob and Jim were not only cousins, they were friends, and Jim looked up to Bob as a role model. And so, Jim sought his advice.

"Don't get discouraged," Bob told him in an audio letter, hoping to ease Jim's worries. "Eventually, what you're looking for is gonna happen, and by the time it does happen, you'll be that much better along the way to what you should be. Don't get discouraged, and just keep on plugging along, and what you want will eventually be yours. You know, there's nothing to stop it if you just keep on working hard. And by working hard, I mean doing the best job you possibly can. Everything happens for the best, and I believe it completely."

This is very sound advice, and it can be applied to anyone, at any stage of life. Wherever you are right now, I can almost guarantee you you're eager for the next thing, whether it is something new in your career or a personal goal. Whatever it is, if it's not yours yet, it's because you still have work to do to prepare for it. It took me most of my life to finally be able to write Bob Crane's biography, and twelve years to officially research it with Dee Young and Linda Groundwater and then publish it. And only now, as I look back on this journey, can I see and appreciate why things happened in the certain order that they did.

Nothing happens overnight. And Bob's "idea of learning" is something we all must learn. We must figure out how to be patient even though we want something to happen now. We should come to accept that sometimes, things just have to happen in their own way and in their own time, because even though it's difficult, it truly will be for the best.

And I believe that—completely.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Hogan's Jacket, Klink's Uniform, Schultz's Overcoat—Off to a Museum!

On September 30, 2015, Colonel Hogan's U.S. Army Air Force bomber jacket that was owned and worn by Bob Crane in Hogan's Heroes (and by Frank Sinatra in Von Ryan's Express) was auctioned off for $22,500. We tried to raise money to win the jacket so we could donate it to a museum. But we were unsuccessful.

However... On October 1, 2015, I received an email from Edward Patrick, the CEO of the Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton, Ohio. He informed me that the museum had bid on and won Hogan's bomber jacket. Further, the museum had also bid on and won Colonel Klink's uniform (as worn by Werner Klemperer) and Sergeant Schultz's overcoat (as worn by John Banner), which were also up for auction in the same lot as Hogan's jacket. These three signature props have now been safely relocated to the museum, where they will soon be on display for the public to enjoy. Hogan, Klink, and Schultz are all back together again! And we are thrilled!

We are extremely grateful to the Liberty Aviation Museum and humbled by their amazing gesture to preserve these iconic items in television history, and we send them our deepest gratitude and thanks. Please consider donating to/volunteering at the museum, liking them on Facebook, and/or following them on Twitter to show your support.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The 'Hogan's Heroes' Photo that Launched a Book

I first saw this picture when I was just 14 years old. I was in a Borders bookstore, and I was flipping through this big, green, heavy book—The Great TV Sitcom Book. I had recently discovered Hogan's Heroes, and I didn't know anything about the cast. But I knew Bob Crane was my favorite. I turned to the section on Hogan's, and I found this picture.

At first, I was thrilled because in the mid-1980s, there was no such thing as the Internet, Me-TV, or classic TV shows on video tape, DVD, live streaming, or YouTube. I got my Hogan's "fix" on a little 17-inch B&W TV, and finding just one little Hogan's Heroes picture in a random book was like striking gold. But it was what was written under the picture that stunned me. See, this is when I learned of Bob Crane's murder, how and when he was murdered, and that the crime was still unsolved. My heart was broken!

This picture always reminds me of that moment. That's when my little 14-year-old self said, "I'm going to help make this right. I don't know how I'm ever going to do that because I'm just a kid. But I promise I'm going to do something!" So I started researching Bob Crane...and I never stopped. And thirty years and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears later...and with the help of my friends...I wrote and we published a book. 

I'm often asked how and why I decided to write Bob Crane's biography. There is never an easy answer. It's not like I just woke up one day and said, "Hey! Here's a neat idea..." The journey was long, and with many twists and turns in the road. But it's always been a big part of my life to discover Bob's full life story, and now that I have, I will always want others to discover it, too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

'Celebrity Cooks'—The Real Story Behind Bob Crane's Appearance

"I'm happy to set right a wrong... [Bob Crane was] a true professional. A well-together, fun gentleman. Full of laughs. The most well-adjusted person you'd ever want to meet. 
I wish you nothing but success [for your book]."
—Derek Smith, owner and producer, 'Celebrity Cooks'

The original, unofficial story goes something like this:

In the late spring of 1978, Bob Crane guest-starred on the Canadian television series Celebrity Cooks. A few days later, on June 29, he was murdered. His episode was supposed to air on July 10, but on July 1, it was pulled from the lineup out of respect. One source—a CBS network spokesman, Jeff Erdel—provided more details to a curious public about his decision not to air the episode. Upon reviewing the tape shortly following Bob's murder, Erdel claimed to have watched a wretched, sleazy, and broken Bob Crane stumble through the show. According to Erdel, Bob made inappropriate jokes about sex, and he talked extensively about death—making "death jokes," which Erdel found to be eerie in the wake of Bob's murder. Erdel also said he saw Bob crying, choking back tears as he discussed his separation and impending divorce from his second wife, Patricia Olson (Sigrid Valdis). This all happened in front of a live studio audience and as the cameras rolled. Erdel made his feelings about the episode known to the press immediately following Bob's murder. A few months later, he gave an exclusive interview with a gossip magazine journalist, who published a lengthy article, claiming that Bob's alleged questionable state of mind—evident to at least Erdel in the Celebrity Cooks episode—may have led to his murder. According to Erdel, Bob's episode never aired. Robert Graysmith later wrote about the event in his book, The Murder of Bob Crane, and it was also depicted in the Bob Crane biopic, Auto Focus.

It certainly makes for an interesting story, and my colleagues Linda Groundwater, Dee Young, and I had no reason to doubt what the media, a journalist, a seasoned author, and a movie producer told the world. Our bigger question was—why? What really happened on that day of the Celebrity Cooks taping? Why had Bob not been able to hold it together? What was going through his mind to cause him such angst, to the point where he could not control his emotions before the cameras and an audience? Others had talked to us at length about Bob's professionalism. His work was extremely important to him, and he was driven toward success. Bob did have a broad sense of humor, but behaving in such a manner was way out of character for him. And for this to have happened so close to his murder must have meant he was in deep despair and on the edge. What a terrible, heartbreaking thought. So we set out to find out.

Linda and I interviewed three people directly affiliated with Celebrity Cooks, and more importantly, who were present on the day of Bob's episode taping: owner and producer Derek Smith, talent agent Anne Kear, and stage manager Roger Packer. We spoke to them separately, with none of them able to influence the other's responses. And what we discovered was both enlightening—and disturbing.

According to Smith, Kear, and Packer, everything that has been told about Bob Crane's appearance on Celebrity Cooks before now is wrong, completely inaccurate, and nothing more than salacious hype. They were furious about how Bob and his Celebrity Cooks episode have been portrayed over the years, and they were more than happy to set things right.

Bob Crane with Celebrity Cooks host Bruno Gerussi share a laugh with
their live studio audience. (January 25, 1978)
In fact, according to all three, Bob was not only a terrific guest, he was one of their best guests. They recalled he was very personable and funny, and received an enthusiastic and warm response from his audience. He and host Bruno Gerussi had a lot of fun making his signature dish, "Chicken a la Hogan's Heroes." The only joke about death that producer Derek Smith recalled was one about cannibals having the mother-in-law for dinner, and the fact that he could not remember anything out of the ordinary meant that the episode had gone well.

At no point did anyone find Bob's temperament or disposition to be off-color, inappropriate, or in the least bit depressed. According to all three, there was no crying or talk of sex or his marital troubles. In fact, if Bob had exhibited any of those traits as reported by Erdel, they would have stopped tape and allowed him to collect himself, or they would have cancelled the episode entirely. Celebrity Cooks aired in the mid-afternoon, a time when young children would be watching. There was no way the producers or anyone connected with the show would have allowed an out-of-control guest ruin their reputation for providing wholesome, light, family entertainment.

Bob's episode was taped on January 25, 1978, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. His was the second of three episodes taped that day. The other two episodes were with renowned French chef Julia Child, who taped the first and third episodes. It aired at least five times in Canada, beginning in February 1978 and repeated several times throughout the winter and spring of that year. Bob's episode was so well received, in fact, that it was going to be the first episode to be aired in syndication in the United States, and it was set for July 10, 1978. That is, until one man's uncorroborated opinion following Bob's untimely death changed all that.

This new information certainly made for a less-sensational story than the version that has been circulating and told ad nauseam since his death. In this case, the lack of story is the real story. There simply was no story, and so, one was exaggerated or, at worst, invented—for what? Fifteen minutes of fame? Ratings? Who knows. But it forced yet another unnecessary—and incorrect—footnote to Bob's legacy. And that is most disturbing.

When people ask us, "Why did you write Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography?", I give them examples. There are so many reasons why. And Bob Crane's Celebrity Cooks appearance is just one of many instances where others trying to tell his life story got it very, very wrong, and it must be made right.

A clip of Bob Crane's Celebrity Cooks episode appears at the end of this video.

Note: Bob Crane's Celebrity Cooks appearance is covered in great detail in Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography. For more information, click here.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Tribute to Kevin P. Doran — Owner, General Manager of WLEA

Over the course of researching Bob Crane's biography, I've met, talked with, and gotten to know many people across the country and all over the world. These individuals become a part of my own life and make a lasting impression. Kevin P. Doran, owner and general manager of WLEA in Hornell, New York, was no exception.

Bob Crane at WLEA, Hornell, NY (1950)
Courtesy of Scott Crane and published in
Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography.
WLEA holds the honor of being the first radio station to hire Bob, and it will always be an important chapter in both his and WLEA's history. At WLEA, Bob started applying his learned and self-developed broadcasting skills, voice impersonations, and gimmicks. It was where he first experimented with his formula of sampling and began "messing" with or "enhancing" sponsors' ads. And WLEA is very proud of Bob Crane and of his affiliation with their station. 

When Linda Groundwater started researching Bob's biography in 2003, WLEA was one of the first places of importance that she contacted. Kevin responded quickly, full of support and offers to help in any way that he could. I also reached out to Kevin a few times—both for help with the biography as well as with our efforts for Bob's induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Kevin never failed to offer his assistance wherever he could, which included reaching out to his listeners who may have known Bob or listened to his show. And some of those responses made it into the book!

Kevin also provided a statement of praise for Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, which is published on the back jacket cover, stating: "If you're a Bob Crane fan, this book is a must. Loved the old pictures of Crane in his WLEA days."

On April 16, 2014, Kevin interviewed me. It was my first-ever radio interview, and this rookie was just a little nervous! It was pre-recorded, where I called in from home. It was pouring down rain that day, and I was trying to keep my six-month-old golden retriever puppy, Copper, quiet, but was failing miserably. During a break in the interview, I managed to get him outside despite the April showers, and although he got pretty muddy, at least he wasn't squeaking the toys anymore! Right towards the end of the interview, Copper let out a few loud barks, and these can be heard in the interview. Kevin laughed, saying, "Mad dog!" I'll never forget it—my first interview, and Copper had to get his two cents in!

I was saddened to learn that on Wednesday, October 21, 2015, Kevin succumbed to leukemia, a battle he had been fighting for decades. I, along with Linda Groundwater and Dee Young, offer our sincerest condolences to Kevin's family, friends, and coworkers. Kevin will always be remembered as one of the best, and I know he will be missed by so many who loved him. Rest in peace, Kevin, and thank you for everything.