|Bob Crane takes time to sign autographs|
at a parade c. 1967 (notice he is wearing
a drum and holding drumsticks).
Although it may seem glamorous, I imagine being a celebrity is not always easy. I only know the smallest, briefest extent of being in the public eye. Most fans of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography are beautiful souls who I appreciate and try my very best to answer, even when I'm stretched to the limit in my own life. I've also had a handful of people who crossed the line and ventured into the scary realm of cyber-stalking. But by and large, the majority of fans are good, honest, lovely people. Without them, celebrities (and authors!) would not achieve or sustain their success.
Bob Crane didn't care much about money or cars, or about being "famous." But he certainly adored his fans, and he tried so very hard to make them happy. Whether he was sitting in a restaurant enjoying dinner, standing in line at the supermarket, or enjoying a day at Disneyland with his children, Bob would stop what he was doing and scribble his name on a napkin, receipt, ticket, or whatever was handed to him. "Best Wishes, From Hogan," was his signature sentiment above his autograph.
Bob responded to almost all of his own fan mail. After Hogan's Heroes became a hit, and especially during the run of the series, he received tons of mail. How much is unknown, but what I do know is that he took time out of his already hectic schedule to answer as much of his fan mail as he could, rather than hand it off to an assistant or secretary. He likely would have answered all of it—because he would have genuinely wanted to—if only there were more hours in the day. To the best of my research, he was not one to use an "autopen," but instead, would sit for hours personally answering letters or pre-signing 8x10 glossies so that they would be ready for him to personalize and send off to the eager fan.
That's impressive. I absolutely love my author events and meeting people who want to learn Bob's true story, and I can honestly tell you that some of the best moments of my life have been experienced during book signings. But I will also say that signing even just fifty books over a two-day event is quite a feat. Signing autographs is fun, but it's also exhausting!
I give Bob tremendous credit for his treatment and appreciation of his fans. His personal life was often interrupted by a good-natured fan who charged up out of nowhere wanting to get Colonel Hogan's autograph. And Bob would comply. Some celebrities can take on an air of entitlement, and they can seem unapproachable—almost god-like. Not so with Bob Crane. As many told us for his biography, Bob knew he was a star, but he didn't act like it—not on the set and not with his fans. He wasn't a "Bob Almighty," and despite his fame, he never forgot his humble roots. He was just Bob Crane, who just happened to be famous, and who treasured his fans, wanting to make their day just a little brighter by personally answering them.