Everybody has a history to his or her life.
Let’s not paint Bob’s life by—what shall we say?—the moments in his life.
I say these things that are the flaws are like specks on the Parthenon.
Let’s look at the Parthenon and let’s not look at the specks.
Let’s lift our eyes up to the man’s eyes and soul and life, and not look
down on the gutter.
—Joe Cosgrove, former staff announcer, KPOL, Los Angeles, and owner, KTHL, Lake Tahoe, CA; the first person to greet Bob when he arrived in Hollywood in August 1956.
As published in Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography
©2015 Carol M. Ford
When you spend thirty-some years researching something or somebody, you are going to learn a lot.
Such is the case with Bob Crane. After decades of research, my colleagues and I uncovered so much new and noteworthy information about Bob, we were, in a word, amazed. Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography is more than 600 pages in length because there was just so much to tell. And there was also so much to fix. Over the years, the facts about Bob's life have been twisted around and exaggerated, or worse, fabricated. These inaccuracies had to be corrected and then retold properly or debunked completely.
I've compiled a list of important facts about Bob here, with details contained in Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography. Some people are afraid of what they might find in the book because Bob's reputation precedes him. But rest assured, the general public has not been given the whole story or even the true story. After reading through this chiseled-down list of facts, please check out Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography. It will change the way you think about Bob Crane, and I think you will be happily surprised.
1. Bob Crane was born in Waterbury, CT, on July 13, 1928. He grew up in Stamford, CT, and graduated from Stamford High School in 1946. He was one of the most popular kids in school.
2. Bob was inspired to play drums by watching Gene Krupa at the 1939 World’s Fair. From that time on, he was never without his drumsticks. He played drums throughout his life.
3. Bob’s older brother Alfred served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Al was badly injured during the war but survived. Al’s wartime experiences had a dramatic and lasting impact on Bob.
4. Following high school graduation, Bob served in the U.S. National Guard in Stamford, CT, and worked in a jewelry store.
5. Bob played with many name bands on the East Coast while working in radio. He was eventually able to sit in and play with his idols, including The Stan Kenton Orchestra, the New Tommy Dorsey Band, and the Harry James Orchestra. He performed a drum battle with Gene Krupa over KNX-CBS Radio. He was a good friend of Buddy Rich, and he would occasionally perform with Rich in various venues, such as at Disneyland.
6. Bob spent fifteen consecutive years in radio, transforming the industry, and was considered a radio genius by his broadcasting colleagues. His radio show was so successful that by the time he was working at KNX in Hollywood, there was a premium for advertisers to buy time during his program, and they had to buy other time slots in addition to Bob's. In addition to doing things in radio that had rarely, if ever, been done before, Bob was also a gifted voice impersonator. KNX dubbed him radio’s Man of a Thousand Voices.
7. Bob interviewed thousands of celebrities on his KNX radio show, including Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, Ronald Reagan, Jonathan Winters, Dick Clark, Jayne Mansfield, Ron Howard, Jerry Lewis, Richard Dawson, Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, and more. Because he wanted to act, he turned down countless offers to transition his radio show to television, including to take over as host for The Tonight Show. It then went to Johnny Carson.
8. In 1964, Bob took an acting course taught by Stella Adler. He also took acting advice from Donna Reed during at least the first season of Hogan’s Heroes.
9. Bob left The Donna Reed Show because he was bored with the premise. He remained friends with Donna Reed and her producer/husband Tony Owen following his departure from her series.
10. Bob was a great supporter of U.S. veterans and active duty service personnel. Before accepting the role of Colonel Hogan on Hogan’s Heroes, Bob insisted that a trailer of the series be shown to veterans and former POWs. He wanted to be sure they approved of the premise before signing because he didn’t want to offend them. They loved Hogan’s Heroes, claiming without humor, they never would have made it through the war. Bob was sold, and the rest was history.
11. Before agreeing to star on Hogan’s Heroes, Bob was inundated with offers for the lead in many other series, including Please Don’t Eat the Daisies and My Mother the Car.
12. Bob got his acting start in 1959 in a community theatre production of Tunnel of Love. He performed in theatre throughout his entire life, even during the height of his career on Hogan’s Heroes. He received rave critical reviews for nearly every one of his theatre productions.
13. After being cast as the lead in The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz, Bob urged director George Marshall to hire as many cast members from Hogan’s Heroes as he could so they would have work during their hiatus. Those who accepted roles in the film included Werner Klemperer, John Banner, and Leon Askin.
14. Bob wrote an ending to Hogan’s Heroes, entitled Hogan’s Heroes Revue, which was a variety act to have been performed in Las Vegas. Robert Clary and Werner Klemperer were signed on to star with him in the live show, as well as John Thompson, Bob’s close friend and a magician who today is the magic consultant to Penn & Teller and Criss Angel, among others. Hogan’s Heroes Revue was never produced because Bob did not agree with what he considered a dishonest business contract with the casino.
15. During the 1970s, Bob turned down many offers to star in television shows and emcee game shows and talk shows. Instead, he accepted the leading role in Second Start, which was retitled The Bob Crane Show. He also co-wrote Mobile Two, the pilot movie for the series Mobile One, starring Jackie Cooper.
16. When Bob breaks down in tears on his episode of The Love Boat, he is acting. It was not an indication of his state of mind at the time. In between takes, he was friendly, affable, and got along well with the cast. This performance shows how Bob was evolving as an actor, not as someone who couldn't hold it together at work. He was planning on taking on more serious roles such as his character on The Love Boat, but he didn't have the chance because he was murdered.
Bob Crane did not exhibit any inappropriate behavior on Celebrity Cooks. That he did is completely false, a story fabricated for ratings and profit. Celebrity Cooks has officially gone on record to dispute any claims that Bob behaved inappropriately in the episode. They state Bob was one of their best guests, and the way his episode is depicted in Auto Focus is totally incorrect and never happened.
18. Bob was a selfless philanthropist who gave generously of his time and money to many different charities, and he receives very little recognition for it. These included: U.S. Armed Forces Radio Network, United Cerebral Palsy, the Arthritis Foundation, and Operation Entertainment, to name a few. He also met regularly with U.S. veterans groups and entertained at military bases across the country.
Bob loved and adored his family and friends, and especially his children. His legacy lives on through all of them. In 2013, his grandson, Max William Crane, made his acting debut in Fast & Furious 6 as little baby Jack.