As He Is Mostly Remembered - Colonel Hogan
Bob Crane was born Robert Edward Crane, in Waterbury, Connecticut, July 13th 1928. In 1942, at the age of 14, Bob began drumming for the Connecticut Symphony Orchestra. He was dismissed a year later because he was not considered "serious enough." Shortly thereafter, Bob began a radio career which eventually took him west to Los Angeles, and landed him in the morning drive slot at CBS powerhouse KNX, where he became known as "The King of the Los Angeles Airwaves." His show was not only wildly successful, it was revolutionary. Bob filled the broadcast booth with wry wit and charisma, not to mention drums, chimpanzees, and movie stars. His show was the number-one-rated morning show in Los Angeles, and Hollywood's biggest stars were regular guests on his show; Marilyn Monroe, Ronald Regan, Jayne Mansfield, Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Hope, and Frank Sinatra, to name only a handful.
It was during his reign as "King of the L.A. Airwaves" that Crane captured the attention of CBS television executives. He began making guest appearances on The Dick Van Dyke Show, among others. Soon he landed himself a regular role on The Donna Reed Show as Doctor David Kelsey.
However, Crane's character was dropped after two seasons because executives decided the flirtatious Kelsey, was "too suggestive." Then, in 1965 Crane was offered the starring role in a highly controversial television pilot about Allied prisoners in a German P.O.W. camp. The pilot made a splash and Hogan's Heroes went on to become one of the most successful sitcoms of all time. In 1966 and 1967, Bob was nominated for two Emmy awards - this would be the peak of his career. In 1971, after a six-year run, CBS inexplicably canceled Hogan's Heroes when management decided to take the entire network in a different direction.
In the years following the cancellation of Hogan's Heroes, Bob stayed busy with various film and television appearances, including two Disney films, Superdad and Gus. Bob also remained a regular guest on the talk show circuit, as well as a guest host for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. In 1975 NBC gave Bob another shot at prime time with The Bob Crane Show. However, the show was not a critical success, and it was canceled after only thirteen episodes. For the next several years Bob showed his wares on the dinner theater circuit, acting and directing in Beginner's Luck, among other productions.
In the afternoon of June 29, 1978, actress Victoria Berry knocked on the door to apartment 132A at the Winfield Apartments. She expected her knock to be answered by former TV star Bob Crane. There was no answer. She pushed the open the unlocked door and went inside. There she found his half naked body lying in bed. His face was so badly beaten that he was unrecognizable from the left side. An electric cord was wrapped around his neck.
The publicity surrounding the crime brought more attention to Bob Crane than he had seen in the 7 years since Hogan's Heroes left the air. Before the prison camp closed, Crane had enjoyed a constantly rising career.
Crane dropped out of school at 16 beginning a career as a drummer in a symphony orchestra. His sense of humor got him in trouble and he was fired for clowning around. After playing with several bands and marrying his highschool sweethart, the 22 year old Crane was hired as an announcer at a small radio statin for $37.50 a week. After a couple of moves to different stations, his salary shot up to $500 per week.
In 1956, at the age of 28, he hit the big time. CBS radio in Los Angeles hired him as the morning drive time personality. After a tame start, the rating spiraled up, as did Crane's salary. Crane hobnobbed with stars interviewing countless celebrity guests, including Jerry Lewis, Bob Newhart, Jonathan Winters, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Mansfield, Frank Sinatra, and Ronald Reagan.
Crane developed an interest in acting. He appeared in a number of local theater productions. He also became interested in photography, making home movies of skits with his family.
His radio celebrity lead to a number of guest appearances on TV shows. Then, in 1963 he moved to television when he was cast as in the recurring role of the Stone's next-door neighbor on the "The Donna Reed Show". He did not give up his day job as "King of the Airwaves" at KNX, maintaining busy schedule. From 6 to 10 in the morning he was live on radio. For the rest of the day he was on the set of the TV show.
Crane departed the show in 1964, some say because of a sexually aggressive attitude toward his stage wife. His biggest triumph was already in the works: A unusual series set in a World War II prison camp.
In 1965, Hogan's Heroes premiered. It placed 9th in the Nielsens, and was the only new series to do well. In the first two seasons, Crane twice received Emmy nominations for Best Actor.
The handsome star of the hit new television series became a fixture in Hollywood night scene. He revealed an interest in buxom women and was a frequent visitor to topless bars and strip clubs. He found a way to blend his sexual interests with his love of the camera. He began to videotape his sexual encounters. Co-star Richard Dawson introduced Crane to video salesman John Carpenter who shared Crane's interest in photography and, as it turns out, sex.
Still married, Crane had an affair with actress Cynthia Lynn who played the played Colonel Klink's secretary. Later, he had an affair with the actress Patti Olsen. After 21 years of marriage Crane divorced his wife and married Patti.
To the surprise of the cast, Hogan's Heroes was canceled after its 6th season.4 Crane would never be able to replicate the success of the series.5 A romantic comedy film ("The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz", 1968), was a dismal flop. He did a few TV movies and a Disney film ("Superdad", 1974). In 1975 NBC gave him his second shot at a series. "The Bob Crane Show" lasted only 13 weeks.
To jump start his career, Bob Crane turned to the stage and the play, "Beginner's Luck" which he had earlier purchased. He began to tour the dinner theater circuit which brought him to Scottsdale's Windmill Dinner Theatre in the summer of 1978. This was the last performance which Crane would ever make. His body was found in the Scottsdale apartment where he was staying for the run of the play.
Crane had not left performing before the TV camera entirely behind. The police found video equipment and a library of video tapes in the apartment. The tapes showed the actor engaged in group sex with various women. Prominently featured in the videos was Crane's long time friend and videophile John Carpenter.
The police investigation immediately centered on Carpenter. It had been a pattern for Carpenter to visit Crane in towns where Crane was on tour. The two would make the rounds to bars and night spots to pick up women, bringing them to Crane's apartment to perform in front of the camera.
The handsome, personable and famous Crane was Carpenter's entre to women and sex. But Crane had expressed his intention to break of his relationship with Carpenter, and possibly end his sexual escapades.
Carpenter had been bar hopping with Crane on the night of the murder. They had picked up two women and had been seen the Safari cafe. Crane went home alone. Carpenter took one of the women to his motel, the Sunburst Resort, only a block away. Carpenter left early the next morning. Blood matching Crane's rare bloodtype was found in the car Carpenter had rented.
Greg Kinnear As Bob Crane in Paul Schrader's
But no murder weapon was found, and DNA testing which could make a positive identification had not yet been developed. The county attorney at the time declined to prosecute.
In 1992, the investigation was reopened. Investigators determined that bits of fat tissue seen in photos of Carpenter's rental car matched those found at the murder scene.
They also concluded that the murder weapon was a second tripod seen in video tapes but missing from the actor's apartment. Charges were brought by the new county attorney, and in 1994 Carpenter was placed on trial. After two months of trial, Carpenter was found not guilty.
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