As a concept for a TV sitcom, it was outrageous. But someone actually proposed setting a sitcom in a Nazi POW camp. The idea could not have been more bizarre. After all, World War II was one of the world's bloodiest, most heart-breaking conflicts in history. Nazism was one of the most terrible scourges to afflict humanity. How could interactions between Nazis and their American soldier prisoners possibly be funny?Yet they were on Hogan's Heroes. The programme went on air in 1965 and zoomed to the top of popularity.
Part of the appeal of Hogan's Heroes was undoubtedly its star, Bob Crane, a handsome actor with a broad, open face and twinkling eyes.The show made Bob Crane a household name and brought laughs to millions. The show also had Jewish actors — including the two playing the top Nazi characters, Colonel Klink (Werner Klemperer) and Sergeant Schultz (John Banner). Banner often played Nazis and asked, "Who can play Nazis better than us Jews?" As Sergeant Schultz, he was especially popular with children who loved his trademark statements, "I know NO-thing! I see NO-thing!"
During the second season of Hogan's Heroes, a blonde, vivacious Patti Olsen, who used the screen name Sigrid Valdis, got a regular part on the program as Col. Klink's secretary. A romance blossomed between Olsen and Crane that led to the dissolution of Crane's first marriage. He and Olsen were married on the set of Hogan's Heroes on October 16, 1970. It was the first real wedding performed on a sound stage.
Crane was nominated for an Emmy in 1966 and 1967 but did not win. Klemperer won an Emmy in 1967 and in 1968.
The man who would become known to millions of Americans as the suave and crafty Colonel Hogan had been born Robert Edward Crane in Waterbury, Connecticut, on July 13, 1928. He was raised a Roman Catholic. As a youngster he was known as a fun-loving, wisecracking boy. Music was his greatest love. He was especially partial to big band and jazz.
As a child, he enjoyed acting in skits. He formed his own musical group, in which he played the drums. The outgoing boy made friends easily and loved being in a group, especially if he were the focus of attention.He did not care for sports and was not much of a scholar. At 15, Bob Crane set his sights on becoming a professional drummer. He admired the well-known drummer Gene Krupa and wanted to have a similar career.
As a teenager, Crane dropped out of high school to become a drummer with the Connecticut Symphony Orchestra. He was let go after a year because the clownish young man was believed not to be "serious enough."
His lack of formal school was something about which he seemed sensitive. He would sometimes joke about it, saying, "I can't tell Puccini from a pizza or Sartre from a samba." Awkwardness was palpable under the kidding.
He served in the National Guard and later joked, "I was a Remington Raider — the typewriter, that is."
Crane wed Anne Terzian, his high school sweetheart, in 1949. They would eventually have three children, Bob Jr., Debbie and Karen. When Anne and Bob first married, the couple lived with her parents in Stamford, Connecticut. Crane held down a day job in a jewellery store and spent nights drumming in dance clubs.
A career in radio began for Crane when he got a job as an announcer at the small WLEA channel in Hornell, New York. The financially struggling entertainer lived at the YMCA while his wife stayed behind in Stamford. Then he was hired away by the WBIS station in Bristol, Connecticut. From there, he went to radio station WICC in Bridgeport, where he stayed for six years.
In 1956, Los Angeles, California's channel KNX hired him as a radio program host. It was a big break. The Crane family moved to California. His show was a tremendous hit largely due to Crane's bubbly, brash personality and fast wit. His raucous morning drive-time show sometimes featured the banging of drums and the hoots of chimpanzees. He interviewed some of the biggest stars of the time, including Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Frank Sinatra, Marvin Gaye, Mary Tyler Moore and Bob Hope.
He was nicknamed "King of the L.A. Airwaves" and became one of the first disc jockeys in America to earn more than $100,000 per year.
Crane's most dearly held ambition had gone from becoming a professional drummer to becoming a famous actor. The goal of an acting career seemed increasingly realistic as he got guest appearances on popular television programs like The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Twilight Zone. In 1961, he appeared in two movies, Return to Peyton Place andMan-Trap. In 1963 he was given a regular part on the popular Donna Reed Show. He was on that program for two years butthen the producers decided that his flirtatious character was a bit too suggestive for the wholesome series.
Crane’s mood was soon again elevated when, in 1965, he was given the starring role in Hogan's Heroes, the biggest career success he would ever have.
In 1970, CBS network president Robert Wood, called for an overhaul of the network's programming. He wanted to attract younger, more urban, more affluent viewers. Several successful programs were cancelled - including Hogan's Heroes.Crane was deeply disappointed that his show got the axe.
The actor was also disappointed by his post-Hogan's Heroescareer. The show had been on TV for six years and was very popular. But its star found he was offered few roles after its cancellation, and those were not what he hoped for. In 1975, Crane got his own program, The Bob Crane Show, on NBC butthe network cancelled the show after only three months.
Crane decided to leave the screen for the stage. He bought the rights to a play called Beginner's Luck in 1973. He starred in the play and directed it. It toured for many years, going from California to Texas to Hawaii and finally, in June 1978, to Arizona.
Throughout his adult life, Bob Crane manifested a strong interest in sex. Pornography was a major pastime. He also liked to brag about how many women he had bedded.
After the demise of Hogan's Heroes, that powerful sexual interest seemed to grow into outright sexual addiction. He was insatiable in his desire for as many different women as possible. Fond of group sex, he often left nightclubs with two or three women at a time. He is also said to have been into dominance and submission, visited a dominatrix, and financed the building of "dungeons" - rooms devoted to bondage - in the homes of some of his friends.
Sexual compulsivity probably cost him his second marriage. Patti and Bob were in the process of divorcing at the time of his death. His infidelities had long been the cause of tensions between them. Friends claimed that, in a fit of jealousy, Patti once hurled a video cassette recorder at her husband. The missile supposedly found its mark and bloodied Bob Crane's mouth, causing him to need a hospital trip and stitches.
Crane was also a compulsive chatterbox about sexual matters. In January 1978, Crane was in New York for the taping of a program called Celebrity Cooks. In a show in which Crane was showcasing a chicken recipe, he managed to work in a constant stream of sexual jokes. He also made several jokes about premonitions of his death. At one point, he began discussing the break-up of his marriage to Patti and tears filled his eyes.
The show was scheduled for July 10, 1978. It was never aired, out of respect for Crane, since he was killed just shortly before then.
Keeping a record of his amours was important to Crane. Disappointed with his career, he appeared to measure his status by his sexual "success." He kept a photo album of nude women he had made love with and was only too eager to display it to just about anyone.
Crane also found that filming his sexual exploits was a wonderful way to relive them — and his interest in keeping such records led to his friendship with John Carpenter.
Crane met Carpenter when he was working for Sony. Carpenter taught top celebrities like Alfred Hitchcock, Red Skelton and Elvis Presley how to use a device that was just then coming into vogue, the VCR.Carpenter enjoyed the company of celebrities. Crane wanted someone around him who was well versed in electronics, and the two became good friends. Crane often pleased Carpenter by introducing him as his manager. He also shared women with his pal.
Many of Crane's ladies were delighted to have their sexual frolics with a famous actor committed to film. However, he also had a habit that was illegal and disrespectful: videotaping sexual escapades without his partner's knowledge or consent.
In the early hours of January 29, 1978, Carpenter and Crane went to the Safari at about 1:00 a.m. According to Crane's date from earlier that evening, he was upset. "He spoke of the problems he was having with his wife and their pending divorce," she recalled. "He said his wife was extremely distraught, anxious over the breakup, and that she was overly jealous of him and even his relationship with their children."
Crane left the Safari with one woman and Carpenter headed back to his own motel with another. In the lobby, Crane paused to chat with a man he knew casually named Andrew Gellart. The latter had been an extra on Hogan's Heroes.
Carpenter took his date to his motel, made a pass, and struck out. He drove her home at about 2:30 a.m. He tried to do his friend a favour by getting her to promise she would wake Crane up sometime between 8 and 11 a.m. "If she doesn't want me," he reasoned, "maybe she'll want Bob."
Crane, who was found irresistible by so many women, also found himself out of luck on this night. His date was not interested in sex and did not accompany him home.
The details of exactly what happened to Bob Crane that night have never been definitely established. But what is known is abysmal.
In all probability, the troubled actor was sleeping in his bed when someone took a powerful blunt instrument and bashed him in the left side of the head with it. The killer brought the weight down a second time. Then the attacker left the bedroom and cut a black cord off a VCR. This was wrapped very tightly around the victim's throat, tied and knotted. The autopsy revealed that Crane was dead at the time the VCR cord was wrapped around his neck.
It was just after 2 p.m. on June 29, 1978, when Victoria Berry would decide to drop in on Bob Crane. Bob had not appeared at noon for a local Television Academy luncheon, where the two of them were to be interviewed, and it was out of character for him not to have called if he had changed his mind.
She knocked, but no-one answered the door.
She knocked a second time and still no-one answered.
Although she knew Crane was conscientious about locking his door, she impulsively tried the knob. To her surprise, it easily opened.She was calling for Bob as she entered her friend's home.
She walked through a messy living room. Playboy, Esquire and TV Guides were stacked on the tables but also lying on the floor. She saw a camera and address book on the coffee table along with numerous papers spilling off of it. A pair of white pants hung over the sofa. Close to the fireplace stood a video camera on a tripod.
As she called, "Bob?" she wondered if he might be out by the pool, went to the window for a look, but did not see him.
When she entered the bedroom she stopped and paused. A human figure lay curled in the bed. There was a huge dark area behind the head with great sweeps of redness behind it and on the wall. For a moment, she wondered if what she saw was a woman's long, disarrayed hair.
She got closer and realized that she was looking at a man's dead body surrounded by gore.
There was no sign of forced entry. Crane was a light sleeper and would have jumped up at the sound of an intruder. Detectives thought it likely Crane had let the murderer into his home.
Crane's promiscuous lifestyle meant that many people had a motive to murder him.
Investigators wondered if a woman could have killed him. A woman could have been mad at him because he discontinued a relationship or because she belatedly discovered that he had videotaped their sexual relations. Indeed, many of the women he slept with were upset when they were told after his death that they were on his home movies.
A spouse is always a potential suspect. Patti Crane was jealous, estranged from her husband and, at the time of his death, seeking a divorce. There were reports of fits of rage, like the time she had supposedly thrown a VCR at Bob Crane. However, she had a solid alibi in Washington State for the time of the slaying.
The physical evidence in the apartment suggested a male attacker. Medical examiner Heinz Karnitschnig believed the murderer was male because "The killer's first blow laid open Crane's scalp, covering the weapon with blood. The second blow was delivered with a short arc, slinging only a couple of droplets onto the ceiling and table near the bed."
DrKarnitschnigfelt that if the attacker had been female, she would have had to swing the heavy weapon in a wider arc, which would have flung a trail of blood onto the ceiling. The depth of the wounds suggested a very strong man.
Of course, even if a man had dealt the blows, it would not rule out the possibility that a woman was behind it. She could have recruited a male to do the job. Investigators pursued numerous leads. They could find nothing connecting Patti Crane to her husband's killing. Many women, together with their husbands and boyfriends, were also checked out.
A large black bag was found on the bed of the murder victim. It had two zippers, one at the top, another on the side, and both were undone. It was empty except for a few pieces of paper and some old tickets. Detectives surmised that the killer had probably taken whatever had been inside it. They were not able to find anyone who could say with certainty what that was.
On the table were a half-full bottle of Scotch and a bottle of gin. Victoria Berry told police that Crane never touched Scotch.
The cord around the neck seemed a tantalizing clue. Was a woman who had been filmed having sex with Crane — perhaps without her knowledge at the time — trying to make a statement? Or a disgruntled husband or boyfriend who discovered a tape of his woman making love with the actor? The killer had walked past electrical cords of various types to fetch the VCR cord, suggesting the choice was deliberate. Some thought tying around the victim's neck pointed to a female murderer. Having less physical strength on average than her male counterpart, a murderess might not be certain her blows had killed and want to make doubly sure with strangulation.
Others thought the cord pointed straight to John Carpenter. Their friendship had been founded on making videos. Tying the cord around Crane, then cutting it, symbolized the ending of that friendship.
Some witnesses said the relationship between the electronics expert and the late actor had been growing tense. Others speculated that Carpenter might have wanted a closer relationship than Crane would allow. Several people acquainted with Carpenter said he was bisexual and believed he had a crush on his best friend. The heterosexual Crane might have rebuffed Carpenter's advances and sent him into a rage. It was also considered possible that Crane simply wanted out of the friendship and Carpenter killed out of fury at that rejection.
Investigators tracked John Carpenter's movements immediately before and after the Crane slaying. Police examined the Cordoba vehicle Carpenter had rented. Inside that vehicle, on the passenger door, they found tiny spots and a thin line of what appeared to be dried blood. The areas were tested. They were blood — type B human blood, the same blood type as Bob Crane and about 10% of the population. At the time, no DNA test was available that could definitively say whose blood it was.
Carpenter was questioned. He adamantly denied having anything to do with the actor's killing and said he did not know how blood could have gotten inside the car.
Police wanted to charge Carpenter but did not. A few blood spots that could be the victim's or could be someone else's did not add up to enough evidence to sustain a murder charge.
In 1985, a British molecular biologist developed the DNA profiling that could match a genetic material with an individual. In 1989, investigators tried to match the blood in Carpenter's rented car with Bob Crane. The test results came back inconclusive.
For 14 years, John Carpenter lived under a shadow of suspicion. He and his wife Diane, who reconciled after Crane's death, went from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, often seeing hard stares and hearing whispers about his possible role in his friend's death.
He was arrested for murder in June 1992. "Believe it or not," his wife said, "he's relieved. He's tired of running. I know he's absolutely innocent and he will prove it."
Carpenter's attorney, Gary Fleischman, seconded Diane's claims. Carpenter would not fight extradition. "My client is eager to speed his return to Arizona to clear his name," Fleischman declared. "I can see no useful purpose to keeping him in jail here. He wants to get this behind him. This has been hanging over his head for 14 years. He's glad that this has finally come to pass."
The lag time between the murder and an arrest led some to ask, "Who was in charge of the investigation — Colonel Klink?"
About a year before the arrest, Carpenter gave an interview in which he claimed, "I never even had a fight with Bob. He was my friend. And he was the goose who laid the golden egg for me, in terms of meeting ladies."
Carpenter was finally charged because someone noticed a speck, about one 16th of an inch in diameter, in a photograph of the door panel in the rented Cordoba he drove on the night of Crane's murder. The speck itself no longer existed but experts believed it could be positively identified as a piece of human tissue, probably brain matter.
Bob Shutts, Maricopa County deputy attorney, argued to the jury that Carpenter, "fed off the fame and energy of the actor. Bob Crane became a source of women that he could never obtain for himself." The prosecutor said that Carpenter feared or knew that Crane would break off their friendship and murdered him in retaliation. The weapon, according to Shutts, was a camera tripod that has never been found.
Inevitably, some of the evidence was lurid. At one point, the prosecution wanted to show the jury a 16-year-old, black-and-white video of Crane, Carpenter and a woman engaged in a sexual threesome. The defense objected that the film would "inflame the passions of the jury."
The objection was overruled and the tape was shown. Superior Court Judge Gregory Martin instructed the jury that they should not regard the video as showing the defendant as a "bad person" but evidence that he and the deceased had a relationship.
The genitals were electronically blurred. The tape lasted about 10 minutes. Most of the jurors watched without expression although one man briefly looked away.
Experts testified for the prosecution that the photographed speck on the door of Carpenter's rented car was tissue from a brain. Defense experts said that that could not be proven. They also pointed out that there was a blonde hair found in the victim's room that had never been identified. Crane's sexual exploits meant that he could have easily infuriated a sexual partner or jealous boyfriend or husband. They asserted that there was no solid evidence of any estrangement between the actor and Carpenter.
The jury came back with a verdict of not guilty.
The foreperson explained the acquittal by saying the most important evidence was inconclusive. "What was the speck?" juror Marine Sgt. Michael Lake asked. "Nobody knows what it was, not even the doctors."
John Carpenter, then 66, was jubilant. "My life is back together again after 16 years," he said. As the verdict was read, Diana Carpenter burst into tears and said, "It's over, it's over."
Four years later, in 1998, Carpenter died of a heart attack.