Stamford has a rich history of producing talented individuals who have achieved terrific professional success. From sports players to entertainers to political figures, Stamford can certainly call itself proud.
Bob Crane, best known as Colonel Hogan from Hogan’s Heroes, is one such individual. Born in Waterbury on July 13, 1928, he and his family moved to Stamford around 1930, shortly before his second birthday. He went through the entire Stamford school system, attending , Glenbrook Elementary, , and Burdick Junior High, before graduating from on June 5, 1946.
He resided in Stamford for several years following his graduation, working as a salesman and watch repairman at Finlay Straus Jewelers on Main Street (now the location of the entrance ramp to the ) and as a professional drummer with local jazz bands. He also joined the National Guard and achieved the rank of corporal with the Stamford HQ Battery 193 FA Battalion 43rd Infantry Division before being honorably discharged on May 1, 1950.
Eventually, Bob and his first wife, Anne, moved from Stamford, first relocating to Bridgeport to be closer to WICC, where he established himself as a prominent radio personality from 1951 to 1956, and finally, out to Los Angeles, when he accepted a job offer at KNX-CBS radio.
The rest, as they say, is history. Bob Crane went on to star in Hogan’s Heroes and became one of Hollywood’s most beloved entertainers. There didn’t seem to be anything that could stop this very driven and ambitious Stamford native. Nothing, that is, until he was murdered on June 29, 1978. His murder and the scandal that followed shocked the world, and over the decades, a bleak picture was painted of a man who went from fame to shame in one night.
Yet, there is much more to this man than the public may know. For nearly 35 years, we have been given heaping helpings of “the dark side” with only little snippets of the good — good that included his devotion as a father to his four children from both of his marriages, his generosity to his friends and his countless hours of volunteer work for numerous charitable organizations, such as Bridgeport’s Junior Achievement, the U.S. Armed Forces Radio Network, the Cystic Fibrosis Fund Drive, the Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation Telethon and the Cerebral Palsy Telethon.
Those who knew Bob well have little regard for the 2002 movie Auto Focus, a so-called biographical film directed by Paul Schrader based on Robert Graysmith’s book, The Murder of Bob Crane. Their memories are much different than what this film projects. Bob’s friend and former Variety Magazine Editor summed it up well in a “Letter to the Editor” to the LA Times, claiming that much of the movie was unfounded — nothing more than a “one-dimensional cheap shot of Bob Crane.”
Perhaps the most important (and little known) fact about Bob Crane is that he recognized his personal troubles and admitted them to an ordained minister in the final weeks of his life. Having made the commitment to overcome his weaknesses, Bob was on the brink of starting his life over when he was murdered.
For a number of years, I have been deeply immersed in Bob Crane’s life, having researched him extensively for a new, serious biography. It has been my great honor to get to know many people who were close to Bob, several of whom are members of Stamford High School’s Class of 1946. They remember their “Drummer Boy” fondly, recalling how Bob never forgot his hometown roots, and they express repeatedly how much they want to see their friend exonerated.
This year, Bob Crane is being considered for induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame to recognize his contributions to the radio and broadcasting industry, a career that spans several decades. Letters of support and nomination on Bob’s behalf to place him on the ballot were submitted from co-workers in radio. WICC sent its endorsement of Bob’s nomination as well. In a few weeks, the official ballot will be released from the Museum of Broadcast Communications, and voting will be open to the public. You can make a difference by casting your vote for Stamford’s own hero, Bob Crane, when the poll opens.
To learn more about Bob Crane’s career in radio and stay up to date on the 2011 National Radio Hall of Fame, visit http://vote4bobcrane.blogspot.com