Back in the 1960s — long before his name would be linked to sex addiction, X-rated videotapes, and a still-unsolved murder — Bob Crane, the star of the popular sitcom Hogan's Heroes, seemed like the ideal leading man — handsome, clean-cut, likable.
As Col. Hogan, the wise-cracking leader of a ragtag group of Allied soldiers plotting subterfuge during World War II from inside a Nazi POW camp, Crane made Hogan's Heroes one of the decade's best-loved and highest-rated comedies … and remained well-liked on and off the set.
"Bob was a very charming man," says Robert Clary, who played French POW Louis LeBeau. "He was easy to get along with — he never acted like, 'I'm making much more money than you do, and you better listen to what I'm saying.' That was wonderful."
His daughter Karen Crane recalls Bob as an ideal father. "My dad was an absolute typical family man at home," she says. "He was always swimming with us, playing with us. I just have wonderful memories of my dad and my years growing up."
Few suspected that beneath Bob Crane's glib exterior lay a thousand secrets: secrets in black … and white … and blonde … captured for posterity on hundreds of hard-core Polaroids and videotapes. Bob Crane was a sex addict before the term was invented, a married man who seduced scores of women over the years and enjoyed recording the details of their X-rated encounters. Mark Dawson, son of Crane's Hogan's Heroes co-star and Family Feud host Richard Dawson, was just 17 when Bob Crane decided to share those secrets with him.
‘Col. Hogan — Au Naturel’
"He was carting a couple of videotapes and a Polaroid book," Dawson says. "He went into the other room and then called me in." 'Hey, come on in … you want to take a look at this stuff?'" The "stuff" was scores of nude pictures and pornographic videos, all of them starring Bob Crane.
"The first 10 or 15 minutes, it was very interesting," recalls Dawson. "Unnerving. I gotta tell you: it was a little shocking to see Colonel Hogan au naturel. Couldn't watch Hogan's the same way again after that."
What was Crane's attitude while showing off his conquests? "It was like wow, look at this one, look at that one," recalls Dawson. "I don't know if 'proud' is the right word but sort of 'look what I got. She's a real winner, huh?' Some of them were, and some of them weren't. He was excited, he was happy about it. He was like a kid with a toy."
A Man of Contradictions
Bob Crane's private passions first became a public fascination in 1978, after the 49-year-old actor was found murdered in his Arizona apartment, bludgeoned to death by a camera tripod; at the crime scene, investigators found Crane's video equipment and tapes. Now — nearly 25 years after his murder — Bob Crane's life and death are hot topics on the Internet … and in Hollywood. Crane is the subject of a new movie entitled Autofocus, directed by Taxi Driver screenwriter Paul Schrader and starring Greg Kinnear.
"What's fascinating about him is this sort of contradictory nature," says Kinnear. "I mean, he really saw himself as a one-woman man! And yet there were reams and reams of photographs and video of all these other behaviors going on."
"He really did live that classic life of the hypocritical Hollywood star," says Paul Schrader. "He portrayed himself as a conservative Republican family man."
In fact, from the age of 19 to his dying day, Bob Crane was a married man. He was still wed to his high school sweetheart and had three children when he began a torrid affair in 1965 with Cynthia Lynn, who played Col. Klink's secretary Helga on Hogan's Heroes. Their intimate relationship literally began as the cameras were rolling.
"We're kissing," she recalls, "and they say "Cut!" And we're still kissing."
Off the set, Cynthia got involved in Bob's hobby: nude photography. "He was a camera nut, OK? I loved it when he took pictures of me, because he was like a kid in a candy store. Yes, he took some nude pictures of me. But it was nothing to be ashamed of. There was nothing kinky or weird or about it."
Cynthia Lynn left Hogan's Heroes after its first season, and another statuesque bombshell was hired to play Klink's new secretary, Hilda: the former Patricia Olson, who starred on Hogan's Heroes under the name Sigrid Valdis. By 1970, one of TV's biggest stars had fallen for her … and so she became the second Mrs. Bob Crane.
"He was always hitting on me from day one," she remembers with a smile. "But he would hit on any bimbo that would walk on that set. It didn't matter. I mean, that was just Bob." In the near quarter-century since her husband's murder, Pat Crane has never spoke publicly … until now. She says she knew about Bob's obsession with sex and multiple partners. And incredibly, she didn't mind.
Who’s Going to Be Jealous of Toilet Paper?
"He didn't lose his first amendment rights when he married me — he loved having sex and filming it," she said almost matter-of-factly. "He never broke any laws. Nothing he did was unconstitutional."
"From almost the first day on the set," Pat said, "he told me his hobby was photography — I didn't figure it was landscape! He brought over a double-thick briefcase, and it was filled with like four rows of slides in a box about that big. So there were thousands of slides in there … of all the women in his life."
Didn't it hurt Pat's feelings that although he was in love with her, he was photographing and having sex with scores of young women? "No," she says. "I know it sounds crazy. Maybe people listening to me will think I am crazy! Bob used these women. He said, 'I wish when I finished with them I could just push a button and they'd fall through the floor and disappear.' Now, how could I be jealous of something like that? He treated women like the rest of the world treats toilet paper. Who's going to be jealous of toilet paper?"
How could she love a man who treated people like that?
"They were using each other. Everybody was getting what they wanted out of this. And it wasn't anybody's business but theirs. I knew he wouldn't [stop]. I knew that … he … he had had this obsession, he couldn't help it, there was nothing for me to be jealous of."
Wasn't there a moment where she sat alone in a bedroom one night and thought, "My husband is having sex with another woman right now?"
"No, he'd usually call me up and tell me what he'd just done, or how he'd done it. I wanted the openness, I just didn't want to participate."
Being married to a sex addict sounds like every wife's nightmare, but Pat insists their marriage was a dream. "Yes, we were happy together. We had a wonderful sex life. We had a wonderful marriage." She said her friends never asked her about it, and said, "No one knew."
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