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."