The Bob Crane Case
In 1970, CBS network president Robert Wood, called for an overhaul of the network's programming. Like other CBS executives, he was concerned that the audience was too old, too rural and, most importantly, an audience without a good deal of disposable income. He wanted to attract younger, more urban, more affluent viewers. Several successful programs were canceled including The Ed Sullivan Show, Mayberry R.F.D, The Beverly Hillbillies — and Hogan's Heroes.
Crane was deeply disappointed that his show got the axe. "I know a show can end in mid-sentence," he complained, "but we were still a hit, still at the top. I just don't understand."
The actor was also disappointed by his post-Hogan's Heroes career. 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.
He was in a Disney movie called Gus. The title character is a gray mule that becomes the kicker for a college football team and leads the losing team to victory. Crane had a supporting role as a motor-mouthed sportscaster. He also starred in a Disney vehicle called Superdad and appeared as a guest star in some TV programs.
In 1975, Crane got his own program, The Bob Crane Show, on NBC. He must have had his fingers crossed for a second big hit like Hogan's Heroes and a return to being a regular, beloved figure in living rooms across America.
NBC 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. He was perennially hungry for "the act" and publicly open about it. He very much enjoyed flirting, double entendres, and sexy jokes. Pornography was a major pastime. He was a hardcore "breast man" who was most attracted to blondes. He also liked to brag about how many women he bedded. The terms he used to describe them were often crude and showed a sad tendency to dehumanize his sexual partners.
After the demise of Hogan's Heroes, that powerful sexual interest seemed to cross the line 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 was also into dominance and submission, visited a dominatrix, and financed the building of "dungeons" — rooms devoted to bondage and discipline — 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.
The actor was a compulsive blabbermouth 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, probably out of respect for Crane since he was killed 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, even people who were discomfited by seeing such intimate pictures.
His sexual exploits led to some bad scenes with others besides his wife. As Robert Graysmith wrote in The Murder of Bob Crane, "At one point an ex-boyfriend of one of Bob's lovers taped a mutilated photo of Crane to her back door."
Crane 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. Thin-lipped, long-nosed, and sporting thick black hair, Carpenter was of three-quarters Native American heritage and one-quarter Spanish. Carpenter had suffered a severe emotional loss in 1936 when he was only 8 years old. His father had left his mother. Dad did not bother to visit his growing son who was to see him only once more, in 1950.
The fatherless boy was sent to California's Morongo Reservation to go to school when he was not yet a teenager. He tried to make a few dollars by picking apricots after classes. It was hard, physical work but the huskily built John had the muscles for it.
He married when he was 18 years old. The marriage produced a son. John went into the army and served in Korea, where he was made a tank commander.
Carpenter and his first wife divorced in 1952. Three years later, in 1955, he married Diana Tootikan. He discovered a talent for electronics when he went to work for television set manufacturer Hoffman Easy Vision. He made use of that talent when he later worked for Lear Aviation, then Hughes Aircraft, installing radios in planes.
Developing a second talent, for acting, Carpenter played a nasty character on a Los Angeles roller-derby show. Some disgruntled — or perhaps too satisfied — fans burned him in effigy.
In 1965, Carpenter and his wife separated. He also went to work for Sony. He 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.
That was how he met Bob Crane. 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 ladyloves were delighted to have their sexual frolics with a famous actor committed to film. However, he also had a habit that was nasty, disrespectful and illegal: videotaping sexual escapades without a partner's knowledge or consent.