Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Bob Crane Case

Out on the Raunch

On the morning of Monday, June 26, 1978, Bob Crane and John Carpenter were having fun. The two athletic middle-aged men went for a swim, then headed to Crane's place to enjoy his sexy videotapes.

The phone rang and Crane picked it up. An ambitious female acquaintance was calling. She wanted the actor to listen to a vocal tape of hers. She didn't want to bring it over right then, however. She had a steady boyfriend and wanted to bring the tape to the well-known ladies' man at night when her beau worked.

After hanging up the phone, Crane took out a tape of himself and the woman having sex and played it.

Later that day, at about 4:00 p.m., Victoria Berry, an attractive, bosomy blonde supporting actress on Beginner's Luck urged Carpenter and Crane to come to a barbecue party for the cast. Berry was friendly with Crane but it is not known if they were involved sexually or romantically.

The two men arrived sometime close to 6:00 p.m. They ate, socializing, left the party a few times and came back. Crane and Berry posed for some photographs together. Later, Crane left the party for good with a pretty female he had seen before.

The next morning, Tuesday, June 27, 1978, John Carpenter paid an early visit to the Dyna-Tronics electronic equipment store. He wanted to speak with the owners, Frank Grabiec and Ralph Tirrell. Although Tirrell was a stranger to him, Grabiec had known Carpenter for well over a decade. As Graysmith wrote, Carpenter "wanted to look over the shop, check the books, see if there were any problems he could help with."

Carpenter left the store at about 12:30 p.m. to see Crane. They chummed around and ran a few errands. The friends strolled around a retail area where they went into a Video World.

Instantly, the woman manager recognized the famous visitor. "Aren't you the actor that played on Hogan's Heroes?" the delighted woman asked.

Always happy to be recognized, Crane replied with a beaming smile on his face, "Yes, yes, I am." He and Carpenter looked over the videotape players at the shop and decided their prices were too steep.

They left the place in high spirits, trading their usual raunchy jokes and stories centering on bedtime and bimbos. At 3:30 p.m., they had their portraits taken at a photography studio. Then they went back to Crane's apartment. The actor regaled his friend with more stories of his sexual exploits and the pair looked over the pictures of naked women in his precious, well-thumbed album.

Later, Crane phoned a woman who refused him her favors. Perturbed, the actor then called his son, Bob Jr., to wish him a happy birthday. After that he phoned a blonde waitress to ask her for a date after that night's performance of Beginner's Luck. She said "yes." He also asked her to get a female friend to come along as a date for Carpenter.

The waitress found a woman for Carpenter and the foursome went to dinner after the play. At the restaurant Carpenter tried to show off some wit. "I'm an Indian," he said, "and if I ever went broke, I could always go back to the reservation and pick apricots."

Carpenter did not care for the woman he had been fixed up with and privately let his pal know that. The two split up with their dates. At about 11:00 p.m., Carpenter and Crane showed up at a Scottsdale watering hole known as Bobby McGee's.

A waitress named Linda Robertson later said she felt there was a tension between the two men. When she took their orders, they were curt as if preoccupied.

The mood at their table was quiet but somber and uncomfortable, Robertson claimed. "When they first came in they were tense toward each other," she recalled. "Tense is a good word 'cause it wasn't a loud fight. It was nothing that other people noticed. I noticed it because business was slow. It was something to do. You kind of notice how people are reacting toward each other.

"The Indian gentleman was sitting in the chair and Bob Crane was sitting against the wall. It was not a relaxed conversation. It was kind of a strained movement, and the voices got louder. I studied speech in school, so you can tell if it's relaxed. It's more smooth and soft, instead of abrupt. Without hearing the words I knew this was a tense conversation by the facial expressions and body language."

At some point, Crane left and Carpenter remained in his seat. At about 11:35 p.m., Crane was back at Bobby McGee's, the date from earlier that evening on his arm. They met up with Carpenter and the trio left together.

They headed for breakfast at B. B. Singer's. After that, Crane drove the group to where Carpenter needed to pick up a rental car. The actor took his date home and at about 5 a.m. went to the Safari, here he occupied a booth by himself.

Crane had absentmindedly left a pair of glasses at one of his many girlfriends' homes. Early on the morning of Wednesday, June 28, he went to her place and fetched them.

At about 10 a.m., Crane was back with Carpenter and the buddies went to another photography studio to have pictures taken. The pair drove around hunting for a sunscreen for Carpenter's rented vehicle. They found nothing acceptable.

Lunch found them at Little Gregory's having a meal and conversation with the owners of Dyna-Tronics. Frank Grabiec and Ralph Tirrell were excited to be eating with a celebrity. However, like many people, both men and women, Grabiec found the nonstop sex talk made him uncomfortable. Carpenter explained how he followed Crane to a city if he had accounts for his own AKAI Corporation work. "I can be with my friend," he elaborated, "make a few business calls, and charge the entire visit off to the company. Business with a little pleasure."

Bob Crane's video equipment
Bob Crane's video equipment

Crane wanted to borrow a new videotape recorder and Grabiec loaned him a Sony SL-8200. Carpenter and Crane went back to the actor's apartment. Crane fiddled around with the new equipment while Carpenter left to get a sunscreen. Mission accomplished, he returned to spend more time with his friend.

Carpenter was scheduled to leave on a 10 a.m. Continental flight the next morning.

At a certain point, Crane left home for a girlfriend's pad and a quickie. There he fell asleep in his undershorts. He woke up, had more sex, then left. Later, the woman with him would be asked how his mood was. "Bob appeared preoccupied," was her reply, "not as happy as he usually was. He didn't say what, if anything, was wrong and I didn't inquire." She did recall him making a puzzling statement. "John is not as popular as I am," he told her.

It was about 5:30 p.m. when actress Ronni Richards phoned Crane. She was calling from New York. Carpenter answered the phone and informed her that Crane was out.

That evening Crane appeared in Beginner's Luck. Other cast members thought his performance not up to par. "Normally, he's very energetic," one commented, "very strong onstage, but he was a little done in. It probably wasn't noticeable to the audience but it was to us in the cast."

After the play, Crane signed autographs as he usually did. Then, at close to 10:30 p.m., he and Carpenter, along with three other cast members, went to the Monte Carlo.

Crane and Carpenter saw a flat tire when they got back to the car they were using. The pair returned to Crane's apartment after 11 p.m.

"I'm going to call Patti," the actor said to Carpenter.

Bob & Patti and son
Bob & Patti and son

Later, Carpenter claimed that Crane got into a heated argument with his estranged wife over the phone. "Bob was yelling and yelling and yelling, very, very loudly," he claimed. "Yelling so loud that I walked up to the window to see if anybody was on the patio... a couple of minutes later I heard Bob say, 'Patti, Patti, if you don't stop this, I am going to hang up!' Wham! He hung up."

Apparently Carpenter had good reason to fret that neighbors might overhear his buddy's yelling because the woman in the apartment later said that she and her husband had heard it. That neighbor remembered, "I turned to my husband and said, 'If he keeps screaming like that, he won't be able to perform in the show tomorrow.'"

Later, Crane called a lady friend to assure her that there was "no way" he would reconcile with Patti.

The day was getting late and it was about time for Crane and Carpenter to go on the prowl. "Let's go to Bogie's," Crane suggested. "That's a good place to meet people."

At 11:55 p.m., the actor placed a call from Bogie's. "I'm at Bogie's," he told the woman who answered the phone. "Come on over."

She pointed out, "They'll be closed by the time I get there."

"OK," Crane replied. "Then let's meet at the Safari. OK? In 45 minutes."

Then Crane signed a few autographs. When he and Carpenter left Bogie's to meet the woman Crane had made a date with, they had another woman with them.

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