On June 29, 1978, thirty-seven years ago today, Bob Crane, the erstwhile star of Hogan’s Heroes was found murdered in an apartment in Scottsdale, Arizona. Still one of Hollywood’s most famous unsolved murders, Robert Crane, Bob’s eldest son, still works to reconcile the loving father he knew with the man who was front-page tabloid news. In an essay for The Daily Beast, Robert recalls his father’s journey from Hogan’s Heroes, to sex addiction, to murder.
On Thursday, June 29, 1978, I was 27 years and two days old. I had just interviewed Chevy Chase, the hottest star in Hollywood at the time, for an article I was doing for Playboy’s new Euro-hip Oui magazine. I was spiraling up in a thermal of great possibilities when I encountered a nasty downdraft.
I received a call that Thursday afternoon from my dad’s business manager who said there was a rumor my dad had been shot. He hadn’t. But someone had crept into the apartment where he was staying in Scottsdale, Arizona, while doing a dinner theater gig, and bashed his head in with a blunt object while he slept. My dad was two weeks shy of his fiftieth birthday.
Robert’s memoir, Crane: Sex, Celebrity, and My Father’s Unsolved Murder was released earlier this Spring. In this poignant memoir, Robert Crane discusses that terrible day and how he has lived with the unsolved murder of his father. But this storyline is just one thread in his tale of growing up in Los Angeles, his struggles to reconcile the good and sordid sides of his celebrity father, and his own fascinating life.
Crane began his career writing for Oui magazine and spent many years interviewing celebrities for Playboy—stars such as Chevy Chase, Bruce Dern, Joan Rivers, and even Koko the signing gorilla. As a result of a raucous encounter with the cast of Canada’s SCTV, he found himself shelving his notepad and tape recorder to enter the employ of John Candy—first as an on-again, off-again publicist; then as a full-time assistant, confidant, screenwriter, and producer; and finally as one of Candy’s pallbearers.
Through disappointment, loss, and heartbreak, Crane’s humor and perseverance shine. Beyond the big stars and behind-the-scenes revelations, this riveting account of death, survival, and renewal in the shadow of the Hollywood sign makes a profound statement about the desire for love and permanence in a life where those things continually slip away. By turns shocking and uplifting, Crane is an unforgettable and deeply human story.