Thursday, February 23, 2017
CRANE: SEX, CELEBRITY, AND MY FATHER'S UNSOLVED MURDER
Whatever the title may say, this is more a book about the life and career of Robert Crane, the son of actor Bob Crane (Hogan's Heroes) than a biography of the elder Crane or an investigation into his murder. There has already been a book about the murder investigation, as well as a film, Auto Focus, which looked at Crane's life and death and his obsession with making videos of himself having sex with numerous women. Whether Crane was a "sex addict" or used this pastime to deal with his disappointment over a fading career (he was doing dinner theater at the time of his death), is open to debate. Crane [Man-Trap] was a typical self-absorbed "star" who jettisoned his first wife for the bimbo who played a bosomy secretary on Hogan's Heroes, causing a rift between two families that has never been healed. Large sections of the book deal not with Bob Crane's life and death, but with the younger Crane's job as publicist and gofer for forgotten actor John Candy. The best sections of the book actually deal with young Crane's moving account of his first wife's battles with, and death from, cancer. Young Crane, who is not so young anymore, comes off in some ways as a little old-fashioned. His preoccupation with himself means that there are gaps in his father's story, such as a more detailed examination of his affair (and subsequent marriage to) the Hogan's Heroes secretary and his first wife's reaction to its revelation. Crane objects to his half brother Scotty selling "porn" videos of their father on line, but the elder Crane's ego and joy in his sexual prowess as well as his obvious exhibitionism may have meant that he couldn't care less and even would have liked the idea. [While Bob Crane may not have been a fighter for sexual freedom, as Scotty suggests, he was not a molester or rapist and the condemnations of his activities seem a little hypocritical in Hollywood and elsewhere.] Young Crane argues that he didn't auction off the jacket his father wore on Hogan's Heroes, which he had every right to do, for money -- it brought in $40,000 -- but to see how much interest there would still be in his father. Sure. A freelance writer who formerly worked for Playboy, Crane's prose is memorable, but the chief feeling you take away from this book is his contempt for his father, whose side he can rarely see. Young Crane writes how his father wasn't interested in hosting a party for his son's book on Jack Nicholson (the actor cooperated with the book but years later snubbed the younger Crane), and it doesn't seem to occur to him that this might have made his dad feel rather small.
Verdict: If you're interested in the life of Bob Crane's son ... **1/2.