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The company was named Sony. The job would change Carpenter's life.
@body:It's hard to imagine, but videotape equipment has only been commonplace for about a decade. Before then, primitive, bulky VCR units trickled into the States, available only to the rich.
Carpenter's intimate knowledge of the mind-bending new technology was his ticket into the Hollywood scene. One of his tasks at Sony was to instruct customers in how to operate the new machines.
Lyndon Baines Johnson, then president of the United States, was the first person in this country to buy a VCR, Carpenter says.
The second was comedian Red Skelton, then starring in his own show. Carpenter spent a few days at Skelton's home, demonstrating how the thing worked. Later, he personally instructed luminaries, from Alfred Hitchcock to Elvis Presley, in the magic of Sony. Carpenter wasn't the star-struck type, though he says a visit to the King's Bel Air mansion in the late 1960s was memorable:
"I go to the front gate and I'm told, 'Leave your pencils out here. You won't write down what you see in here or what you do in here. You won't talk about it with anyone. But while you're here, your wish is our command.'"
Elvis was an excellent student, Carpenter says--alert and full of life, at that point. Before Carpenter left, he says, Elvis gave him a small painting of himself that a fan had done. Carpenter still has it.
But the most significant person Carpenter instructed--in terms of his present status as a murder defendant--was British actor-comedian Richard Dawson, then appearing as Peter Newkirk on the hot television show Hogan's Heroes.
Dawson and Carpenter hit it off, and started socializing. The pair enjoyed many of the same things--a good pool game, a good meal and a good time with the ladies. Dawson's son, Mark Dawson, recalls meeting Carpenter when Mark was a youngster. "The idea of having home movies instantly was amazing," Mark Dawson says. "John would talk with me and my brother like we were people, not punk kids. He showed us how the machines worked. He treats everyone pretty much the same. You feel like you've always known him."
Now and then, Carpenter would visit Richard Dawson on the set of Hogan's Heroes. On one visit--he says he doesn't recall the moment--Carpenter met the star of the show, Bob Crane.
The two soon recognized each other as kindred spirits. Mark Dawson defines the bond this way: "John Carpenter and Bob Crane were two of the greatest pussy hounds in history. And they enjoyed each other's company as they went for it."
@body:Bob Crane seemed to be everyone's friend. But many who knew him say Crane had only a few truly close male friends. In all ways, he was a lady's man.
When Hogan's Heroes started in 1965, Crane still was married to his first wife, Ann. Soon after his 1970 divorce from Ann, he was married to Hogan's Heroes actress Sigrid "Patty" Valdis.
But his quest for new sexual adventures never ceased. Hitting the jackpot on television did wonders for Crane's already rampant extramarital sex life.
If ever someone was in the right place at the right time, at least once in his life, it was Bob Crane. Born into a middle-class, southern Connecticut family, Crane was a high school dropout whose lack of a formal education didn't stop him from doing what he wanted.
Like Carpenter, Crane developed an early love for music, and he performed musically for the public when he was a youngster. He played drums from his elementary school days, performing at one time with the Connecticut Symphony Orchestra. But his heroes were jazzmen Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, and his love of big-band music lasted his lifetime.
Also like Carpenter, Crane was married young, to his high school sweetheart, Ann Terzian. The couple had three children together before they divorced in 1970.
A career in radio was a natural for the smooth-talking Crane. He started as a disc jockey in 1950 at a little station in New York state, and worked the East Coast circuit for several years.
In 1956, KNX in Los Angeles hired him as its morning-drive disc jockey. It marked his first big break in the entertainment business.
Crane's radio persona wasn't much different from the one writers conjured later for him as Colonel Robert Hogan. He came across as a smart-alecky but likable sort for whom a harmless scam was an honorable thing.
His show on KNX was a smash, and Crane was earning about $150,000 a year by the early 1960s. But he had other ambitions. While still working in radio, he started acting in little theatres in the Los Angeles area. That led to his first television bit parts, in which he said and did little.
Indicative of his early TV work is an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show in which producer Carl Reiner cast him as a lousy actor. But Crane persevered, and found a steady, if unspectacular, role as the next-door neighbor on The Donna Reed Show.
In 1965, Crane struck the mother lode. The producers of a proposed new show called Hogan's Heroes cast him as its star. The show was a smash hit. Just like that, Bob Crane had become a national television star. Life at the top opened new doors in Crane's secret life. For years he had been taking Polaroid photographs and home movies of his sexual conquests, sometimes without his female partner's knowledge. Some were simple nudes, but many were far more explicit. One woman who slept with Crane later said he enjoyed taking the erotic shots even more than he enjoyed the sex act itself.