By Matthew Hendley
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Robert Scott Crane insists he had no idea that people would be so fascinated with his famous father's penis (or is that his father's famous penis?). "We knew it would be big," Scotty Crane says, "but we didn't know how big." He's talking not about the member in question -- of its impressiveness, you can make up your own mind -- but about the Web site that now features nearly 50 photos and a handful of black-and-white short films depicting Colonel Robert Hogan, scourge of Stalag 13, throwing the schnitzel to eager beavers looking for a taste of fame. Though it's impossible to verify such statistics, Crane's youngest son says some 5.6 million people visited www.bobcrane.com during the first week of its existence last month -- which means there are some 5.6 million people, at the very least, who will never again watch Hogan's Heroesreruns without thinking, "I know everything; I see everything." Sergeant Schultz had no idea what he was missing.
The site went live June 1, the day after Scotty Crane went on Howard Stern's syndicated radio show touting his venture that would set the record straight about his father, who was murdered June 29, 1978, in a Scottsdale apartment, where he had been staying during a dinner-theater production of a play titled Beginner's Luck. Crane's head had been bashed in once, possibly twice, while he slept; part of his face was left nearly unrecognizable from the beating, which police estimate took place in the wee hours of the morning. The murder weapon was never found, though it's long been believed to have been a tripod -- the very kind used by Crane to help film his myriad sexual escapades, which Scotty Crane insists had been going on for more than three decades. No one has been convicted in the slaying, though one man -- Crane's friend John Henry Carpenter, a like-minded videophile and porno fetishist introduced to Crane by his Hogan'sco-star Richard Dawson -- was brought to trial and acquitted in 1994 because of flimsy photographic evidence. As far as the Scottsdale police are concerned, the case is closed: They had their man, and he got away.
Originally, Crane insists, the site was merely an advertising vehicle for the book he and his wife were planning on publishing, The Faces of Bob Crane (though one might reconsider titling it The "Oh!" Faces of Bob Crane, as in "Oh, oh, oh!"). But there was so much demand for the book that he was forced to seek an outside publisher, which has delayed publication. He says only that he is close to reaching a deal for the tome and that the book will begin shipping after that. 'Til then, you can pay $7.95 for a three-day pass to the Web site, $19.95 for a monthlong stay -- or just pony up $18.95 for a tee shirt featuring a photo of clothed Crane standing behind a bent-over naked woman, camera at the ready. On the back of the shirt is a quote from Bob: "I don't smoke; I don't drink. Two out of three ain't bad."
Not surprisingly, Scotty Crane's half-brother, Robert David Crane, and half-sister, Karen -- children from Bob Crane's first marriage -- have denounced and derided Scotty's actions as nothing more than the money-grubbing antics of a son out to make cheap, sordid coin. Robert David, who calls himself Bob Crane Jr., has called the project "despicable," while Karen, who runs an antique shop in California, told the Arizona Republiclast month that Scotty "is using our father disgustingly to try to benefit himself." Scotty is unfazed by their condemnations and bristles at the suggestion that there is indeed something squalid about his desire to make money off his dead dad's dirty deeds.
Rather, he insists -- again and again -- that the Web site and book exist solely to dispel long-standing tales that his father was into S&M and homosexuality (seems Scotty wants the world to believe Colonel Hogan was merely a pain in Hitler's ass and no one else's, though some pictures depict Crane involved in group sex). The latter, though, has rarely been in question: On June 3, 1993 -- as Carpenter was preparing to go to trial for the murder -- Werner "Colonel Klink" Klemperer went on Larry King Liveand proclaimed Bob Crane "the most heterosexual person in the history of show business." Crane also insists that all of the women who were photographed and filmed by his father did so consensually, but according to Robert Graysmith, author of the 1993 book The Murder of Bob Crane and a 1993 New Times article, some of the women had no idea until informed by Scottsdale police after the murder in 1978.
"All these untrue stories paint him as a dark kind of sinister character, and that's not the way he should be portrayed, because he really wasn't," Scotty says. "He was really light, really fun-loving, really charismatic, and that's why women were so attracted to him -- besides for his fame. And that's why he was able to get women to do these things that he did. He never videotaped or photographed these women without their knowledge. . . . This is just like all-American fun, basically, in the 1960s and '70s, and everyone in Hollywood was doing it. It's just that he was filming it."