Bob Crane turned down three sitcoms before ''gambling'' on Hogan's Heroes
"I bet a fortune that I could make a million — and won," Crane bragged.
Before he became a television star, Bob Crane had the ear of everyone in Hollywood. He gabbed at them at their breakfast table, in their showers and in their cars during their morning commutes. He was the hottest morning DJ on Los Angeles radio.
Crane was pulling in a hefty salary as an A.M. emcee on KNX. Being a disc jockey earned him $75,000 a year in the early 1960s. Don't sound like much now, but that's the equivalent of about $650,000 in today's cash.
"Millions of Southern Californians became addicted to the irreverent fun-maker," Hollywood gossip columnist Florabel Muir wrote in 1968. "Bob kidded his listeners, his sponsors, his guests, and himself in a wildly formatted show that had to be heard to be believed." In a way, he was a forerunner and pioneer of the "zoo crew" and shock jock format so common in morning radio. He'd be huge on Spotify today. Back then, television came calling.
As he was working for KNX, a CBS radio station, Crane also landed a supporting role on The Donna Reed Show. His salary for that gig was equivalent to his radio paychecks — $75,000 a year.
Giving that up for a sitcom of his own was a "gamble." That's how every newspaper article framed it in 1965. If he quit his radio job for a television show — well, that show could last a mere 13 weeks before being canceled. That happens more often than not in TV.
Crane was rolling the dice when he opted to headline Hogan's Heroes. Especially when you consider the concept.
But he "turned down three roles" before picking Stalag 13, according to an Associated Press article in the fall of 1965, shortly after Hogan's Heroes premiered. One of those was, like his radio show, a talk show, a late-night role akin to Tonight with Jack Paar (you know, the predecessor to Johnny Carson). Studios saw him as a potential next Jack Paar. They also offered him two plum sitcom leads — in Please Don't Eat the Daisies and My Living Doll.
Please Don't Eat the Daisies was an adaptation of a hit 1960 film (which itself was based on a bestselling book), about a couple living in an old house raising four rowdy boys with the help of a housekeeper. (There was a dog, too.) My Living Doll offered far more fantastic fare — it was about a man and his beautiful android (Julie Newmar), Sixties comedy along the lines of Bewitched and My Favorite Martian.
"I had to talk for a long time to explain to the producer that I wasn't right for Please Don't Eat the Daises," Crane told the AP. "I also had to explain why I didn't want to do My Living Doll."
What made Hogan's different?
"Basically, in Hogan's, I play myself," Crane explained to Muir.
Like Hogan, Crane was a gambler. With his career, in particular. He bet $75,000 that he could make a million on Hogan's Heroes — and won.
"I've done it before — bet a fortune that I could make a million — and won," Crane bragged to Muir, "and I'll do it again if necessary."