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In 1927 Charles. A. Lindbergh flew alone across the Atlantic in a rickety monoplane with five sandwiches, a canteen of water, and no radio—an adventure that inadvertently marked the beginning of an era: The Great Depression. Many who were adopted back then began to fantasize being the kidnapped ‘Lindbergh baby,’ only to have their dreams evaporate amidst harsh reality. Ronnie Coalman clung to the supposition throughout years of heavy drama, zany comedy, and overblown special effects until finally the defiance hurlers appeared once again in the cockpit as they had fifty years before—but this time it was when Coalman attempts to duplicate the flight to prove his rather absurd assertion.
Ronnie Coalman was a product of the Great Depression. His story, however, is timeless; he emanates from an evolution of American technological marvels in show business and entertainment that has made it possible for practically anyone with a modicum of talent to rise from the most humble of beginnings to the top of his profession by displaying little more than what William James called “the recipe for positive results”: Success or failure depends more upon attitude than upon capacity; successful men act as though they have accomplished or are enjoying something. Soon it becomes a reality. Act, look, feel successful, conduct yourself accordingly, and you will be amazed at the positive results. The Great Depression has spawned many unique American stories, but none so gripping and transcendent as the saga of Ronnie Coalman. From a childhood in a family scraping by with a small restaurant in half their mid-western home, to a career as the top TV anchor and personality in network broadcasting, Ronnie rides an emotional whirlwind through marriage to a leading fashion model, father of an incredible debutante, an affair with a vivacious director — and an unquenchable obsession that he is Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr., the kidnapped and ostensibly murdered son of Anne Morrow Lindbergh and the famous aviator. Aware he is but one of dozens who have seriously approached this supposition over four decades, Ronnie Coalman goes on a crusade to prove his claim, an enterprise that has repercussions throughout the entertainment world. At the pinnacle of success on national TV as the news anchor and chief correspondent of a leading network, his position will be compromised if his insistence on pursuing the Lindbergh connection continues -- even as it grows more evident there might just be genuine substance to his assertion of kinship. This remarkable story culminates with a twist that leaves the reader gasping in a state of shock. The impact of the ending is so traumatic, the author has inserted a preface requesting his readers do not divulge the story’s climax to the detriment of others.
William S. Paley, board chairman of CBS, telephoned Tom Sarnoff at his home on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, a sprawling mansion of considerable size in the Koolau Mountains overlooking Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean. It was just after 2 P.M. Hawaii Time when the son of David Sarnoff came on the line.
“Are you vacationing or just hiding?” Paley asked.
Sarnoff laughed. “A little of both – and yes, before you ask, I saw the program.”
“I’m glad the General wasn’t here to see it. What’re you fellows going to do about Coalman?”
Sarnoff didn’t hesitate. “Probably nothing. He’s all through, whether he makes it to Paris or not. And I don’t believe for a moment he’s the Lindbergh baby.”
“Was that call from Anne Lindbergh a plant?”
Sarnoff said he did not think so. “I think she’s too much a genuine, you know, icon, a lady of class, to play games like that. Even with people like Coalman and Bob Jarvis.”
“Has Silverman called you?” Paley asked.
“Yeah. Twice. He’s got his pockets inside out. He’ll just have to build a bridge and get over it.”
Paley wondered, “How much longer’s he got?”
“Not much. The board meets after Labor Day, and I think the, uh, handwriting’s on the wall, as they say. How about you guys? I read your book; nice title: CBS AND EYE.”
“Yeah. Roone Arledge came up with it.”
“Yeah, I think he felt he owed it to me,” Paley laughed, “after stealing Jim McKay from us. But I don’t know; it’s such a goddamn rat race. With all the crap I have to wade through every day from Murrow, Shirer, Smith, Edwards, Wallace, Hewitt, Gleason, Sullivan, and the rest of them, Ball and Arnaz, Burnette, Moore – all the crap that flows through this office everyday, I’m surprised any of us lasts six months.”
Sarnoff cleared his throat. “You thinking of hanging it up?”
“No,” Paley said, “not yet. Unless some dodo hires Coalman over here. If I ever see that guy walking towards us on Madison Avenue, I’ll jump outta my window.”