carole lombard bond tour

Fireballed

You may be wondering where I’ve been. Well, I’m working on my new book and it’s the bottom of the ninth, as in, after two years, I have to be done at the end of May. I only have a one-track mind, unlike later more sophisticated models of humans who can, as the kids say, multitask, and so getting this thing completed is pretty much all I’m eating and sleeping these days.

And because of that single track, I haven’t addressed a very interesting comment that came into this website at the end of April, so I thought I would pause to admire it in the sunlight. Mary Whittaker had first left a comment here saying that she had begun Fireball and was enjoying it. Then she followed up.

First of all, thank you Mary for reading and liking Fireball and for taking the time to write about the following:

So wow – I just finished “Fireball” and am still “not over it.” Thank you so much for writing this book. It was absolutely fascinating…and the most fascinating thing to ME is the question of WHY this story is so compelling (and it absolutely, positively is). The amount of angst and stress I felt reading it – having absolutely no personal knowledge of the individuals involved AND with full knowledge of pretty much how it all ended…was remarkable.

When I consider Lana’s retort (‘I didn’t make her get on that plane’), I find that I have to reluctantly somewhat agree. Gable didn’t make her get on it either. How is it possible that this smart, savvy, successful, confidant and seemingly universally loved woman was somehow reduced to changing her interests, going cross country in desperate pursuit of pregnancy, lurking around Hollywood sound stages to monitor her husband’s behavior and accepting a pattern of one sided adultery in her marriage? How did she get to a point where she was so desperate to hang onto a man that she was a wreck over an 8 day separation and the fact that he wasn’t answering the phone….to the point of defying solemn promises made to her traveling companions, ignoring military air travel demands during war time and throwing a celebrity fit in order to get her way? It’s maddening! I understand that he was “the king” and all…but she was not exactly chopped liver and absolutely nothing in her background would lead one to believe that she would not only put up with this kind of situation but literally kill herself and 2 others in her single minded desperation to retain it. I’m guessing that this wealthy high society party girl/hugely successful actress was not previously terribly interested in hunting/camping. Her prior relationships, marital opinions and career plans did not seem to have a lot of focus on motherhood. She seems to have been trying to become what she thought he wanted from the start – then obsessed with having a baby (really good idea with a straying husband) as a further means to hold him. You just want to reach through the pages and shake her — HE IS NOT WORTH IT!!!

An irony too I think is that if she hadn’t died like this, my guess would be eventual divorce when she had finally had enough. He certainly was not going to stop his behavior as her prior entreaties had not worked…it was just a matter of time before she either became too humiliated/fed up to take it any more…or he got someone pregnant (again) or found some other 20 something actress to replace his (in Hollywood) “aging” 30 something wife. I don’t think absent this tragedy the “Gable and Lombard” legendary love story would have endured.

I did not quite come away with much admiration for Gable. I felt for him and was mesmerized by the details of his attempt to climb up, time in Las Vegas waiting for the outcome/bodies and life after…but at the end of the day I couldn’t help but think that karma had kind of gotten him (with the incredibly unfortunate corresponding outcome for Winkler and Petey too). His treatment of his first wife – the ugly reality of his second marriage – the complete abdication of human/moral responsibility for Judy Lewis and of course his cavalier and hurtful behavior while with Lombard — all too much for me to erase via a few kind deeds later on.

As you so correctly pointed out, SO many people died in WW2…WHY does this one plane crash seem so compelling?! It is positively haunting to me and I’m not exactly sure why. The passage of 75 years….the fading photos of a long ago movie star who many/most today have never have even heard of….the lingering debris (including that wedding ring) still resting undisturbed on that mountain….the LONG list of reasons why this never had to happen and the various opportunities that would have changed everything are gut wrenching. I can certainly understand why Gable never recovered.

Thank you for an outstanding read. I never knew all the details…now I do and will never forget them.

Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

My 2012 view of the place where all the stories intersected.

What more could any author want than a reader who is this literate and this energized after reading that author’s book? You bring up so many great points, Mary, with the first being, why did Carole bend herself into a pretzel to try to accommodate this particular man? I think the answer can be found in her capacity to love unconditionally. She was an old soul and she understood and was able to accept his baser instincts, insecurities, and shortcomings. It wasn’t ever a two-way street with these two. He was the king and she was his consort. But then she hit 30 in the place where one must never do that—Hollywood. And tastes changed among moviegoers, causing her to drive her career into a ditch. Once she was in there, it wasn’t so easy to get back out, and the result was fear she would lose her man to the hottie of 1941, Lana.

Another point you raise, the one that made you want to reach through the pages, concerned her rush to get home. As I read your reaction, it occurred to me that at age 33 years and 3 months, Carole still possessed the energy and invincibility of youth. Dying was for other people. If there’s one thing I understand above all (because she and I share this trait in spades), it’s Carole’s goal orientation. And that night her goal was, I gotta get home. She saw the prize and she went for it whereas after another 10 or 20 years of living, she might have tempered her impulse into, I want to get home, but he’ll be there tomorrow and I can’t put my traveling companions through emotional hell.

I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it again. I remember vividly sitting there in the middle of writing Fireball in my quiet house. Dead quiet. And looking at the wall in front of me and thinking, “Will anyone care about this story of a movie star who’s been dead 70 years?” I’m going through it right now in a different sense because, Audrey Hepburn. Sheesh. But this time it’s, “Have I pulled this off? Have I told this story in a way that compels the reader to keep going?” You just never know.

But in both cases I’ve latched onto a story that all past biographers stepped right over without really even glancing back to see what that just was. In the case of the last days of Carole Lombard, I was like, wait a minute. There were so many stories that had never been told. Carole living the best full day of her life on the last full day of her life. The veteran airline pilot who made a rookie mistake. The first responders rushing up a mountain to make a rescue. The crash investigators trying to figure out what had happened. The poor young officer who had to pick up body parts on mountainside you couldn’t even walk across. The hotshot Army flyboy desperate to get to his fiancée. And on and on. You didn’t have to end up liking Gable because there were so many other people who were so goddamn cool, including some who broke your heart by not living to the end.

Audrey in the British picture Secret People playing a young dancer. She made this two years before she hit Hollywood.

In the case of Audrey Hepburn in World War II—that’s my next one, Audrey Hepburn in World War II—there’s an obligatory chapter on this topic in all the bios that came out after she died in 1993. A single chapter about six years of her life in the midst of the greatest crisis in human history! Oh let’s just get past this thing about Hitler and Jews, the murder of her uncle, the battle for Arnhem, the Hunger Winter, and all that other boring history. We have to blaze through it so we can get to the good stuff about sex with William Holden and the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s! Well, fine, you all did that. There are some really good AH bios out there, particularly the one by Barry Paris.

Me? By focusing on the Netherlands, I found a story just as riveting as what there was on Potosi. Once again I’m sitting here thinking, I can’t believe I get to be the one to tell it! But, boy, I can’t just tell it. I have to tell it right. That’s the pressure and the sixty-four-dollar question. Have I told it right?

Anyway, that’s where I’ve been—back in time in the Netherlands circa 1940-45 learning how Audrey Hepburn became who she ended up being. Walking in her footsteps, breathing her air, meeting some of the people she knew in the places she knew them.

In the meantime this is just me poking my head in to say hello and to acknowledge the tremendous compliment paid by Mary Whittaker.

Those Damn Peaks

Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

Carole Lombard and dignitaries just off the east steps of the Indiana State House in Indianapolis on January 15, 1942. As of now, she had less than 36 hours to live.

If you’ve read Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3, you know the significance of January 16; a year ago, since the date coincided with the fall of weekdays culminating in Friday January 16, I conducted a Twitter campaign to take you minute by minute through Carole Lombard’s last hectic 36 hours of life in real-time. That exercise taught me just how fast she careened toward her own death. It’s 11:30, she’s here; it’s 12:15, she’s there; 2:05, time for a wardrobe change to be here at 2:15. She had spent Thursday January 15, 1942 dashing and appearing. Make a speech, sell bonds, dash a few blocks to raise a flag, change clothes, go to a tea, change clothes, go to dinner uptown, then motorcade to the evening “gala.”

Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

Mary Anna Johnson was a young federal researcher when she saw Carole Lombard board TWA Flight 3 in Indianapolis. Mary would be bumped from Flight 3 before it crashed, and tell me all about the experience 70 years later.

Last year’s Twitter recreation of the timeline for today, January 16, took a more linear turn. Imagine you’re flying west on a TWA red-eye, and it’s the middle of the night and you stop in lonely Indianapolis. Modern air travelers have no frame of reference for what a DC-3 interior was like. Basically you sat in the equivalent of a big tin can, sloped uphill, in terrific noise. You can’t imagine the noise of two commercial transport engines on either side of you, so if you got on the plane at LaGuardia or Newark and hopped your way west, by the time you reached Indianapolis, you were bushed. Sleep, when it came at all, was fleeting and fitful. Then as you sit in the silence of a darkened tarmac (the tinnitus of those engines still in your ears), your flight attendant, known then as an “air hostess,” announces that a VIP is boarding and please respect her privacy. Onto the plane steps Carole Lombard, her mother, and their PR man, with Lombard still wired from all she had experienced in the last 18 hours, from her first appearance in Indianapolis on.

As I write this I guess she’s somewhere over Missouri and now she’s sleeping fitfully and fleetingly while flying beside and in front of two passengers who are spitting mad at her for making them travel by air at all. Spitting mad. This is one of many aspects of the story that people don’t quite get because there are no photographs to depict it and few eyewitnesses spoke of it, but this party was Unhappy with a capital Un. Carole’s mother, whom she knew as “Petey” sometimes and “Tots” most of the time, would go to her fiery death furious at her daughter. PR man Otto Winkler would spend his last day trapped on the tin can and anticipating an air disaster because he had dreamed it would happen. So here he is right now over Missouri, expecting the worst after he had expended all his energy in Indianapolis and then hadn’t slept all night. Imagine, just imagine…

Stop after stop followed as the TWA’s transcontinental Flight 3 hedge-hopped west, stopping to pick up and drop off passengers and mailbags and to top off the tanks for the next leg. Then there’s another aspect of the thousand aspects to the story: the Army Air Corps guys. They had gotten onto the plane in dribs and drabs and by the last stop, the unscheduled stop in Las Vegas, there were 15 of these fliers on the plane as passengers, and only four civilians. One of the reasons I decided to write the manuscript I’m finishing today, Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe, is because of the affinity I feel for the Air Corps boys after writing Fireball. Newspapers reporting the crash of the plane gave the impression these young men were all pilots, but they weren’t. They were also co-pilots, navigators, radio men, and engineers. They were parts of flight crews in the Ferrying Command who took medium and heavy bombers east to the war, then snagged commercial flights back to California and did it over again. In the coming months these young guys were expecting transfer to American bases where they would train Air Corps conscripts because experienced Air Corps fliers were in short supply. Then after promotions they’d head to Europe or the Pacific as senior-level officers or non-coms.

Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

A TWA DC-3 transcontinental Sky Club of the kind that crashed on this date in 1942 killing the flight crew, 15 Army Air Corps fliers, and four civilians, including Carole Lombard.

The life of an army aviator wasn’t easy because their ships were reliable and yet not at all reliable. We were then just out of the era of the biplane and still figuring out multi-engine aviation. Here’s something else to think about: When TWA Flight 3 took off into the Las Vegas darkness on this night, January 16, the 15 fliers sat there in the noise analyzing climb rate and engine performance. They could feel the overweight ship laboring to reach altitude because this is what they did for a living—they flew multi-engine planes. And since they were flying out of McCarran, an army airfield, they all knew Vegas and the dangers of the surrounding mountains and must have been wondering where those damn peaks were. But some of them also knew the pilot, Capt. Wayne Williams, because he had been teaching classes for the Army in multi-engine flying so they’d figure, with Capt. Williams up there, we’re OK.

They weren’t OK. A whole bunch of little things happened along the way that conspired to put Mt. Potosi in the way of Flight 3 as she power-climbed to altitude. The result: fireball—the image in my mind for years as I’d fly through Vegas and look over at Potosi and imagine what the people of Las Vegas witnessed in the western sky this night at about 7:30 local time. From 30 miles off they saw a little pinpoint of light that represented 22 humans going up in flames. I’m very fond of, and feel close to, all of them, not just Carole, Petey, and Otto, and on this January 16, with the trees barren and the sky appropriately gray, I’ll look at my watch and think about where they were and what they were doing on this, the last day of their lives.

Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

Mt. Potosi, Nevada. Imagine TWA Flight 3 coming into view from the right and power climbing toward the distant peaks. At just about dead center in the photo she hit the rock cliff walls just below the peak in the dark at 185 miles per hour.

Splitting a Limo

Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

Nine years ago yesterday: the time they gave me a megaphone. The only time. The reason my clothes are hanging on me is because I was on the low-budget-feature diet, which includes no time for food but the stress-burn of 10,000 calories a day. The guy visible in front of me is my stepson, Rob. Like I say, I called in all markers on May 13, 2006.

The very first reviewer of Fireball, the savvy, revered, and (by a few) despised New York Post film critic Lou Lumenick, praised the book and said, “Fireball would make a great movie.” Since then I’ve heard the refrain often, up to and including this week on Facebook. It happens that I write and direct movies for a living, if one counts videos for NASA and the Department of Energy as “movies.” It’s no coincidence that things I write about present themselves as movies in my head, so it’s natural to describe them that way in books.

I know enough about making feature pictures to be just a little bit dangerous. Nine years ago yesterday, while making the George Washington documentary Pursuit of Honor, I directed more than 100 actors and extras in a Revolutionary War-era battle scene set in the wilds of Pennsylvania. Amidst cannon and buckets of fake blood, horses, cranes, and five cameras stood yours truly with a megaphone—the only time they ever let me use one while directing. All markers were called in that day, and every living, breathing relative who could work as crew or an extra participated. Even my dentist played a wounded Redcoat—so did his brother. This location shoot covered just three pages of the script in a feature that took us to Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon, Old Town Alexandria, and many other shooting sites. I even fell in the Allegheny River while trying to shoot ice floes in wintry New York. This story doesn’t really have a point; I just looked at the calendar and remembered the date, May 13, 2006.

Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

The battle as it appeared in the feature.

Believe me when I tell you, making movies ain’t easy. I was reminded of it this morning when a story crossed the wire about Cate Blanchett’s new lesbian picture 10 years in the making. This article resonated with me on many levels given my present undertaking with Fireball, which is, simply, that I’m in the middle of writing a film treatment of the story. In the Blanchett article about the movie called (ironically enough) Carol, the difficulty of writing a romantic picture came up. Said the director of Carol, Todd Haynes, “…I think love stories are hard to pull off, period. They require forces that keep the lovers apart.”

It’s true, as I’m learning. The best love stories feature lovers struggling to be together, or forced to be apart. The need for this dynamic, the eternal struggle of lovers, sunk the 1976 feature motion picture, Gable & Lombard, which sought to find the conflict separating the characters by inventing it: Gable is a wet-behind-the-ears Hollywood newcomer and Lombard is the brassy movie veteran; Gable is incapable of love and Lombard fears being hurt by it; society torments them for their unmarried relationship until they reach the breaking point and then … well, see the picture. Better yet, don’t see the picture, because it bears no real resemblance to the living, breathing people or their situation, not to mention the grisly miscasting of the actors playing said characters.

In my development of Fireball as a cinematic property, I’ve already run afoul of the physics of how to make the relationship of Lombard and Gable corporeal and not cliché. I used to be angry at the ineptitude of Gable & Lombard but now see what the screenwriters were up against in bringing two highly recognizable Hollywood legends to life as real people. I’m not sure anyone short of John Huston or Joe Mankiewicz could have pulled it off. Or maybe it’s just plain impossible to have an actor and actress impersonate Clark and Carole because their body of work lives on so we know exactly who they were and what they were like.

Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

Impersonate THIS? I have my doubts.

I’ve had a discussion or three in recent weeks with people on the inside about Fireball the movie—the pros and cons and ins and outs of screenplays in the modern era. Should I concentrate on selling the intellectual property? Should I develop a treatment? Should I write a screenplay? Ask five Hollywood people these questions and you’ll get five diverging expert opinions, each one valid. My response is I’m just doing what I always do; I’m writing, spurred on by vivid scenes that have played on a loop inside my head for years. Weary people stepping inside an airplane. A fireball in the night sky. Men climbing through snow. A husband staring at a mountain. So many vivid moments that now haunt many as they once haunted only me.

Right now I’m trying out the story I want to tell in two hours. I’m picking the best scenes and identifying the characters that will populate my picture. I’m pretty sure my approach, arrived at after a meeting in Beverly Hills, is going to surprise lovers of the book. I’m open to ideas for what to include, and if you forward them to me, keep in mind that I’m not going to guarantee you a piece of the action. But I’ll remember you if I use your idea. Who knows, maybe we’ll end up splitting a limo one of these years on our way to the Oscars. At the very least I’ll give you one hell of a shout-out in my acceptance speech. You and Lou Lumenick.

Mystery Within the Mystery

News of the death of my friend Kenneth Keene has hit me hard. I mean, come on, I’m not telling tales out of school when I say the man drank liquor a quart a day and knew the word exercise only as a theoretical experience. But he was one of the most extraordinary humans I have ever met, and his passing has left a hole in my heart.

As you will recall from a post dated last October, Ken Keene owned Tuckaway, an Indianapolis National Landmark and a home tied to the death of Carole Lombard. Ken Keene insisted, Ken Keene swore to me, that Carole Lombard stood at the front door of Tuckaway the day before her death and was warned by scientific palmist Nellie Simmons Meier “not to take the plane.” Ken learned this from the lips of Nellie’s niece Ruth, making it more than legend. It was oral history. But the fact of the matter is, I have not been able to find evidence that Lombard managed to sneak off to Tuckaway, located on the north side of Indianapolis, on the hectic day of the bond sale on January 15, 1942. If you followed my Twitter campaign of January 15 and 16 of this year, when I recounted Lombard’s day selling war bonds minute by minute, you know how frantic was her time in Indianapolis.

I would say to Ken that I needed evidence of her Tuckaway visit, and he would respond, “You don’t believe me!” I assured him that yes, I did believe him, but I needed verification to put it in print. But Ken had heard it from Ruth, and Ruth had heard it from Nellie, so it was incomprehensible to Ken that I needed more than that.

Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

The dark and mysterious interior of Tuckaway. Ken is barely visible at center of photo, beside the lamp.

Now, about Ken. He was a dark-haired man with a puppy-dog-sad face. According to the feature obit in the Indianapolis Star, he was 69 or 70. He mentioned that he was the son of Army Air Corps Brigadier General Ken Keene, although the subject only came up because he asked me what I was working on and I told him a book about James Stewart in World War II. He said, “Oh, my father knew him and used to tell stories about the two of them in the war.” It was then he showed me a picture of Gen. Keene and his wife Gigi, the stunning woman who was Ken’s mother. But knowing the unorthodox Ken, I sensed that there was a lot of discontent among parents and child, because he was the last guy to be thought of as a chip off the ol’ block of Gen. Keene. Another sign of problems was the fact that Ken had no interest in recounting his father’s experiences with James Stewart.

Ken was often bombed from all the scotch, but a brilliant conversationalist at all times. He tracked every word that anyone said and had an immediate response, even after a full tumbler of scotch. I mean a big glass of scotch and ice. He might slur a word or two, but the man had his faculties and his brain processed like a NASA supercomputer.

Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

The “other” Lombard autographed portrait that I found on Ken’s wall.

Ken’s passion was Tuckaway, and Carole Lombard was among his favorite Tuckaway topics. He would point out the autographed portrait of her hanging at the bottom of the stairs, which had become famous over the years through newspaper coverage. As Mary and I wandered through the house, I found another Lombard inscribed and framed portrait hanging in the library, which didn’t really look so much like her so it was no wonder it had been overlooked. It was taken off the wall and handed to Ken, who fixed his hazy eyes on it and said, “Oh yes, I had forgotten about this one.”

It turns out that I spoke to Ken by phone within a week of his death on February 18. He had asked me when I would be out for a visit—he always asked that—and I promised to get there in the spring. I was thinking about planning that visit the day I learned about his passing, just hours after thinking about him, this past Tuesday.

I interviewed Ken extensively about his connection to the story in Fireball, this incredible missing piece of the Fireball timeline, so it’s not as if his death has affected the historical record. But I so admired this guy for being gracious, and brilliant, and determined to show visitors to Tuckaway the time of their lives. I admired him for his warmth at all times, whenever I’d call. Above all he was a brilliant individualist who lived life on his own terms and never compromised. He never skimped on the liquor bill and never condescended to see a doctor even when it was obvious he should. What good does it do now to scold the guy? I’d rather celebrate this life brilliantly lived, and pursue the clues he left me about what is potentially a chilling moment in the last days of Carole Lombard’s life when she was warned what was ahead and for some reason ignored the warning and hurried to her doom.

Carole Lombard: As It Happens

Attention readers of this column and Carole Lombard fans everywhere. Join me on Twitter tomorrow and Friday for a very special event: “Carole Lombard: As It Happens,” with live Twitter feeds as we follow her realtime through her planned day in Indianapolis selling war bonds. We will then follow her home for a reunion with Clark Gable. Coverage begins early tomorrow morning, Thursday January 15, and continues Friday January 16 on Twitter. Join me at @Robert Matzen. For those of you not currently on Twitter, here’s your chance to sign up and get acquainted.

At the Crossroads

When you enter the state of Indiana on President Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System, you see a sign that says, “Welcome to Indiana, Crossroads of America.” Further probing into the state reveals that Indianapolis is also known as the Crossroads of America, so you’re really at the crossroads when you reach Indiana’s capital city. On Sunday I spoke at a quaint bookstore on Mass Ave in downtown Indianapolis called Indy Reads Books talking about Fireball and on Monday morning I appeared on CBS affiliate WISH-TV’s Indy Style talking more Fireball in general and Carole Lombard’s last day of life in particular. For Lombard it was a blur of a winter’s day with appearances from downtown at the Capitol Building to the tony northern suburbs.

Indianapolis is laid out crazily around a downtown circle much as Pierre Charles L’Enfant designed Washington DC, with diagonal streets laid over a city grid, and the diagonals intersecting in roundabouts here and there. I guess it’s no coincidence since L’Enfant disciple Alexander Ralston co-designed the street pattern of Indianapolis. It’s easy to argue that these guys were geniuses…or that these guys were just plain nuts. Indy’s got six-way intersections and more pedestrians that you can shake a stick at. Jaywalking seems to be a sport in Indianapolis, and some streets have bike lanes but all streets seem to have bicyclists—who don’t always behave predictably. Downtown motorists had better be on their toes all the time because fancy driving doesn’t just happen on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; it happens all over Ralston’s complicated downtown system.

But I digress. I asserted on Indy radio, TV, and in person that Carole Lombard enjoyed two especially stellar days in a stellar life: her March 29, 1939 elopement with Clark Gable to Arizona, and her January 15, 1942 day selling war bonds in Indianapolis. Carole had to love everything about her time in Indy, where thousands of people treated her like a queen from the first instant to the last in a slate of appearances that ran like clockwork.

Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

Getting started at Indy Reads Books.

An excellent Indianapolis Star feature by Will Higgins that heralded my lecture looked exclusively at the local angle on Lombard’s Indy trip, which was orchestrated by local businessman J. Dwight Peterson. I had seen the name in my research but didn’t call him out in Fireball, so Higgins’ article dovetails nicely with the narrative. I quickly learned in my Indy Reads lecture just how much the locals claim Lombard and how magical her day in town has remained over the decades. Attendees were very much into it, and included a rare father-daughter combo with the young lady maybe 13 and not too enthusiastic at the beginning, but the story is irresistible and before long she perked right up. I also met longtime Lombard-Gable fan Patricia Kennedy, who filled me in on some local particulars about the Lombard visit. It was a wonderful give and take of information—my national view and their local view, and I learned some things that will certainly make a future edition of Fireball.

My TV segment the next morning on Indy Style was more magic, as host Andi Hauser found herself engrossed in a copy of Fireball while prepping, and when I offered the exclusive Myron Davis Indianapolis photos as roll-ins with the segment, Brian, the director, snapped them up. How’s the saying go—Print anything you want about me; just spell my name right? I found out afterward that they spelled my name wrong in the super, and if you click the link it’s hideously misspelled still, but only because TV people live in a world where everything happens fast and the next thing is important and the thing that already happened isn’t. The meeting before airtime was maybe three minutes and the host, producer, and director asked brief questions and I knew to give brief answers because of the general state of hurry. But they treated me and Fireball very well, so Robert Matzum it is!

Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

With Andi Hauser on CBS Channel 8’s Indy Style.

Afterward Mary and I sped down to the Capitol for a private tour of the Lombard hotspots, using Davis’s photos for visual reference. Jennifer Hodges and Rose Wernicke of the Tour Office helped us triangulate where Carole stood and handed out war bond receipts imprinted with her photo, personal message, and signature. It was near the office of Indiana Governor Henry Schricker, which made sense in terms of logistics. But Lombard and party were tucked away in a corner behind a makeshift wooden counter, outside a doorway. I asked Jennifer why that would have been. She thought a moment. “That’s the governor’s business office, so they would have been able to take her out that way afterward, down the stairs and outside without having to go out through the crowd.” Like I say: clockwork.

http://wishtv.com/2014/03/31/author-robert-matzum-fireball-carole-lombard-the-mystery-of-flight-3/

The 2014 view inside the Indiana State Capitol Building showing a glimpse of the same spot in 1942. The building was refurbished in the 1980s, so some of the appointments have changed–but not much.

Outside the building Mary and I easily found the spot where Carole stood on a makeshift platform for her speech that was covered by all the newsreel companies and by national radio. It was at the bottom of the steps near the east entrance, with the facade of the building unchanged today from what the Davis photos showed in 1942.

Our tour of Indianapolis was a clear success, and I can only hope the stop in Las Vegas next week goes as well. It will include some TV early in the week, followed by a lecture and signing on Saturday, April 12, at the Sahara West Library, with Potosi Mountain in full view. I know from writing the story how special Nevadans are; I’m hoping to meet some whose parents or grandparents participated in the search and recovery in 1942. Or maybe there are a couple hardy first responders still with us who can teach me a thing or two like the people of Indianapolis did just yesterday.

http://wishtv.com/2014/03/31/author-robert-matzum-fireball-carole-lombard-the-mystery-of-flight-3/

Carole Lombard delivers a speech outside the Indiana Capitol Building in 1942.

Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

The same spot today.