Would you invest $80 million in a fellow who died in 1785?


This Sunday marks the 223rd anniversary of the death of a fellow named Haym Salomon, an event that may not mean a whole lot to you but is nothing less than a day of mourning for Marty Ingels.

Haym Salomon. Ed Sullivan. If you say the names quickly, they sound nearly alike. Sullivan hosted what remains the most successful TV variety show in the medium's history. Salomon was a little-acknowledged but some say heroic Jewish figure during the American Revolution. Not exactly kindred spirits, they.

But to hear the irrepressible Ingels talk about it, it's simply no contest whom was the more fascinating figure of the two. And while HBO prepares to air a lavish and expensive miniseries honoring our second president, John Adams, in March, Ingels has launched a one-man scorched-earth campaign to bring Salomon his due.

A banker and prime financier of the American side during the Revolutionary War who lived from 1740-1785, Salomon's peerless skill at raising funds is said to have been instrumental in saving the new nation from financial collapse. Yet history has virtually ignored him.

It is Salomon's very anonymity that has led Ingels on a quest that has grown into an obsession over the past year. "To stumble on a man whose gargantuan contribution to humanity could have gone so unremembered and unheralded. ... This has left me feeling that my past 50 years of life have been my rehearsal for this (opportunity)," he says.

The fact that Ingels, 71, remains so utterly convinced that it's Haym's time to shine confirms that, during a notably hope-challenged moment in Hollywood, at least one man still embodies the go-getter showbiz spirit. He's looking to raise $80 million for a major studio feature or cable network miniseries about Salomon. While Ingels remains $80 million short of his goal, to him this isn't a stumbling block so much as a minor detail.

Ingels' primary claim to fame is that he has been married to the great singer, actress and Oscar winner Shirley Jones for 30 years. He's also done a lot of voice-over work, largely for animation, and once starred in the short-lived 1962-63 sitcom "I'm Dickens -- He's Fenster."

But over the past few decades, the unapologetically flamboyant Ingels has mostly distinguished himself as a bastion of bluster who will do and say pretty much anything to get noticed. He's a human exclamation point, a screeching smoke alarm in loafers, a crushing tsunami with a tie.

In short, Ingels isn't the kind of guy whom you figure might have the clout and contacts to get a massive biographical project off the ground. But never underestimate a man with inexhaustible stores of chutzpah. Leaving no big name unaccosted and no assistant unshmoozed, he has been doing it the old-fashioned way: calling, E-mailing, badgering, begging, bribing and otherwise cajoling.

Through sheer tenacity and will, Ingels has enlisted the promised participation in his grassroots pipe dream of no less than Branko Lustig -- whose production credits include "Schindler's List," "Gladiator" and "American Gangster" -- and has planted Salomon bugs in the ears of billionaire Sheldon Adelson, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Sean Penn, Kirk Douglas, Larry King and a few dozen others.

Anyone can pitch a project, of course. About 99.99% of them go nowhere. But few can do it with the unmitigated zealotry of Ingels.

Concludes Ingels: "By hook or crook, in the loop or out of it, by the rules or without them, I will make this happen -- or spend a long time on somebody's couch trying to figure out why I couldn't."