A YOUNG JOHN WAYNE
I first wrote about this on my old blog Lone Star Concerto. It's not particularly interesting, but I'm rehashing it anyway.
One night, while surfing the web for no plausible reason, I stumbled upon some old photos of Hollywood celebrities. I was stunned to see one particular photo of John Wayne because it was taken the night that I first encountered him - and it was taken while I was standing there, about five feet away. Unfortunately I'm not in the photo - - the photographer was interested in the Duke, not some unknown 18-year-old kid.
I've met a lot of famous people during my adventurous Hollywood years. I also had brief, casual encounters with others. I saw John Wayne twice. Both times were brief, casual encounters.
My two brushes with the Duke didn't happen in Hollywood. They occurred in Orange County, where he lived (Wayne lived in Newport Beach).
Just for the record, I've never been a John Wayne fan. Never cared for any of his movies and couldn't remotely relate to his personality - - on screen or off. Seeing him in person didn't generate much excitement on my part. And I doubt if it generated any excitement in the Duke.
My first encounter with Wayne happened when I was eighteen, before I ever went to Hollywood. I was living in Orange County. Sometimes, on warm summer evenings, I'd walk to Knott's Berry Farm (in Buena Park) which was about two miles from where I lived. Hanging out at the "Farm" was a pleasant way to kill a few hours. I'd smoke a few cigarettes, get something to eat, and amuse myself by watching the tourists. Often I'd sit by the antique carousel and listen to the music.
One night it was getting late, near closing time, and I was almost ready to leave. I happened to strike up a conversation with a girl who worked in the Candy Shop. She told me that John Wayne was going to arrive for a private party in the Banquet Hall. "Do you want to go see him?" she asked.
"Sure, why not?" We walked to the Banquet Hall and waited by the entrance. No one else was there. Only me, the girl, and a couple of photographers from local newspapers.
A long, white limo pulled up and out came John Wayne, his wife Pilar Pallete, their daughter Aissa, and actress Maureen O'Hara. I think Wayne's son Patrick was there, too (well, one of his sons was there).
Wayne was so close to me that I could have easily picked his pocket. He was tall. I'm six-foot-one and he towered over me. Maureen O'Hara was beautiful, all decked out in a green silk gown. She and Wayne were close friends for nearly forty years and they made five films together.
Daughter Aissa kept smiling at me and I would have been flattered - - if it wasn't for the fact that she looked exactly like her father. Picture John Wayne with a long blond wig.
The photographer snapped the photo that I discovered on the Internet. I think it was used in the Orange County Register (I was a proofreader there briefly).
John Wayne and his wife Pilar Pallete.
This is the photo that was taken while I was standing right by them.
Ironically, around the same time, my mother happened to meet John Wayne at an Orange County cocktail party. My Mom was an executive secretary for a top honcho O.C. businessman. He invited her to the cocktail party. My mother generally disliked parties and mindless social gatherings, but she went anyway and she did meet John Wayne. Much like myself, she wasn't particularly impressed.
Wayne holds the record for the actor with the most leading parts in films - - a total of 142.
What have I observed from my personal encounters with Wayne?
One thing for certain, his personality wasn't fake. What you see in his movies is exactly what he was in real life. He wasn't acting. He was merely being himself. I don't think he was ever comfortable with all the Hollywood fluff.
Anyway, that's my take on the Duke.
If you hate this blog, you'll really hate my other one.
Here's the link:
Cabinet of Curious Treasures