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750 pieces of John Wayne's life on the block - Local News - Orange County, CA - Santa Ana, CA on Astini News

& NEWPORT BEACH -- Plenty of fans have wondered what it was like to be in John Wayne's boots. Now they can find out. &

Wayne's family, through John Wayne Enterprises in Newport Beach, will auction off 750 items that belonged to Wayne -- from the eye patch he wore in "True Grit" to coffee mugs used on Wayne's yacht, The Wild Goose, that he kept in Newport Harbor.

"Invariably things disappeared from my father's property," said Ethan Wayne, one of John Wayne's seven children. On the bottom of the mugs, Ethan Wayne explained, "It says, 'stolen from John Wayne' with his signature on it. How great would it be to have your coffee in the morning out of that mug?"

The auction has been nearly a decade in the making. Ethan Wayne began pondering it in 2003 when he took over John Wayne Enterprises after the death of his half-brother Michael Wayne.

The company manages John Wayne's image and the merchandising that goes along with it, from Wayne-inspired Western wear to small-batch Bourbon and organic beef jerky. Ethan Wayne is also head of the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit group that supports cancer education and support groups.

Proceeds from the sale will go to John Wayne Enterprises, which funds the foundation.

Soon after assuming his position with the company, Ethan Wayne began fielding the calls that started with his father's death in 1979.

"For 34 years, people have been calling the office, asking if they could get a hat, a pair of boots, a vest, because they feel an emotional connection to John Wayne," the younger Wayne said. "For 34 years, we as a family have said, 'No.' "

Wayne began looking at all his father's memorabilia, a lengthy process. When John Wayne died, a moving company went to work.

"They came in, pulled everything out of drawers, wrapped it in paper and stuffed it in a box," Ethan Wayne said. "So we're opening plastic cups, toilet paper, a People's Choice Award, Golden Globe award, and laundry detergent from 1978. It was a tremendous amount of work to get everything organized."

Some items the family will keep for historic and archival purposes. But there was plenty left over. Those items, Ethan Wayne said, are destined for the fans of the Duke.

"The fans were the most important thing to my father, next to his family," Ethan Wayne said. "He spent an inordinate amount of time and energy making sure he answered every fan letter. ... He gave his time to those people because he was so grateful they'd bought the tickets to his films and allowed him to have the lifestyle he did.

"We laid out everything we had, and we cut out an honest slice, from the smallest, most insignificant item, all the way up to a Golden Globe for 'True Grit.' We wanted make sure we represented (Wayne) fully. ...These are the items from his dressing room, office, living room, den, night stand."

Among the items are a jacket that he wore in "North to Alaska," "McClintock!" and "The Sons of Katie Elder," and worn scripts from several movies, such as "The Train Robbers" and "McQ."

There are hats from "Hondo," and "The Quiet Man," and correspondence Wayne had with other Hollywood stars, foreign heads of state, and U.S. presidents.

Another item, a light-purple, sun-bleached shirt that Wayne wore in "Rooster Cogburn," still has dirt streaks down its back. Inside, the label bears Wayne's name, and gives an idea of how big the six-foot, four-inch Duke was. The shirt has a 50-inch chest, an 18½-inch collar, a 36-inch right sleeve and a 35½-inch left sleeve.

"I'm happy to see some of this cut loose," Wayne said. "I hope somebody gets one of those hats and gets inspired."

Contact the writer: 714-704-3796 or

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