May 26, 2011
You have been remembered as the epitome of vigor and ruggedness. However, let me be honest with you Marion. Your stage name, John Wayne, certainly suited you much better. Perhaps as an infant, when your parents had their first look at you, they thought you looked like a Marion. After your brother was born, and was named Robert, your parents changed your middle name to Michael. Your parents didn’t even use their birth names either. Your father was Clyde Morrison and he went by “Doc.” Your mother was Mary Brown and she went by “Molly.” Sounds a bit confusing, I’d say.
Oh yes, I mustn’t forget another one of your names: Duke. The story goes that as a young man growing up in Glendale, Calif, you owned an Airedale terrier. You two were inseparable. Local firemen, seeing you walk him along the streets of Glendale, gave you a nickname. The name stuck with you until the day you died. You were known as Big Duke and the dog was Little Duke.
Years later you recounted: "There've been a lot of stories about how I got to be called Duke. One was that I played the part of a duke in a school play, which I never did. Sometimes, they even said I was descended from royalty! It was all a lot of rubbish. Hell, the truth is that I was named after a dog!"
Now John, my father used to tell a story about my great grandmother seeing you in a restaurant in Los Angeles. She walked right up to you, slapped you on the back and said “Hello, John!” You turned around, somewhat startled, but had a nice chat with her. I see now that my longtime fascination with celebrities is genetic!
Considering that you and I both lived in Orange County for so many years, I feel like we have a kinship. I’ve lived in the OC for about 44 years. I remember taking a boat tour of the Newport Harbor with my family and someone pointed out your beautiful home along the water. Out in front there was a private dock with your beautiful yacht, The Wild Goose. The OC loved you so much; they even named an airport after you!
Let me tell you a funny story, Duke. Many years ago a friend of ours was visiting. He had the first name John and middle name Wayne. Once he was trying to get our daughter, who was 16 at the time, to guess his full name. He gave all kinds of hints like, “I was named after a famous western actor.” She guessed: Clint Eastwood. Then he said, “I was named after someone who people called The Duke.” She guessed: A dog? He tried to give her more clues, but finally gave up and told her, “My name is John Wayne!” She looked at him completely serious and asked, “You were named after an airport???”
Well, I better close now. A poll was conducted last year that indicated you were the 3rd favorite actor in America…right behind Denzel Washington and Johnny Depp. You left us too soon, Duke, but America still loves you. Happy Birthday on what would have been your 104th birthday.
Regards, Mrs Love