Sunday, October 09, 2011

John Wayne's Boat

One of the reasons I chose L.A. to get into a serious study of martial arts was easy: That's where most of the action was in the mid-1960s. Look in the back of Black Belt Magazine at the list of schools, there were three major cities where schools clustered: New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. 

I didn't realize until years later that to get the listing, you had to subscribe to the magazine; still, those were the hotbeds of karate back in the day. 

And we had family in SoCal–my maternal grandmother and a couple of aunts and cousins lived there, and that was the tipping point. 

We didn't spend much time with family once we moved out there, but we did visit some. My grandparents lived in La Puente, and my mother's youngest sister lived in Newport Beach. Aunt Barbara was married to Uncle Ernie, who was an architect, and a city planner for Long Beach. 

Ernie was part of the deal to buy and install the Queen Mary as a museum/hotel tourist attraction, and once the ship arrived, one of the screws was removed and some of the brass from it melted down and cast into tie-tacks. He gave me one. Long gone by now, and Ernie and my aunt split some years later. I dunno what happened to him, but he was a nice guy and I liked him. He was the father of my cousin Mitch, who was about the age of my son. 

Once, must have been sometime in 1968, we went to visit them–they had a big house on a hill with a gorgeous swimming pool, and Ernie asked me if I wanted to see something interesting. Sure. So he and I took a ride to a local marina. They knew him at the gate, waved him in, and he introduced me as a friend of his, which at the time seemed somehow more impressive than it would have had he introduced me as his nephew.

We parked, walked onto the dock, and there it was: John Wayne's boat.  The Wild Goose.

It was a converted minesweeper, he told me, and Wayne had extensive work done on it, including raising the door frames and ceilings to accommodate his height–he was 6'4" tall.

It was a monster, that boat, 136 feet long, wooden hull and desk and superstructure, and I remember as being white with black trim. He'd had it for five or six years, Ernie said, they were still fiddling with the decor. 

We couldn't go onboard, but I did get a chance to look at it closely and be amazed. That's what being a movie star could buy you. Wow. 

Wayne eventually sold the boat and probably made a nice profit, given he'd paid a hundred grand for it and sold it for three-quarters of a million.  

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