By Dave Stancliff/For the Times-Standard
Vietnam 1970 - I had been in country one week when my squad leader said, “We don’t need any John Waynes in this squad.” Nearly everyone I met during my tour in Vietnam and Cambodia agreed with that sentiment.
At first, it was hard for me to understand why everyone seemed so down on the Duke.
At nineteen I knew very little about politics. I learned that Wayne used his iconic status to support conservative causes that kept the war going. That included rallying support for the Vietnam War by producing, co-directing, and starring in the critically panned Green Berets in 1968.
That movie was propaganda, pure and simple. After awhile, I understood why his name had come to represent the establishment and the senseless war we were fighting. I found out there were no heros like the ones in the movies. Just survivors. Most of the Vietnamese I met wanted us to go home. We came to realize we were invaders, not saviors.
I never saw anyone cry out, “for God and Country” and charge into enemy bunkers with an M-16 blazing away. That’s not the war I saw. I saw corruption on the South Vietnamese side and the American side. A thriving black market. Master sergeants in supply getting rich. And lots of Americans doing drugs.
How could my boyhood hero have supported such a massive mistake? Why did he support the government that put us there for no good reason? What made Marion Mitchell Morrison side with the bad guys?
While he epitomized rugged masculinity and became an enduring American icon, he was also known for his conservative political views and for being a hawk on the war. I believe the Duke felt he was patriotic and doing the right thing.
Time has been kind to the Duke’s memory. A Harris Poll released in January 2011 placed him third among America's favorite film stars, the only deceased star on the list and the only one who appeared in the poll every year since it first began in 1994.
To millions, he symbolized and communicated American values and ideals. Nothing will ever change that. I’ll always consider him a great actor despite disagreeing with his politics.
His son, Ethan Wayne, is selling some of his stuff in an auction at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, and also online, Oct. 3-6. Ethan has such a large collection of his father's movie memorabilia that he decided to open his archives for the auction.
Among the items to be offered are the actor's Golden globe for True Grit — with an estimated value of $50,000 — one of his eye patches from the movie, plus 400 other costumes, scripts, personal documents and awards, according to a story in the LA Times (9/7).
Ethan Wayne said he believes his dad still resonates with fans around the world not only because of his movies "but he was also liked personally. People knew he was the same kind of guy off screen as he was on screen. You can sense that about him. He never got bogged down with the darker side of his life."
Some hold Wayne in contempt for the paradox between his early actions - he never went into the military - and his rampant patriotism in later decades. His widow suggested he was that way because he felt guilty and not because he was a hypocrite.
You know what? I’ve forgave him a long time ago. I’m beyond those bad old days when the Duke wore a Black hat instead of his customary White one. I have no problem watching a re-run of him in Stage Coach , The Searchers, The High and Mighty, The Flying Tigers, or the Shootist. Wayne played the lead in 142 of his film appearances. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every film he ever made.
It’s easier now for me to go back to my childhood days when the Duke ruled the cinema. If I could afford it, I would attend the auction and buy a piece of his memorabilia.
I once worked as a security guard at a gated community where he and his wife Pilar lived in Newport Beach (1974) and I saw him there regularly.
Those memories serve me well. He was easy to talk with. We had many interesting conversations, him in his non-descript Ford station wagon, and me standing there in a rent-a-cop uniform at the main gate. He treated me with respect when he learned I was a Vietnam veteran. One day, when I told him I was getting married, he gave me a cigar and wished me the best of luck.
As It Stands, I wonder what that cigar would have sold for at the auction?
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