The Duke rides again

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Iowa, California mark John Wayne centennial

SADDLE UP YOUR SUVs, pilgrims.

A century after John Wayne’s birth and nearly three decades after his death, commemorations in Wayne’s birthplace of Winterset, Iowa, and adopted hometown of Newport Beach, Calif., are putting America’s favorite celluloid cowboy back in the spotlight.

Of course, he never really left.

According to an annual Harris Poll released in January, The Duke ranks third (behind Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks) as online respondents’ favorite movie star. Wayne has landed among the top 10 spots every year since polling started in 1994 ? despite the fact that the tough guy’s last film, “The Shootist,” was released three years before he died of cancer in 1979.

The wealthy Pacific Coast enclave of Newport Beach is better known these days as the setting for Fox’s recently canceled teen drama “The OC.” But Wayne, who supposedly chose acting over football after a bodysurfing injury off Newport’s Balboa Pier during his college years, is still a fixture on the Southern California city’s tourist circuit.

His name and a 9-foot bronze statue grace the Orange County airport, and boat tours of Newport Harbor point out his former home and yacht, a converted minesweeper called The Wild Goose that’s now available for charters. One of Wayne’s favorite haunts, the Balboa Bay Club & Resort, pours the star’s preferred tequila (Sauza Conmemorativo) in its lounge, Duke’s Place.

The Newport Beach Film Festival, which ends today, has screened nine of Wayne’s best-known films, including “Stagecoach” (1939), “The Quiet Man” (1952) and “True Grit” (1969).

Next month, the small central Iowa town where the real-life Marion Morrison was born on May 26, 1907, pays tribute to its favorite son with guided tours of his childhood home, an old-fashioned parade, concerts featuring music from Wayne films and a Wild West revue, complete with stagecoach robbery.



INFO: Call the John Wayne Birthplace at (877) 462-1044.

Call the Newport Beach Conference & Visitors Bureau at (800) 94 COAST (26278).


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