John Wayne Fans Go On Pilgrimage For Memorabilia | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
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John Wayne Fans Go On Pilgrimage For Memorabilia

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John Wayne's family auctioned off hundreds of the actor's personal belongings this week at a hotel in Los Angeles. The items had been in storage since Wayne's death 32 years ago.

The display brought collectors, brokers and plenty of fans who came from across the country to pay tribute to the Duke.

The khaki-colored cowboy hat that got knocked off Wayne's head during a scene in the 1972 film The Cowboys was on display — sweat stains and all. And a few paces down the hotel banquet hall hung a sky blue terry-cloth robe with "Duke" embroidered on it. Glass display cases were full of items like 30-year-old aftershave, dozens of keys to dozens of cities, and loose pages from an old address book with Zsa Zsa Gabor's phone number, Gregory Peck's address and the contact information for Wayne's vet.

Summer Howe, 21, drove more than two hours to see the collection.

"My dad loved John Wayne, and I grew up watching his films since I was a kid. And I lived on a farm and was a country girl, and he was my hero," she said.

Howe said if she had enough money to buy anything that her hero owned, it would be Wayne's china hutch. She said she'd call it "The Duke."

Bill Atkins, 80, traveled from Bowie, Md., to check out the showcase. He knew the Duke personally.

In 1950, when Wayne filmed Flying Leathernecks at Camp Pendleton, Atkins was a 19-year-old Marine getting ready to ship out to fight in the Korean War. Then he was approached to play a small role in the movie.

"And my outfit — 100 of them — ended up in Korea, and 15 of them were killed in action, so, in a way, I kind of feel like this movie might have saved my life," Atkins said.

Atkins said he didn't come to bid on any of the items in the Wayne auction, but to show thanks to the Duke for keeping him out of harm's way. Atkins is petitioning the U.S. Treasury to put John Wayne on the $1 bill. He even brought a prototype with him to the auction. On it, Wayne is dead center, wearing a cowboy hat and bandanna.

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