John Wayne: Leisure and Recreation

In his leisure activities, which were essentially typically male pursuits, John Wayne was also influenced by the image of the Westerner, whose typical activities were fighting, playing poker, and drinking.

Male Pursuits

Wayne conformed to the Hollywood rigid view of the “He-Man,” a code demanding that male stars be shown in “virile” pursuits such as hunting, fishing, sailing, etc, both on-screen and off.

These leisure activities, which were considered crucial for cultivating movie stars’ popularity with their fans, were at times fabricated by the studios’ publicity machines.

Wayne conformed to these masculine notions, too. He loved the sea and his yacht, the Wild Goose, was his favorite family meeting place. In his later years, it served as a substitute for horse riding, which he had to give up on doctors’ orders after the cancer. He also liked fishing and hunting, particularly in Mexico, and skin and water diving.

But he also was a fanatic chess player, always carrying a small chess set in his pocket. His favorite recreation between takes, when he was working, was playing poker with his co-stars.

Drinking Tequilla

One of Hollywood’s legendary drinkers, drinking was also integral to his screen image. He never made a secret of his love for the bottle. “I love good whiskey,” was the first thing he mentioned when asked about his leisure time.

Challenged about his capacity, Wayne’s typical response was, “Well, I’m full grown, you know. I’m pretty big and got enough fat on me, so I guess I can
drink a fair amount.” His capacity to drink amazed his colleagues, for after drinking all night, he was still the first to arrive on the set. Henry Fonda described him as a man “who could out-drink any man,” and admitted that he “couldn’t keep up with him.”

After the shooting of Fort Apache completed, John Wayne and co-star Henry Fonda flew down to Mexico to join their director John Ford, and spent their entire time going from one bar to another.

Director Allan Dwan recalled that during Sands of Iwo Jima, Wayne liked to stay up at the bar quite late, “and he could put away a lot, he had a terrific capacity.” The trouble was that none of the young members was used to it and they were “a pathetic sight” in the next morning.

But Wayne never indulged while he was working. “You can tell the guy who says so, I’ll see him,” he once said in response to such allegation. “If I have work to do, I suffer,” he explained, “but I don’t drink.”

“Anybody who has worked that hard has earned a drink,” was his motto. His favorite drink was Tequilla Commemorativo, described as “a fine liquor as there is in the world,” and “better than any drink I ever had in my life.” “You hear about Tequilla,” he said, “and think about a cheap cactus drink, but this is something extraordinary.”

Wayne held that if he had the concession for it, “I’d have made a fortune, not only from the amount I drink myself, but from the people I’ve recommended it to.” “The guy that runs the company,” he revealed, “sends me a case now and then. He thinks I drink like other people. But I but five for everyone he sends.”

Wayne as Collector of Western Art

Another aspect of Wayne’s life that was affected by his admiration for the cowboy was his collection of Western art. His home reflected this devotion to the Old West and its folklore, with paintings by noted artists such as Frederick Remington and Charles Russell.

Wayne also owned a large collection of period guns and knives, and his Hopi Indian artifacts, particularly the Indian Kachina dolls, was reportedly second only to that of Senator Barry Goldwater. Wayne surrounded himself with tokens of the Amercan frontier: printings and rare books on cowboys and Indians. After his death, most of his memorabilia wasdonated to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma.