I was a John Wayne fan before I worked as his driver, first in 1967-68 as an after-school job and again full time in the summer when I finished university four years later. It may be that no man is a hero to his valet, but Wayne was one to this driver….
In addition to being a fine actor, Wayne was a very nice guy. Eyman quotes a college friend: “He could have been a great football player, but he never wanted to hurt anybody.” Tom Kane, story editor at Wayne’s production company, Batjac, told me that he and Wayne saw the actor Alan Ladd, who stood only 5’6″ to Wayne’s 6’3 1/4″, walking towards them. Wayne hid to avoid embarrassing Ladd in front of his fans. I witnessed a similar occasion at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1972, when Cesar Romero was signing autographs. The fans looked at Wayne and forgot all about Romero, deprived of his audience, said without enthusiasm, “Hi, Duke.” Wayne praised Romero and made sure the ladies knew the old Latin lover was still a big star.
Eyman relates an encounter between Carl Foreman, director of High Noon, whom Wayne and other right-wingers had helped to blacklist in the 1950’s, and Wayne in a Los Angeles restaurant years afterwards: “The two men looked at each other, then quickly embraced as if they were old friends.’ Foreman explained to his mystified English wife, ‘He was a patriot. I was a patriot. He didn’t do it to hurt me.’
Whenever I was walking to the car with Wayne in some part of Los Angeles, people would stop him for autographs. He was happy to sign. Older men would say “Mr. Wayne, I joined the marines because of you.’ He would lean back as if a punch were about to follow, and the veterans would laugh.
Eyman quotes the actor Robert Walker, Jr.: ‘John Wayne? I had the pleasure and honour of working with him.’ I am happy to do the same.