University of Southern California quarterback and Mission Viejo High product Mark Sanchez may be OC Weekly's coverboy today, but USC Public Relations is right now propping up another Trojan football player with ties to Orange County.
This former Trojan player never scored a touchdown, seeing as how he played tackle … in the 1920s.
He is, of course, John Wayne, American icon, greatest cowboy movie star ever (pardner!) and a longtime resident of Newport Beach, so beloved around here that Newport Harbor tour boats swing by the oceanside of his former pad and Will Ferrell tells childhood tales of meeting the Duke at a local hardware store.
USC Public Relations marks the 100th anniversary of Wayne's birth (as Marion Morrison) with reflections from film historian Rick Jewell.
While USC has many prominent alumni, John Wayne (as Hollywood executives insisted Morrison be renamed) may be the most famous individual who ever studied here. Consider this: Despite the fact that he died 28 years ago, a Harris Poll released last year placed the actor third among America’s favorite film stars. He was the only deceased person on the list, and the only one who has appeared in the poll every year since it was first published in 1993. His popularity transcends cultures. Thanks to a unique, unparalleled movie career that spanned five decades and lives on in DVDs, John Wayne is an iconic figure recognized worldwide.
Jewell goes on to relate Wayne's amazing rags-to-riches story here.
Speaking of amazing stories, here is one I did in April '07 on the Newport Beach Film Festival honoring Wayne's memory. It ran around the time I left Orange County for 13 months. Hopefully someone fixed the mistake where I had him in the Army instead of the Marines in The Green Berets. [Matt fucks up his fuck-up: The film was Sands of Iwo Jima; see Comments below.] Wanna piss off a Marine? Tell 'em John Wayne was in the Army in The Green Berets. [Better yet, tell 'em he was in the Army in Sands of Iwo Jima.]
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.