“Where he really lived his life was on boats, or on the beach,” says Ethan of his legendary father, John Wayne, and their glorious time together.
John Wayne was, by all accounts, the biggest movie star in the world for the majority of his lifetime. There’s no escaping this for someone of his stature. Whether trying to have a meal at a restaurant, or simply enjoy time with his family – chances are John Wayne was going to be hounded.
On top of this, his incredible fame brought another kind of incredible scrutiny. Much of the press lamented Wayne’s ultra-conservative political views. But according to his son Ethan, Wayne knew exactly how to escape it all.
“When he got on the boat, he could let all that go,” Ethan tells Vanity Fair of his father in a 2017 interview.
For Ethan, life was lived ““Either on a movie set in Mexico—or Colorado, or New Mexico, or Arizona—or it was on that boat.” And that was absolutely okay with him, because it meant glorious time spent with dad.
Ethan, the sixth of the icon’s seven children, was born when John Wayne was 54. As such, he describes their relationship, lovingly, as a sort of “grandfather-grandson” dynamic. And through it, they would build countless priceless memories. Many of which were, of course, aboard the Wild Goose.
John Wayne and the Legacy of the Wild Goose
The Wild Goose, John Wayne’s famous yacht, would not only host family, but famous co-stars and friends, too. This is putting it lightly, as Ethan explains.
“Frank Sinatra would come around,” he continues for Vanity Fair. “Sammy Davis Jr. would charter the boat, Tom Jones would charter the boat, America the band, or Dennis Wilson [of the Beach Boys]—he was around everyone.”
“He” being John Wayne to us, but “dad” to Ethan. “He was a huge, huge star.”
Many photos of such escapades exist to this day, too. In one of the most famous examples, Dean Martin grins from ear-to-ear as he sports sharp summer suit, puffing a cigar. In others, Sammy Davis Jr. or Frank Sinatra can be seen laughing amongst the Wild Goose’s crew.
To some, it may seem reckless looking back on it all and seeing a mere child in such boisterous company at sea. But Ethan knows, as his father told him, that it was the only way they would get to spend time together.
“He took me with him because he knew once I became a teenager, I’d kind of leave him for a while,” Ethan reveals. “He said, ‘Boys leave when they’re teenagers. They don’t come back until they’re in their 30s. And I won’t be there for Ethan when he comes back, so I’m gonna take him with me now.’”
What a father John Wayne must’ve been to have.