Big, bold John Wayne sported a lot of swagger, but there was some vanity mixed in with the persona.
Like, did you know that Wayne, the most famous cowboy of all time, wore a hairpiece for a chunk of his career? His hair began to thin in the 1940s and rather than shave his head like men do these days, Wayne bought a toupee. He never denied it. But since he often wore a cowboy hat in the movies, who knew his hair style?
Sometimes he’d go without his store-bought hair. There was no need for a toupee when he took out his yacht, the Wild Goose, in the waters near his home in Newport Beach, Calif. When Gary Cooper died in 1961, John Wayne and his wife attended the funeral. And photos of the event show Wayne walking into the church. He was wearing a dark suit. You could see his real hair.
John Wayne Went to Harvard to Talk to Non-Fans
John Wayne never tried to pretend that his fake hair was real. That’s why an event in the early 1970s proved to be so hilarious for some college students who tried to embarrass him.
As part of a publicity tour for his movie, McQ, John Wayne decided to accept an invitation from a group of Harvard students who wanted to debate him. This was in 1974. Wayne was an outspoken conservative. If he was alive today, he’d likely be a Fox News mainstay.
He used to say that Hollywood movies had a communist bend to them. And for four years, he chaired the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. The goal of the group then was to protect “the American way of life” in movies, guarding them against “communists and fascists.”
Although he attended Gary Cooper’s funeral, John Wayne once said a classic Gary Cooper western was un-American. Yes, he didn’t like the 1952 movie High Noon.
But back in January 1974, he decided to meet with some liberal elites of the Harvard Lampoon. He attended their Hasty Pudding Awards. The students labeled John Wayne as “the biggest fraud in history.” Wayne sat on a chair, on stage, and answered questions from the crowd. The star joked that he felt like he was having lunch with the Borgias. He also pointed out that the group’s last honoree was Linda Lovelace, a porn star.
Wayne Charmed The Crowd With His Quips
Wayne charmed the students by using humor to swat back and soften their often caustic questions.
One asked if his hair was real.
“This is real hair,” John Wayne cracked. “It’s not mine, but it’s real.”
The whole deal at Harvard seemed like a stunt. He rode in a procession with a couple of armored personnel carriers. Members of Troop D of the Fifth Armored Cavalry accompanied him.
There were all sorts of groups protesting his appearance. There was the anti-war crowd. A group also was there protesting on behalf of Native Americans. And there were Democrats protesting that Wayne was a Republican.
Wayne had lots of comebacks for the students, who could ask him anything. One student asked Wayne about being pro-war. Wayne said: “Good thing you weren’t here 200 years ago or the tea would’ve never made the harbor.”
Another asked him how he looked at himself, given his views. “I look at myself as little as possible,” Wayne replied. We’re assuming that was true with or without the hairpiece.