It is said John Wayne used to ship boxes of Wild Turkey to film shoots, to ensure he didn't run out. For much of his life he was a bourbon man, although later on he was described as more of a "situational drinker," and it depended where he was and what was the occasion.
The Duke was known for his westerns, but he really had a seafaring soul. He once dreamed of going to the US Navy Academy at Annapolis, but his application was not accepted. He had many films about the sea: Men Without Women, The Long Voyage Home, The Sea Chase ("with a cargo full of Lana Turner"), Wake of the Red Witch, Reap the Wild Wind, In Harm's Way...
The Duke had a yacht, the Wild Goose, a former US Navy mine sweeper from World War Two, with twin 500-horsepower engines.
(Pictured: Wild Goose, John Wayne's boat by Don Ramey.jpg from Wikimedia Commons by D. Ramey Logan.)
On board, John Wayne's drink was Sauza Commerativo tequila, a dash of fresh lemon juice and coarse salt. In a May 1971 interview with Playboy magazine, which recently resurfaced with some notoriety, Wayne said the ice in the glasses "had been chopped from a 1000-year-old glacier on a recent Wild Goose visit to Alaska."
This reminded our team at Colonel Bourbon that someone had a copy of a book about Wayne's time on the Wild Goose, written by the ship's Captain Bert Minshall, who started as a deckhand in 1963, as the ship sailed from Barcelona back to America. The book is On Board with the Duke: John Wayne and the Wild Goose.
On Amazon, a reviewer called the book "very nostalgic."
He wrote: "I was fortunate enough to work on the Wild Goose as a teenager one summer back in the mid sixties. I remember meeting the Duke on board the first day as he gripped my hand, nearly crushing it and saying 'pleased ta meet ya young fella.'
I could smell the scotch on his breath and the non-judgmental enthusiasm in his welcome.
Moments I'll always cherish."
Wayne has a favorite Navy story he always loved to tell:
A young Navy helmsman was trying to bring his motor launch to the U.S.S. Enterprise, the giant aircraft carrier. "The poor guy made pass after pass but he just couldn't do it." The Captain of the ship, on the bridge, grabbed a megaphone and said: "Hold it right there Skipper, we'll come to you."
"That line was a favorite with Duke," Captain Minshall writes. "Whenever anyone had difficulty maneuvering the Whaler or the Dory, he'd lean out over the gunwale and shout at the struggling pilot."
(Picture: John Wayne, 1965, Wikipedia, public domain.)
The Wild Goose crew always ate first, before Wayne and his guests, and the food was always the same. For many years, the ship had the best seacook in Newport Beach, Billy Sweatt. The Playboy interview references "a high-protein diet lunch of char-broiled steak, lettuce and cottage cheese."
"One of Duke's favorite dishes was Shrimp Cannles... Billy would cook the shrimp in their shells in a giant cast-iron skillet, adding wine and mounds of garlic salt and spices...He could, and did, consume dozens of shrimp at the sitting."
Dinner was the big deal: "thick New York steaks, huge baked potatoes, drowning in gravy or sour cream, string beans cooked with onions, steamed artichoke hearts, hot rolls, more milk, nearly always a good table wine, and a dessert of deep-dish apple pie baked that morning, topped with slabs of Neapolitan ice cream."
There's a fantastic story in the Minshall book that seems to have been lost. The Wild Goose , traveling up and down the the coast of the United States, went north for the summer and south for the winter. In Mexico, there was lobster to be had. The Goose crew would barter with the local fishermen: cigarettes, bottles of Cutty Sark, the Duke's old clothes -- and "back issues of Playboy " "were always good for several bags of meaty tails. Duke would joke that we could wipe out the lobster population of Baja California if only we could get our hands on enough old Playboys to trade."
Billy once cooked a whole salmon "Indian style," "on the beach in a secluded cove... leaned up against a large rock facing a roaring fire.
John Wayne , barefoot in the sand, said "it was the 'best goddamned fish' he'd ever tasted."
"Billy routinely put in fourteen-hour days preparing these shipboard feasts." Billy was partial to scotch whiskey," Captain Minshall wrote. "It's a formula, Bert... So many parts booze to so many hours worked."
Colonel Bourbon has a seafaring soul and we have a hearty nautical collection of our t-shirts. In the collection, we admit to mocking rum as the sailor's drink, and we think the Duke might get a chuckle out of it, even if in the end he kinda, sorta, preferred tequila, at least on his beloved ship.
Here's a cool video touring the Wild Goose at Newport Beach, by "Jordan the Lion," who has the passion and did his homework on the history.
The ship is available for rental cruises, through Hornblower. A Part of the proceeds go to the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.
(Published by ColonelBourbonTshirts.com)