Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Daddy Duke

More than forty years ago, John Wayne was knocked unconscious . . . That in itself might not surprise you, until I tell you he was knocked out by an eight-year-old girl!  His daughter Marissa.  He was teaching her how to golf, and she caught him with a nine iron and knocked him out cold.  Good thing he was teaching her golf instead of something even more dangerous, like fishing, or he could have been killed.

We remember John Wayne for many things he said, the roles he played, and the hours of enjoyment he gave us through his life on the silver screen.  But we often forget that John Wayne was also a father.  And from all reports, a very good one.

~Todd E. Creason, 33°

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Weekly Update: 3/17/2018

Bro. Travis Simpkins had a little fun with "John Wayne Week" at my expense.  Look closely.
Everybody has really enjoyed "John Wayne Week!"  Thank you all for the emails, and suggestions for future John Wayne pieces.  I even heard from the John Wayne estate this week!  So in case you missed it, on Tuesday, I posted an article called You Never Know Where You Might Meet A Brother that talked about a trip Valerie and I took to Warner Brothers Studio back in 2005 (or 2006?).  And on Thursday, I posted an old favorite called The Duke's Favorite Co-Star--it might surprise you who that actually was.

Those of you that have enjoyed John Wayne week will be happy to hear that I've decided to extend it another entire week!  Next week, I have two great pieces lined up for you.  On Tuesday, I have a heartwarming story about John Wayne entitled "Daddy Duke."  And on Thursday, I'm posting "The Duke" which is a reprint of the chapter in my first book I wrote about John Wayne--in fact, it was the first chapter I wrote in my two volume series!

Coming up over the next few weeks, you'll start seeing a lot about our Scotland & England trip.  Greg Knott from the Midnight Freemasons and I will be taking part in a 10 day excursion to Scotland and England this fall.  It's a once in a lifetime trip designed just for Freemasons!  We will be seeing a lot of historic places, and visiting many places with long Masonic ties.  In fact, we will be visiting both the Grand Lodge of Scotland AND the United Grand Lodge of England along with many, many other trip highlights.  See the flier below.  For more information about the trip, you can visit www.masontours.com or contact Todd Hitt at the number on the flier.  There is limited space available for the tour, so avoid future regret by booking your trip with us early.

Enjoy your week!

~Todd E. Creason

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Duke's Favorite Co-Star . . .

John Wayne as J. B. Books in The Shootist.  His last film in 1979.
Bad guy:  "Yuv kilt me!"

John Wayne (as J.B. Books) "You ain't kilt, but your gonna have a bellyache all winter, ya boob."

You ask any John Wayne fan who his favorite co-star was, and just about everyone will agree it was Maureen O'Hara.  He said it himself, and they made five movies together--one of my favorites is McLintock (1962), one of the only comedies he made.  They were terrific together. But there was another who also made five movies with John Wayne, an actor the Duke had great respect for and asked for by name.  His name was Dollor, and he was a big sorrel with a white blaze on his face, and white stockings.  John Wayne and Dollor were also terrific together.

John Wayne and Dollor (1969)
It would surprise most people, but John Wayne wasn't that passionate about horses. He was a good rider, and he knew his way around horses, but he saw horses as an essential part of his on scene personality.  He was a big man, and he liked tall horses that were dependable, predictable (lots of gun fire), and reliable on the film set.  And there were certain types he knew he looked good riding on screen.  Dollor fit all the things Wayne looked for in a horse perfectly when they first worked together on True Grit (1969).  So fond of that horse, John Wayne drew up exclusive movies rights on Dollor that said in no uncertain terms that nobody rode Dollor on film but John Wayne.  He went on to ride Dollor in the last four Westerns he made, including his last film, The Shootist.

Perhaps one of John Wayne's most iconic scenes with Dollor was the showdown at the end of True Grit--the role that won John Wayne his Oscar.  You know the one.  One of the greatest Western showdowns in screen history. "I mean to kill you in one minute, Ned.  Or see you hanged in Fort Smith at Judge Parker's convenience.  Which'll it be?"  Ned Pepper calls back, "I call that bold talk from a one-eyed fat man."  That leads to one of the greatest lines ever delivered on screen.  "Fill your hands you son of a . . ."  Well, you know how it goes.  Guns blaze as they charge each other.  John Wayne spin cocking his rifle (the same way he had decades earlier in 1939's Stagecoach) as he blasted away with his Colt .45.  Dollor falls in battle, but John Wayne comes out on top--with the help of his friends.

Wayne was so fond of Dollor, he had the screenwriter of The Shootist rewrite the script so that Dollor could be mentioned by name--in fact, little Ron Howard got in a little jam with J. B. Books in the film over Dollor.  John Wayne died in 1979.  Dollor went on to star in a couple more movies after the Duke's death, and finally lived out his remaining days on a ranch near Dallas, Texas.  Dollor lived a long life, and died in 1995.

In case you couldn't tell, I'm a huge John Wayne fan.  People often ask me what the first chapter I wrote in the Famous American Freemasons series was.  It was Bro. John Wayne.  If you're a John Wayne fan, this would be a good time to visit your local magazine stand.  American Cowboy Magazine has a collector's edition out that features John Wayne--100 beautifully illustrated pages.  I got the essential facts for this piece about Dollor out of that collector's edition, and it's just crammed full of great articles about "The Duke." A life-long fan, I found a lot of interesting details I didn't know.  It will only be available until September, so you better go look for it today.

~Todd E. Creason

originally published 9/20/12

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

You Never Know Where You Might Meet A Brother!

John Wayne in "The Cowboys" (1972)
My first experience meeting a Brother Master Mason.  I'd just joined the Fraternity when Valerie and I took a trip to California to visit my grandparents in San Diego.  We'd decided to make a trip up to visit my aunt in Los Angeles, and while we were there, we decided to visit Warner Brothers Studios.  We both love movies, and while I tend to enjoy the old black and whites, Valerie loves movies like Animal House and Batman.  We both got a lot out of it. 

The tour ended in a little museum.  We walked in, and this very old man told us the rules.  It wasn't like a regular museum--the movie props and costumes weren't in cases, they were actually used in the movies, and were right out in the open.  He remarked that they changed out the displays regularly.  The  basic rule was DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING!  The crowd, including Valerie, vanished towards the back and upstairs where the Batman props (including the Batmobile) and the Harry Potter stuff was on display.  But all the good stuff for an old movie nut like me was right in front. 

There it was just behind a rope at the Country Music
 Hall of Fame... and it needed to be played!
I noticed this display of hats along the side and walked over.  There were a dozen.  They had names of actors and the names of the movies they wore them in.  I knew them all, and they were displayed just behind a rope on dummy heads.  All of them were impressive--names like Rock Hudson, Jimmy Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney.  But the one that stunned me was one that said "John Wayne--The Cowboys."  I don't know how long I stood there staring at that hat--one of my favorite actors, and one of my favorite movies.  That old guy from the door was suddenly standing next to me.  "You like John Wayne?"  I told him I did.  "You know, he was a Mason, too."

One of several John Wayne hats from The Cowboys
I looked at him.  How did he know?  Suddenly I remembered that new ring I was wearing, and it was then I noticed the pin on his lapel. Like I said, I was new to the fraternity.  Since then, when I meet somebody, I look at the hands, I look at the collars, and I look at the hat.  He told me there was a old Hollywood legend that John Wayne never died in a movie.  Of course I knew that wasn't true--I told him so.  He said there were actually seven movies he died in, and another three or four he died in, but had died off-screen.  I was a little surprised at the number.  Especially when he offered up a challenge.  "If you can name five movies he died in, I'll let you try on that hat."  I about stroked out, and my mind suddenly went blank.

Three were easy... I stumbled onto the fourth, duh, it the movie the hat came from . . . The Cowboys.  I couldn't get the fifth.  He chuckled, and suddenly that hat was on my head.  I figured it would be huge on me, but actually, John Wayne wore a size 7 1/4, which is close to what I wear.  I'll never forget the look on Valerie's face when she suddenly returned and saw me wearing John Wayne's hat!  It was a look of absolute amazement.  It said "how in the hell did you manage this?"  I don't know exactly what she was thinking, but I know what I was thinking.  I'm wearing John Wayne's hat.  I'm wearing John Wayne's hat.  I'm wearing John Wayne's hat!

A concertina--64 keys aren't enough to play the version
of As Time Goes By used in the movie.  It takes 88 keys.
We got a very personal tour from my new friend and Brother, which included an opportunity to play a very out-of-tune piano from one of my favorite movies--Casablanca.  Guess what song I played?  It wouldn't be that hard to guess I played As Time Goes By.  It wasn't the first time I'd played a famous piano--I played Elvis' gold piano at the Country Music Hall of Fame a few years earlier--and was promptly ejected and threatened with arrest.  I don't think they would have been so angry if I'd played an Elvis song, but I ripped through a version of "Great Balls of Fire" by Jerry Lee Lewis as I leaned over the velvet ropes.  Valerie saved me that day. 

I've met many more strangers since then that have quickly become friends--because of a ring, or a lapel pin, or an emblem on a car bumper.  But that was my first experience.  I'll never forget that personal tour by a Brother Master Mason who had worked on a lot of the sets when so many of my favorite movies had been made.  The stories he shared as we walked around the museum were unbelievable!  You just never know where you might meet a Brother.  It changes the way you see the world. 

~Todd E. Creason

Originally published 6/30/12
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