What John Wayne, Newport Beach and Arrested Development Share in Common
Back when I used to live in Newport Beach, California, and sell real estate in that Orange County mecca, during the 1970s-1980s — I hate to add, before many of my clients were born — John Wayne was a pretty big deal; probably still is. I am presently reading John Wayne: the Life and Legend, by Scott Eyman. I can see some of you saying, John Who? When I cruised by Lido Isle in my Bayliner, out-of-town guests would ask me to point out his house where Pilar Wayne at the time lived. They named the Orange County Airport after him and put up a 9-foot bronze statue, although the Duke was six-three-point five. It was this statue that got me into a lot of hot water.
Mostly because I had the gall to poke fun at its politics by suggesting they place the statue at the entrance to the harbor where seagulls could poop on it, instead of sticking it up at the airport where it now resides. I believe that was a piece I wrote as a freelancer for the Daily Pilot, a newspaper in Newport Beach. All holy hell broke loose over that. John Wayne was a person larger-than-life and one of the few celebrities we had in Newport Beach back then, besides Joey Bishop.
The same thing happened when I contributed an article to the Orange County Register about selling real estate. I thought it was hilarious, suggesting that most real estate agents were actually unemployed, but the Board of REALTORS in Newport Harbor would have banned me for life if they could. No sense of humor, these people.
If you asked people outside of the area where Newport Beach was located back then, they probably could not tell you and, if they could somehow pinpoint it on a map, they were confused by the fact it faced south. If you lived there, people thought you were filthy rich, even if you weren’t. It was a fairly conservative climate, to put it mildly, except for some of the people who lived near the beach.
As a person who would not belong to any club that wanted her as a member, for a few years I belonged to the Balboa Bay Club, if you can believe that. I served on the Kentucky Derby Day committee one year, before my best friend Betty passed away, even though I had nothing of substance to contribute and little in common with anybody except Betty. This was when publisher Bob Page approached me about writing a social column about the BBC, which I rejected.
Having lived on the Balboa Peninsula makes watching Arrested Development all that more amusing for me. Especially the scenes filmed at the Balboa Pier and Fun Zone. My favorite activities did not involve eating frozen bananas, but fell more along the lines of playing skeeball and riding the ferris wheel. It’s probably one of the reasons I never get tired today of biking over to Old Sacramento. Although we are missing essential elements such as the ocean and the bay, we do have the river. Two rivers. And we don’t have a statue of John Wayne anywhere.