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John Wayne vanishing in Newport, even tavern erasing his name

Bars and ClubsDining and DrinkingLifestyle and LeisureMichael Jackson

Another piece of John Wayne’s legacy is being erased in the seaside town where he once lived and partied.

Duke’s Place, a Balboa Bay Club lounge known for its strong drinks and pub-style fare, is shedding the actor’s name.

When the tavern opened, long after Wayne’s death, it was seen as an ode to the actor, its walls decorated with his image, its martinis strong, as he would have preferred.

Wayne was a regular at the members-only club in Newport Beach and lived nearby in a mansion that overlooked the harbor, where he anchored his 130-foot boat, a former mine sweeper he christened the Wild Goose.

But the mansion has since been razed, the boat sold off and his name is slowly being erased in Newport Beach. The John Wayne Tennis club was renamed Palisades Tennis Club, for example, after the Dukes tennis team left town.

Only the John Wayne Airport, with its life-size statue of the actor in one of its terminals, remains. And the actor’s widow once said he disliked the airport fiercely because of the noise from passing jets.

As to Duke’s Place, the tavern will be renamed, reimagined, redesigned and then reopened in the spring, said Dieter Hissin, general manager of the Balboa Bay Resort. The resort is the public side of the establishment, while the Balboa Bay Club, where Wayne once frolicked, remains members only.

The Balboa Bay Resort was founded in 1948 as Balboa Bay Club and Wayne once served on its board of governors. Duke's Place opened in his honor, with photos and paintings of him adorning the walls, in May 2003, 24 years after Wayne’s death. Hissin said the images featured "not so much John Wayne the cowboy, but more John Wayne the mariner."

As plans for Duke's Place continue to develop, John Wayne probably won't be the restaurant's overriding theme, Hissin said.

Perhaps only a framed picture of Wayne will remain.

However, Hissin said that the relationship between the Balboa Bay Club and the Wayne family will endure. The club had a chili cookoff in honor of the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, and Wayne's son, Ethan, is on the board of governors.

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emily.foxhall@latimes.com

Emily Foxhall writes for Times Community News.

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