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John Wayne — or at least his wax figure — reunites with his yacht to cruise Newport Harbor again

John Wayne is ready for his close-up — and your selfie.

The annual Newport Harbor dining cruises celebrating the legendary movie star’s birthday aboard his yacht, the Wild Goose, begin Thursday, and Wayne’s life-size wax figure on loan from Madame Tussauds in Hollywood will be standing tall in the den just astern of the galley.

In costume as Wayne’s “True Grit” character, Rooster Cogburn, it wears black cowboy boots, a faded red bandana and Cogburn’s iconic eyepatch.

The statue made the journey Tuesday to Newport Beach, the late actor’s adopted hometown, accompanied by a small team to get it settled in.

Julio Castellanos accompanied the figure from its usual station in the wax museum’s Country Western Room to the Wild Goose’s slip off West Coast Highway.

Castellanos, a studio artist with the museum, touches up figures’ hair, wardrobe and paint — from flesh tones to the squiggly capillaries on the cheeks. He said Wayne’s statue is one of the most popular in the museum, up there with Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson.

In an apron flecked with peach-toned paint and pinched in one spot by a bobby pin with a blond tip — probably from the Lady Gaga figure, he said — Castellanos surveyed the Wayne likeness and said he sensed something when he helped put it in place on the Wild Goose.

John Wayne was at home.

“It was the same feeling when we took our Bob Hope figure to Burbank,” he said.

The life-like statue doesn’t just capture Wayne’s 6-foot-4 frame but also his bristly sideburns (made for the statue from human hair) and the freckles on his hands.

If Wayne were alive, he would be turning 110 on May 26.

Patrons who book a seat on one of the cocktail, brunch or dinner cruises running through June 18 can get right up next to the figure.

In the den, with its varnished wood-paneled walls, Wayne and his famous pals played poker, screened films and sipped drinks prepared in the wet bar, said Mia Falkenstein, a director of sales for cruise outfit Hornblower Cruises & Events.

“This was one of his favorite places in the whole wide world, so it’s nice to have him come back,” she said.

IF YOU GO

What: John Wayne birthday cruises

When: Thursday through June 18; special cruise May 26 to benefit the John Wayne Cancer Foundation

Where: Hornblower Cruises & Events, 2431 W. Coast Hwy, Newport Beach

Cost: $40, $69.95 or $87.95 ($195 for the charity cruise)

Information: hornblower.com

hillary.davis@latimes.com

Twitter: @Daily_PilotHD


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