John Wayne Co-Created His Own Club That Required ‘Fondness of Liquor and Steam Baths’

Actor John Wayne found friendship through a tight-knit club. It allowed the men to escape the house and enjoy time with one another. However, Wayne and the other members also created the club as a way to retaliate against the country clubs with policies that they disagreed with. Therefore, they implemented the requirements of “fondness of liquor and steam baths.”

John Wayne needed a ‘haven’ away from his first wife, Josephine Saenz

John Wayne, who co-created a club. He's wearing a suit and smoking a cigarette with a bunch of people at the party in the background.
John Wayne | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Wayne fell in love at an early age with the woman who would become his first wife, Josephine Saenz. However, Pilar Wayne and Alex Thorleifson’s book, John Wayne: My Life with the Duke, recalled their incompatibility. The actor once referred to the marriage as “frustrating, unhappy, and guilt-ridden,” even though he respected her for giving birth to four beautiful children.

The actor admitted that he was far too busy with work to be a “real father,” and he started to consider a divorce. However, they didn’t see eye to eye on the religious morals surrounding such a separation. Wayne ultimately found that he needed a “haven,” which started with reconnecting with director John Ford after not seeing one another for two years.

John Wayne created his own club that required ‘fondness of liquor and steam baths’

John Wayne: My Life with the Duke explained how the actor started a club with a number of men who had a passion for sailing, fishing, drinking, and time away from home. This included actors such as Ward Bond, Frank Morgan, Grant Withers, and Lloyd Nolan. They called themselves the Young Men’s Purity, Total Abstinence, and Yachting Association, and they met on the weekends to drink and sweat off their liquor the following morning in the steam room of the Hollywood Athletic Club.

Back then, Hollywood insiders weren’t welcomed into the local country clubs. This was because membership required one to be listed in the social register. Wayne was the only one to qualify for such a club due to his marriage, which his peers never let him live down. The only requirement for this new club that Wayne co-created was “fondness for liquor and steam baths.”

The Wayne club’s motto was “Jews, not dues,” which mocked the standards of the local country clubs. Their group accepted men of all religions in their group and elected the steam room attendant, Buck Buchanan, as the president of the group. However, they dubbed him the “distinguished Afro-American” from then on.

Wayne helped draw up a charter for the club. It defined the purpose as “the promulgation of the cause of alcoholism,” which noted that prospective members had to be “career-oriented or gutter-oriented drunks.”

The club evolved into a boating group

Wayne and other members decided to put the club in another direction as a result of their love for boating. So, they decided to change the name to the Emerald Bay Yacht Club where they made a St. Patrick’s Day dinner their big annual event. All members would purchase nautical uniforms specifically for this occasion.

Wayne would show up to the club dinner with “white trousers, a double breasted navy blue jacket trimmed with an enormous gold star, a matching captain’s hat, and a pair of very worn sneakers.” However, the inaugural dinner resulted in a huge food fight and a permanent eviction from the elegant Coconut Grove location.

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