John Wayne memorabilia auction attracts diehard fans

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Thursday morning at an L.A. hotel, John Wayne’s family auctions off hundreds of the actor’s personal belongings.

The items have been in storage since Wayne’s death 32 years ago. Their value is estimated at $1.5 million. Some of the Wayne memorabilia went on display for the first time.

The massive banquet room at a Hyatt Hotel in L.A. was the temporary home to hundreds of John Wayne’s personal belongings.

The khaki-colored cowboy hat that got knocked off his head during a scene in the 1972 film “The Cowboys” was on display, along with things like a sky blue terrycloth robe with “Duke” embroidered on it, dozens of keys to the city, an exercise bike and his phone book. In it: the numbers for Zsa Zsa Gabor, Gregory Peck and John Wayne’s vet.

Summer Howe drove more than two hours to see the collection.

"My dad loved John Wayne and I grew up watching his films since I was a kid, and I lived on a farm and was a country girl, and he was my hero," she said.

Howe said if she had enough money to buy anything that her hero owned, it would be Wayne’s china hutch. She says she’d call it “The Duke.”

Eighty-year-old Bill Atkins knew “The Duke” personally. He came from Bowie, Md., to check out the showcase.

"I was in a movie when I was a 19-year-old Marine," he said.

That was in 1950, when John Wayne filmed “Flying Leathernecks” at Camp Pendleton. Atkins was there too, getting ready to ship out to fight in the Korean War, until he was approached to play a small role in the movie.

"And my outfit, 100 of them, ended up in Korea, and 15 of them were killed in action, so, in a way, I kind of feel like this movie might have saved my life," he said.

Atkins said he won’t bid on any of the items in the John Wayne auction. He came just to pay his respects. But to thank “The Duke” for the small movie role that maybe kept him out of harm’s way, Bill Atkins is petitioning the U.S. Treasury to put John Wayne on the $1 bill.

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