Actor and director John Wayne — a mainstay of cinema in the mid-20th century — is getting reexamined by many after a 1971 Playboy interview of his recently went viral.
Wayne, then 63, espouses hideous views that were out of step for many in 1971. He uses an antigay slur when referring to the characters in the 1969 movie Midnight Cowboy, calling the Oscar-winning film "perverted." He proudly proclaims that he believes in "white supremacy," saying black people don't deserve to serve in positions of power because they're "irresponsible." He blasts Native Americans — who he featured as pawns or villains in his innumerable Westerns — saying, "I don't feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that's what you're asking. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves."
Wayne's name was added to the international airport in Orange County, Calif., sandwiched between Los Angeles and San Diego, in 1979. Wayne lived in nearby Newport Beach, but as Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik points out, Wayne was not a philanthropist and did not offer notable dollars or services to the area. Wayne's name was added mostly because he then fit the image of Orange County as a bastion of conservatism.
But that changed. Orange County voted out all its GOP congressmembers last year and voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election; the area is now much more diverse than it was nearly 50 years ago. Considering all this, Wayne — who has a statue in the airport, along with his name emblazoned on the facility — is no longer an acceptable ambassador for the area, Hiltzik writes:
"Orange County today is such an economically and ethnically diverse community that it’s hard to justify asking any member of that community to board planes at an airport named after an outspoken racist and homophobe, with his strutting statue occupying a central niche in front of the concourse."
It might not be a big ask for Orange County officials, who have expressed frustration not only with the loud airport but with the name of it. Besides, there are many O.C. natives worthy of having their name on an airport. Gwen Stefani International, maybe?