When I first went to work for John Wayne, the only cowboy boots I had were pretty much worn out. Tom Kane, the Batjac story editor, looked at my boots and shook his head sadly. They would never do.
It was then that Duke told me a story about acting in the cheap 1930s serial “10 day Oater” westerns up in Kernville.
John Wayne’s old boots had a hole in the sole. Sand and gravel got in, hurting his feet. He was so broke he couldn’t afford to buy a new pair or even to get his boots fixed.
Duke went to the company accountant, a one-armed guy named Podlaski, who was reading Variety magazine beside the Kern river. Duke took off his boot and wriggled his finger through the hole showing Podlaski how bad it was, “I’m supposed to be the star in this movie and I can’t even afford a new pair of boots. Do you suppose we can do something about this?”
Irritated at the interruption, Podlaski looked up from his reading and glowered at the hole in Duke’s boot. Using his one hand he deftly folded the front page of Variety into a small square and shoved it into the boot. “There. It’s fixed,” Podlaski said, tossing the boot back to Duke.
Duke told me that after that, he promised himself two things.
First, if he ever had his own Production Company he would hire penny-pinching Podlaski as the accountant. And so he did when he founded Batjac Productions.
Second, Duke would someday buy himself a really great pair of boots.
John Wayne wore Lucchese boots. (He told me with a laugh that at first he thought the boot maker was an Irish guy named ‘Lou Casey’.)
The boot maker had Duke’s personal foot cast and the hand made boots always fit him perfectly.
They had beautiful Twelve row stitching on the uppers.
There is a lot more I could tell you about Duke’s boots. Maybe it’s enough to say that John Wayne provided me with a little extra in my paycheck and sent me out boot shopping for myself.
Brock and I found a beautiful pair of ￼peanut brittle teju lizard boots at Miller’s Outpost, on a sales table in Valley Plaza in Bakersfield. I wore them every day I worked at Batjac. They were re-soled many times and were my very favorite (from among many other pairs of boots) for 20-something years.
They were lost forever when United Airlines lost my suitcase going to London.
To this day I mostly only wear cowboy boots. Everyone who knows me well, knows this about me! Some women like jewelry and fancy stuff, but I really really appreciate a good pair of boots. Artwork for the feet.
Like my old boss I also wear Lucchese, but my best every day walking/riding everywhere boots are ‘Dan Post’ size - 8 Wide. (Gotta be Wide. Not easy to find.)
I never found another pair of peanut brittle teju lizard boots I liked to replace my wonderful Batjac boots ... until recently.
So here they are.
I’m so happy.
Below are pictures of John Wayne’s boots, and my new favorite boots.
Hope this makes you smile.