In an exclusive interview with Closer Weekly, two of John Wayne’s daughters, Marisa and Aissa, share their favorite memories with their father and open up out the Duke’s softer side — he cried at sad movies, loved candy and “gave the best hugs!”
“He’s always portrayed as this tough cowboy, but he also had a tremendous heart,” his youngest daughter, Marisa, tells Closer, adding that the father she knew was a softie who adored his children, liked to shop from catalogs and had a big sweet tooth.
“He used to keep a stash of Abba-Zaba taffy in his drawer,” she reveals, adding that he taught his children to play cutthroat games of gin rummy and shared his love of books with them.
When he was filming, he often brought the whole family along. “We got to travel all over the world with him. In Africa, when he did Hatari!, we got to ride elephants together,” recalls Aissa. “It was quite a childhood.”
During the holidays, he gathered all seven kids, their spouses, 21 grandchildren and other relatives together for a huge Thanksgiving celebration at his ranch in Arizona and Christmas in Newport Beach, Calif. “There would be like 40 of us,” Marisa says. “He was happiest when he was around his children. There was such a twinkle in his eye.”
He could be one of the kids, too! “On Christmas, he would get up at 3 or 4 in the morning, just pacing the halls waiting for us to wake up to open presents,” Aissa recalls to Closer.
“I was only 13, but I feel lucky to have had him even that much time,” says Marisa of when her father died.
“We had the good fortune of having him really want to be a dad,” Aissa tells Closer.