Aissa Wayne remembered catching him set up in front of the refrigerator late at night in his pajamas with salami in hand “salami, baloney bacon, any kind of heavy red meat


Movie star John Wayne had a diet that concerned his family in his later years. He had a deep love for his acting craft and kept making movies, even when his health was in a considerable decline. Wayne’s daughter, Aissa, once recalled her father’s lifestyle, which she considered incredibly unhealthy in his later years. She was fairly surprised to see him survive as long as he did under those conditions.

According to Aissa’s book, John Wayne: My Father, the actor became progressively less interested in keeping physically active. As a result, he gained weight and “sought medical help,” including pills that he couldn’t stand taking. His third wife, Pilar, was supportive and stayed by his side through the side effects, such as staying up late into the night.

Nevertheless, Aissa recalled that Wayne would manage his diet leading up to a new movie and would lose a considerable amount of weight. However, he would once again indulge his cravings as soon as they wrapped, enjoying what she considered an unhealthy, albeit taste-prioritizing diet.

Aissa wrote about some of Wayne’s diet and the memories that came with it. She especially recalled them with her father’s delight in enjoying the foods that made him happy. For example, Aissa remembered catching him set up in front of the refrigerator late at night in his pajamas with salami in hand.

“Salami, baloney, bacon, any kind of heavy red meat—my father craved them all,” Aissaw wrote. “I know that eating like this was something he loved, but when I think of it now it breaks my heart. Back then, no one knew all those foods can combine to generate cancer. No one realized, either, that anything burnt is also carcinogenic. Late lunches and dinners, barbecued steaks were my father’s idea of heaven; he ate every one charred nearly black.”

However, that wasn’t all. He also created the recipe for what he called “Milktoast” – toasted white bread dipped in milk and “drowned” in sugar with a fried egg on top.

“It’s miraculous, really, when you put it all together – the cholesterol, the Camels, the red meat, the hard liquor – that my life-gorging father lived to be 72. Most people who live as he did drop dead closer to 40.”

Wayne’s diet concerned Aissa, but he certainly fought his hardest against his cancer diagnosis. He enrolled himself in a cancer vaccine study to combat it. Even so, he ultimately died of stomach cancer at 72 years old on June 11, 1979.

The actor’s final role was playing an aging gunfighter who discovers he has cancer in 1976’s The Shootist. It understandably proved to be an incredibly difficult watch for his children, as it was a bit too close to real life. Nevertheless, Wayne left an incredible legacy as one of the world’s biggest Hollywood movie stars.

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