John Wayne Drank at Class of '47
[Editor's Note: We all know local music and dive bars go hand-in-hand. So in the interest of merging the two together on Heard Mentality, we bring you our weekly nightlife column Dive, Dive, My Darling. Read as our bold web editor, Taylor "Hellcat" Hamby, stumbles into the dive bar scene every week to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]
The Class of '47 boasts perhaps one of the highest dive-bar honors around: John Wayne drank here. That's right, and not just once. Next to his regular spot, the Balboa Bay Club, where the old-timers can still regale you with tales of his drunken exploits, this bar on the Balboa peninsula was the Duke's favorite; "his seat," a solo barstool tucked in the far-right corner of the bar, stands alone to this day. (Dennis Rodman drinks here, too. Fun fact: He represented the bar with a Class of '47 cap in a photo from his much-publicized trip to North Korea earlier this year.)
A life-size poster of Marion Morrison greets you at the front door, and smaller portraits line the walls of the bar. The rest of the décor is decidedly dive bar-y, with defaced dollar bills, old license plates from across the country and two pool tables in the center of the room. The dive-bar video-game staple Big Buck Hunter sits mostly ignored. Several high-top chairs line the south wall, all of them with cut tennis balls attached to their legs, just like an old lady's walker. Despite the bar's pedigree, most of the patrons nowadays are in their 30s and of the beachy set, drinking to loud rap music--except for that one white-haired woman who frequents the corner seat at the bar and says she knew John Wayne. Man, the Ringo Kid must be rolling in his grave.
I came here to interview the legendary Jim "Poorman" Trenton (because if you want to get the job done right, do it at a bar) for my cover story on infamous TV host Wally George. I half-expected an experience out of his old KDOC-TV Channel 56 show, Poorman's Bikini Beach, but we mostly behaved ourselves, drinking beers on the long bench behind the pool tables. Poorman fondly recalled his days sparring with George on The Hot Seat--but for more of those recollections, flip to the front of this issue.
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I introduced him to Shock Top, one of Class of '47's three beers on tap. He said he wanted what I was drinking, but I warned him it's a pretty girly beer that he might not like. He said he was secure enough in his masculinity to drink a girly brew, so he went for it. The verdict? Pretty good! So now the Class of '47 can add two more names to its list of famous fans: The Poorman and Hellcat Hamby drank here. Okay, so maybe that's a bit of a stretch. . . .
GO HERE FOR: A chance to drink like John Wayne ALSO KNOWN AS: "No Class"
Class of '47, 209 Palm St., Newport Beach, (949) 675-5774.
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