Not all movie stars choose to live in Beverly Hills or Malibu or even Los Angeles County. Some prefer the sunny climate a little farther down the coast, along the south-facing beaches of the "California Riviera" in Orange County (AKA "The O.C.".)
The Newport harbor is a lovely spot along the coast of Orange County (about forty miles southeast of Hollywood), located between Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach. It is a sheltered bay nestled between the Balboa peninsula and charming Balboa Island, filled with white sailboats, soaring pelicans, and lined with the resort homes of the rich & famous.
Little Balboa Island is a delightful spot for a stroll alongside the sparkling blue bay. You reach the island by taking an old-fashioned ferry which runs day & night between the island and the peninsula. The Balboa Ferry's three-minute voyage is the best scenic ride in town, and the best bargain too, at a mere $1 per person. Get out of your car, stand next to the rail, breathe in the salt air, and take in the glorious view as you move across the water - it's an E-ticket.
Newport Bay has long been a favorite vacation spot for the Hollywood elite. Tyrone Power honeymooned here in 1958, staying on Lido Island and sailing his sloop, The Black Swan, in the bay with fellow actors Rock Hudson, Claire Trevor and Sterling Hayden.
In the 1920's, when John Wayne was a lad named Marion Morrison, and played football for USC, he went bodysurfing one day near the Balboa Pier in Newport Beach, and was injured. That accident turned out to be a lucky break, since the injury helped convince him to give up football and pursue an acting career. In 1928, cowboy star Tom Mix (a fan of Wayne's football heroics) got him a $35-a-week job as a prop man at the Fox studios. Wayne was discovered by John Ford while loading furniture onto a truck on the Fox lot, and the rest is history.
Later in the Duke's life, in 1966, when his health began to fail him, he moved from his Beverly Hills home (at 4750 Louise Avenue) back to the clean air of Newport Beach. John Wayne lived in a large waterfront home overlooking the beautiful Newport Bay, sailing his yacht "The Wild Goose"(a former minesweeper) until his death in 1979. (He was even buried in a Newport Beach cemetery just a few miles to the northeast.)
Alas, the Duke's island home, a one-story, 10-room, 7-bath white ranch house with a pool, at the tip of Bayshore Drive, was recently torn down by the new owner. If you take a Newport harbor cruise, the guides will point out where waterside mansion used to be. Wayne's widow continued to live there until very recently; the property is now owned by a couple who also own the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. Their $6 million yacht, The P'zazz, is worth as much as the Wayne mansion.
Novelist Joseph Wambaugh also lived here, on one of the smaller islands to the west of Balboa Island. A former LA police officer, Wambaugh wrote a number of novels about troubled cops, and many of those books found their way to the silver screen via Hollywood: "The New Centurions" (1972), "The Choirboys" (1977), "The Onion Field" (1979), "The Black Marble" (1980), and TV's "Police Story" and "The Blue Knight." Wambaugh also wrote "The Golden Orange," a colorful chronicle of life on and around Balboa Island. Another best-selling author, Dean Koontz, also lives in Newport.
So does Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, who lives in the posh Newport Coast area.
David Nelson (Ozzie & Harriet's oldest son) sold his L.A. house and built a new one in Newport.
Recent Newport residents have included Michelle Pfeiffer (who attended Newport Harbor High but graduated Fountain Valley High), Bo Derrick ("10"), Kelly McGillis ("Witness," "Top Gun"), Jean-Claude Van Damme ("Universal Soldier"), Ted McGinley ("Happy Days" and "Married With Children"), 'King of the Surf Guitar' Dick Dale and World Speedway motor cycle champion Bruce Penhall. The band Sugar Ray originated in Newport, and the town's most notorious resident, Dennis Rodman, lives in a beach house on Seashore Drive in Balboa and owns a local club called Josh Slocum's (on the other side of the bay, at 2601 W Coast Hwy.)
On Balboa peninsula, you'll actor Chuck Norris is (or was) one of the owners of a seafood restaurant called "Woody's Wharf" (at 2318 Newport Blvd.)
The venerable Balboa Bay Club was once the summer getaway for the rich & famous; filled with movie stars back in its golden years. John Wayne was on the board of governors, and members included Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, William Holden, Greta Garbo - even Richard Nixon lived here before moving to San Clemente. Visitors have included Frank Sinatra, Chuck Yeager and Ronald & Nancy Reagan.
Bogart & Bacall spent many happy hours aboard Bogey's boats moored at Newport Bay. When they first met in 1944 on the set of "To Have & Have & Have Not," Bogart was in the Coast Guard and used to dock his boat at Balboa to meet Bacall there.
She likes to tell the story of how Bogart once phoned her and told her that he was going to walk all the way from Newport to L.A. to meet her. She got in her car and headed south down PCH, and discovered him walking up the highway with a flower in his lapel. She thought it was very romantic.
Today, it's not unusual to see John Wayne's 136-foot yacht, "The Wild Goose" plying the waters off Balboa Island. The Duke used to play cards on board the former minesweeper with Dean Martin, Bob Hope, and Sammy Davis, Jr. It's now possible for you to privately charter Wayne's former pride & joy; it is now owned by Hornblower Cruises & Events (949) 646-0155) - but be prepared to pay a pretty penny for the privilege.
A less expensive way to see the Newport Bay stars' homes is by taking one of the local harbor tours.
The guided tours take you on a slow, leisurely excursion of the Newport bay, cruising through its meandering channels, passing between all six of the small islands, navigating a careful path through the bevy of colorful sailboats that clutter the blue waters on weekends.
The tour guides keep up a rambling dialogue during the cruises, describing the highlights of the area, and pointing out the seaside homes and million dollar yachts of business moguls, celebrities, and movie stars, including John Wayne's estate, the long-time home of actress Shirley Temple, and the former homes of James Cagney and George Burns.
After Shirley Temple moved out, her house became the longtime home of Buddy Ebsen ('Jed Clampett' and 'Barnaby Jones'), and is now home to talk show host Joey Bishop.
Two different cruise companies offer these guided harbor tours. The Catalina Passenger Service is based at the Balboa Pavilion itself, and operates bpats which offer tours of the harbor. The other tour company, the Fun Zone Boat Company, is located a few steps to the west of the Pavilion (at 700 Edgewater Avenue), and operates three tour boats, the largest named "The Tiki," and two smaller boats named "Belle" and "Queen."
You'll board the tour boats on the peninsula side of the bay, where you'll also you'll find the historic Balboa Pavilion, a charming landmark Victorian which dates back to 1905. The Balboa Fun Zone is a small waterfront amusement area between the Pavilion and the ferry landing, filled with kiddie rides and video arcades (scenes from the 1988 Bette Midler movie "Beaches" was shot here - in fact, Bette now lives in Orange County.) Just to the west of the Balboa Pavilion are the booths where they sell tickets to the narrated harbor tours, on boats such as the "Pavilion Queen." As you stroll the Fun Zone , you'll no doubt hear the familiar spiel of the barkers trying to lure passengers onto the tour boats.
The 45-minute voyages are fun and informative. They will cost you about $6 per adult (and $1 for children). The tour boats leave on the hour, from 11 AM to about an hour before sunset, with extended hours on weekends and in the peak summer season.
Getting there: Balboa is a seaside suburb of Newport Beach, on the Orange County coast (north of Laguna Beach and south of Huntington Beach), about 14 miles southeast of Disneyland, and 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles. / From Disneyland, take the Santa Ana (5) Freeway south (about eight miles) to the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway. Go south on the Costa Mesa Freeway (about ten miles) to its end, where it becomes Newport Boulevard. Continue south on Newport Boulevard until it runs into Balboa Boulevard. Turn left and follow Balboa Boulevard east (about two miles) to Main Street. Turn left (north) on Main Street, and you will see the Balboa Pavilion at the end of the street. / From Hollywood, take the Hollywood (101) Freeway southeast (about five miles) back to the downtown L.A. interchange, where the freeway is renamed the Santa Ana (5) Freeway. Take the Santa Ana (5) Freeway south (about 25 miles) to the Disneyland (Harbor Blvd.) offramp. Stay on the Santa Ana (5) Freeway and follow the directions above.
more information about the harbor tours, you can go to:
more information about renting John Wayne's yacht, 'The Wild Goose',
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