John Wayne’s Oddball Advice Left An Impression On Michael Caine
There is not a greater celebrity raconteur than Michael Caine. The 89-year-old movie star has lived the fullest of lives, appeared in a number of great films, and snatched up two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor — and he loves to talk about it. The son of blue-collar parents seems perpetually tickled by his success. Ask him about a critically acclaimed classic like “The Man Who Would Be King” or a universally reviled bomb like “Jaws: The Revenge” and you’ll get a good-humored story out of it. He is the platonic ideal of “affable.”
If you were to pick an actor who resided on the opposite end of the “affable” scale, you couldn’t find a more ornery cuss than John Wayne. Wayne was aloof. It took a cagey journalist like Joan Didion to humanize him, and, in retrospect, she seemed a little starstruck. Wayne seemed to have made all the friends he’d ever need by the time he’d become a star. But when an immovable object like The Duke meets an irresistibly charming force like Caine, an unlikely friendship might be in the offing.
Suede shoes are a luxury movie stars cannot afford
Caine rocketed to stardom as the caddish title character of Lewis Gilbert’s “Alfie” in 1966. It was around this time that the actor, in Los Angeles for the shooting of Ronald Neame’s superb “Gambit,” found himself routinely kicking around the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel for a bit of celebrity spotting. One day, John Wayne came through and spotted Caine. He’d seen “Alfie,” and told the young Brit “It’s very good, son.” A friendship ensued, which led to the American movie icon giving his newfound pal from across the pond a strangely specific bit of advice:
“He said, ‘Never wear suede shoes.’ I asked why and he said, ‘Because you’ll be taking a piss in a men’s room and there’ll be a guy next to you, and all of a sudden the guy will recognize you and he’ll turn and go, ‘Michael Caine!’ And he’ll piss all over your shoes!’ I never wore suede shoes again.”
One wonders if rockabilly pioneer Carl Perkins had intended a slightly different lyric for his classic “Blue Suede Shoes.” Mostly, though, this suggests that John Wayne had significant experience getting urinated on in men’s rooms. If so, perhaps he elaborated on these experiences to his friend Michael Caine. If he did, I can guarantee you one thing: Caine wouldn’t keep it to himself.