Richard Halliburton, Pancho Barnes and John Wayne
Richard was taken with Pancho, not that he was in love but that she was an unforgettable person. Nobody she met could be indifferent toward her. She made lasting friendships wherever she went. As shown in the movie The Right Stuff, Chuck Yeager, who broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1, was a welcome friend at Her Happy Bottom Riding Club in the Mojave desert. She also did not suffer fools gladly.
In a November 1932 letter from Hollywood, Richard wrote his parents that he visited Pancho Barnes, “the woman flyer I’m so fond of, and she took me to Ramón Novarro’s, a lot of drunk movie people were there, so we left early.” The line was clearly for mom and dad. Richard added that on December 4th he would take her to Moye Stephen’s wedding to an Italian contessa although he would miss it, “an especially fine one.”
On Thanksgiving he drove Pancho fifty miles “down the coast to her summer home, which was her Laguna Beach mansion overlooking the Pacific.” In this letter home he plays bad to the good boy he was in the earlier correspondence, as if he vacillated between two roles regarding his parents. “We took off our clothes and pulled clams from the rocks, then put the clams in a big stew pan to steam, and had that for our thanksgiving dinner.” One imagines his parents raising their eyebrows, asking, What kind of woman is this?
From Don't Die in Bed: The Brief, Intense Life of Richard Halliburton. See upper left corner of this page.