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Marissa Wayne wrangles happiness in Costa Mesa

The Duke's daughter Marisa Wayne found a haven in Costa Mesa.

She’s a 50-year-old business owner with a husband and two children. But for many in Newport Beach, Marisa Wayne will always be John Wayne’s little girl.

“That’s cool, you know?” Wayne says with a laugh. “I love to hear what a great guy he was. A lot of people around here have stories about when they saw him at Orange Julius or out on
the boat.”

Her family’s connection to the city is part of what has made the Newport Beach area her lodestar.

“I would move somewhere but my roots are always here,” she says. “I always see myself with a place here and coming back often. Orange County, Newport Beach, this will always be home.”

As a teenager she moved to Los Angeles, planning to follow in the footsteps of her famous actor father, who died of cancer when she was 13. “I really liked acting,” she says. “It seemed like something I should do until I moved up to LA and realized I loved the art and the craft but I didn’t like the business.”

So she left Southern California, moving to Colorado and, at 22, marrying a downhill skier. The marriage didn’t last, and in 2000 Wayne returned home to get her bearings. She studied at Orange Coast College, worked with her siblings at the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, got married again and started her family. She also rediscovered a passion for fitness.

“I always loved classes and group exercises. I was never one to self-motivate and just go for a run,” she says. “I wanted to go at a certain time and suffer with other people.”  

In 2013, she and a partner started GritCycle, a spin studio in Costa Mesa, where she teaches five days a week. The studio organizes monthly Karma Rides that raise money for local health-oriented charities.

“This was a big commitment, signing on the dotted line. Everyone was saying: There are 10 studios on the same street. Why that location?” she says. “But we kept coming back to this building. There’s just something about it. I would come here if it weren’t my business. I really believe in what we are doing.”

Wayne and her husband, Tony Ditteaux, have an 11-year-old daughter, Carmela, and an 8-year-old son, Duke, the nickname of his iconic grandfather.

Neighborhood: Costa Mesa

Why I love it: We found this house we liked. There are lots of kids my son’s age. It was a leap of faith that it’s worked out the way it has. Our half of the street is Costa Mesa, and four doors down it’s Newport Beach.

Perfect day: Sleeping in, breakfast in bed with a hot cup of coffee. Probably around 10, I come around here and teach a class, which gets the day off to a great start. Lunch with some friends, and it’d be great to go for a walk down the boardwalk with my kids at sunset. The neighbors come over for dinner or we’ll go over there. Do some swimming. And get to bed early.

Sanctuary: I lived on Balboa Island for a while. I just loved at night walking around, with all the lights on the boats. That’s sacred ground right there. We used to go there; my dad would take us over there on the ferry. When I moved back from Colorado, I was heartbroken. I wouldn’t be able to sleep, so I’d get out and walk around and breathe the fresh air and feel very grateful to have this as my home.  

On my nightstand: I have a postcard that my dad sent me from Singapore when I was a little girl. It’s been with me all these years. And I have a little dish that my daughter gave me. It holds a little ceramic heart that my son gave me.

Favorite place to shop that’s not a chain: There’s a store down the street –  it was called The Hidden Jewel, though they’re rebranding it. It’s a cute little house they turned into a boutique. I’m really about comfort and kind of hippie styles. Another store I like is Red Balloon. They have cute stuff for children.

Favorite Restaurant: We eat at Jan’s Health Bar almost every day for lunch. Great sandwiches, smoothies. As far as going out to eat, we go to La Cave. It’s an old steakhouse my parents used to go to. They have an appetizer of cut-up steaks and Duke calls them Duke Steak.

Red wine or white wine? Red wine.

Angels or Dodgers? Angels.

Pet peeves: Where do we start? Just the ones my husband does? (Laughs) Just rude people – disrespect in all forms.

Favorite celebrity encounter: Cary Grant. The very last Oscar my dad presented, he shared a dressing room with Cary Grant and Laurence Olivier. I was there, along for the ride, I must have been 13. I didn’t really know who they were, but Cary Grant was so nice to me. He gave me a rose. It just left an impression. Since then, I watched pretty much every movie with him in it.

Best song for spin class: There’s a song called “Till It’s Gone” by Yelawolf that’s always a big hit. I like to play some country too; I’ve been playing Chris Stapleton. Like today, I played Missy Elliott and Florence and the Machine, Swedish House Mafia. There’s just
so many.

Favorite John Wayne line: I think it’s “McLintock!” My dad is like, “Somebody ought to teach you a lesson. But I’m not, I won’t do it. Oh, the hell I won’t,” and then he leans back. I laugh every time because I see it coming.

Favorite places to travel: We just got back from Bora Bora. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. The water is like 85 degrees. The fish swim up to you and welcome you. It seemed like it was a dream.

Personal motto:  “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” It’s a quote my dad gets credit for. The older I get the more I can apply that to lots of things in life. People say ‘Oh, I won’t be able to do it, I’m too intimidated.’ Just do it. Courage can be jumping out of an airplane or taking your first spin class. There was just a talent show audition. My daughter has never tried out. I said, ‘Just try it! You’ll regret it if you don’t.” She did, and I was so proud of her. My son is the biggest ham in the world, but I know it was a big deal for her. You gain strength every time you conquer a fear.

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