One of my all-time favorite films is Tombstone (1993), the greatest Western ever made -in my opinion (and with all due respect to the great John Wayne, who I love and am a major fan of). Tombstone being my favorite Western, I developed an interest in the film's central character, Wyatt Earp. I have recently read my first proper biographies of Earp, and man, this guy just blows my socks off! What a fascinating, bigger-than-life character, right out of a great Western novel. I have read hundreds and hundreds of biographies and autobiographies of men and women of every possible stripe, but this guy is, without a doubt, one of the most incredible characters I have ever read about.
Okay, let me tell you twelve things you may not have known about that legendary lawman from the Old West, Mr. Wyatt Earp.
1. Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp (yep, that's his full name) ran away from home several times
and tried to enlist in the Union Army in the Civil War. He was
unsuccessful and was sent back home every time, as he was only 13 years
2. He loved ice cream. He wasn't a hard
drinker. In fact, he wasn't a drinker at all. No, the great Wyatt Earp,
as macho as they come, never let liquor touch his lips. But he did have a
vice: his love of ice cream. Every day in Tombstone, he would stop into
the local ice cream parlor and indulge in a scoop.
3. He was arrested for horse theft along with two other men.
Wyatt and the other men were accused of stealing two horses (each worth
$100) and jailed. Instead of waiting for his trial, Wyatt broke out of
jail and escaped through the jail roof.
4. He never was hit or injured during a gun fight. No, not in any gunfight he was ever involved in, which contributed to his legend.
5. He once accidentally shot himself
(actually his coat). Although Wyatt was never hit by the bullet of an
opponent, once, his single-action revolver fell out of his holster while
he was leaning back in a chair and discharged. Embarrassingly, the
discharged bullet went through his coat and out the ceiling.
6. He loved hookers and prostitutes.
Wyatt may not have been a drinker, but he loved the ladies (ladies of
the evening, that is). In one year (1872) Wyatt was arrested three times
for "keeping and being found in a house of ill-repute."
was listed as living in a brothel with Jane Haspiel in February of 1872.
It is not known whether he was a pimp, an enforcer, or a bouncer in the
establishment. Later, in 1876, when his brother James opened a brothel
in Dodge City, Wyatt went along with him.
7. He was once fined for slapping a prostitute.
Wyatt was fined the sum of $1.00 for slapping a muscular prostitute
named Frankie Bell. Frankie had "heaped epithets" on Wyatt and he got
upset and slapped her. Frankie spent the night in jail and was fined $20
(Wyatt's $1 fine was the legal minimum).
8. His second wife was probably an ex-prostitute. Wyatt's common-law wife, Celia Anne "Matty" Blaylock, who Wyatt lived with until 1881, was reputedly an ex-hooker.
9. He loved Dick Naylor. Wyatt's favorite horse, a racehorse, was named Dick Naylor.
10. He was put on trial for murder.
After Wyatt's signature moment, the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, he was
tried for murder, along with his best pal, Doc Holliday. If convicted,
the two would have been hanged. Fortunately for Wyatt and his legend, he
and Doc were both acquitted.
11. He was a pal of John Wayne.
In Wyatt's later years, he lived in Los Angeles and was a technical
advisor on several silent cowboy films. He befriended a young actor
named Marion Morrison (who later changed his name to John Wayne) and
regaled the young thespian with tales of the Old West. Enthralled, the
young Duke used to fetch Wyatt cups of coffee. Wayne later claimed his
portrayals of cowboys and Western lawmen were based on these
conversations with Wyatt Earp.
12. His last words were enigmatic.
According to his wife of 47 years, Wyatt's last words, just before he
died in January of 1929 were "Suppose, suppose…" Wyatt's wife, friends,
and biographers all have only made guesses at what he was about to say
to complete his though before he passed away.