SAN MARCOS, Calif. — CBS 8 is celebrating 'Top Gun Week' in anticipation of the May 27 movie release of the Top Gun sequel: Maverick. In this Zevely Zone, I headed to San Marcos to meet the world's biggest Top Gun super fan. Before you read this article I must ask if you are ready for this? Because once I take you inside the fandom of John Merritt, there is no turning back.
"Last year I made this flight suit," said John from inside his bedroom filled with Top Gun memorabilia. John hardly sleeps. "Helmets, both of which I made," said John. He is often awake in the middle of the night. "Yeah, I keep weird hours," said John. The 52-year-old is always on the hunt for Top Gun gear. "Vintage Top Gun authentic hat with the lapel pin," said John during a lengthy show and tell.
John grew up in Clairemont listening to the sounds of fighter jets. "This is basically a replica of Maverick's new jacket," said John. At the age of sixteen, his obsession took off. "This one is the Maverick suit," said John. "This is Goose's jacket." Most super fans would stop with a jacket but John wanted Goose's Hawaiian shirt. "I found out who the manufacturer of the fabric was," said John who convinced the company to print custom shirts. "I have an original and I have two of the fabricated ones," said John who attended the Top Gun: Maverick movie premiere aboard the USS Midway Museum.
"It was great," said John who was not expecting an invite. "Oh, I was kind of floored," said John who told me his costume must have made the difference. "I would say it's the hat. I dress up as a different character every year. I've been Jester, I've been Maverick, this year I went as Wolf. I think that kind of took it over the top," said John. During the premiere he was approached by an MTV host on live television. "Yeah, that was pretty cool," said John who answered every trivia question they fired at him because he's memorized every line of the movie.
"Take me to bed and lose me forever," said John who rattled off one line after another. "Your ego is cashing checks your body can't cash." I asked him how times he has seen the movie. "You know if I were going to give it a random guess I'd say 600 times," said John. "I am sane enough to know how insane I am about it." John wants to thank his wing woman, his wife Julie, for allowing him to turn their bedroom into a Top Gun museum. "She looks like Meg Ryan," I said as John showed me a picture of the couple decked out in Top Gun gear. "She is my Meg Ryan," said John while his show and tell continued.
"This is a Top Gun coffee mug. This is the Ocean Realty sign that Maverick pulls up to after he realizes Charlie has left town. This is the sweatshirt that Goose wears underneath his jacket," said John. He even has a replica bottle of wine that Charlie and Maverick drank during their date. Hang out with the Wolfman long enough, you'll find yourself on the highway to the danger zone. "You're not going to be happy until you are going Mach-2 with your hair on fire," said John.
When John isn't dressing up Wolfman, Maverick, or Goose, he's a retail manager. For a link to his Instagram page with nearly eight thousand followers click here.