Burt and I
Well, Burt Reynolds has left us, and I never got the chance to go out with him as I’d hoped. A simple dinner was all I wanted, just to joke around with him, to hear his weird high-pitched laughter, to hear him tell me all his secrets, to discuss the famous folk he hung around with, to tell me what Johnny Carson was really like.
For six decades I have been very happily married to the man I call “Mongo” in this column, but hey, even though I’ve never mentioned it because I don’t especially want to hear the answer, I’ll wager Mongo has also wondered from time to time what it would have been like for him to go out on a date with--- you’re right, I don’t want to know.
But Burt Reynolds? That’s different. The man just oozed sex appeal, am I right? He knew it, I knew it and every woman of any age up to 105 who had the slightest flicker of the breath of life in her body knew it. Man oh man, the guy dripped with it. He wasn’t a sex symbol. He was just flat out sexy.
One of the truly nice things about Burt, (and yes, I get to call him “Burt,”) was the way he made fun of himself, knew his fabulous good looks might fade one day (oh, they just so didn’t), he loved it when people, men in particular, mocked him about his appearance (he knew they were jealous) and it was all good. He appeared to not take himself too terribly seriously, although lots of women surely did.
And what’s with all that twaddle about his hair? Did he wear a toupee? Who cares? BR (yes, I get to call him “BR”) could have worn a bag of cold oatmeal on his head and he would still have looked fabulous. He just could not help it; the Gods of Exceptionally Good Looks had smiled down on baby Burt when he was born. It was hardly a curse. But a hair piece? So what? Why does that matter? Do you wear things to enhance your good looks? You do? So why shouldn’t BR been allowed to wear whatever he wanted, on his head or on his body, if he thought it made him look good… and actually everything did.
Oh, and speaking of that body, let’s talk about that centerfold. OMG!! Those of you who saw that had to have been pretty impressed, so let’s not do the fake “Oh, I’m so shocked!” thing. Especially not in this era when seeing people in the buff on magazine covers, in every movie except perhaps “Lassie Come Home” and “Mary Poppins,” in every art gallery and sitcom, is commonplace. And it wasn’t exactly not done back in 1972 when our boy consented to lie down on his right side for a risqué, slick, letitallhangout magazine called “Cosmopolitan,” or “Cosmo” to those of us of the hip persuasion, as I certainly was and actually still am. There he lay, hairy, laughing, his left arm and wrist strategically placed over his more interesting aspects. A small cigar was between his grinning lips, and he lay on a bear skin rug. Oh, sigh, lucky, lucky bear. Talk about being a god! Wowzer! Finally, as males had always cut out centerfolds of impossibly perfect women in Playboy to hang all over their rooms and work areas, now females finally had something they too could cut out of a centerfold. There it was, in “Cosmo” and they could hang that iconic photo all over their boudoirs and --- well anywhere they pleased. I well recall many of those well-hung centerfolds with that left arm/wrist thing being replaced rather creatively with pictures of ---well, figure it out. For women finally having their own centerfold cut out, well, it was some kinda liberating!
Burt Reynolds was born in Michigan in 1936, two years before I was born, although we weren’t exactly contemporaries. He started out hoping to be a football player and seemed content to do that for a career, but luckily for us, he was injured and went to New York to become an actor. Odd how some football players make fabulous actors, but that’s another column. Because of his natural strength and athleticism, he did all his own stunts in his roles, and landed parts in lots of plays and TV productions, mostly in Westerns and cop shows, and then came probably his best role as Lewis, in “Deliverance.” I still can’t drive through strange forests or near strange lakes without thinking about that film and hearing dueling banjos in the distance. Chilling. He was awfully good in that movie but also good in his “Smoky and the Bandit” films, careening and screeching about in his black Trans Am with Sally Field, who he always said was the “love of his life.” Alas, after a couple of years they decided to go their separate ways. Hey Sally? What were you thinking?? Instead, in 1988 he married Loni Anderson, a beyond gorgeous and really very funny actress. They adopted a son and named him Quinton Anderson Reynolds. Imagine having Burt Reynolds as a father! But apparently, he was a good one and Quinton became the real love of Burt’s life, always referring to him as his “greatest achievement.” Father and son became very close over their years together.
When Burt became a little too long in the tooth to act the testosterone fueled superdude, he continued working in older-but-still-enormously-sexy roles, always looking terrific, still the self-deprecating rogue, probably very good company, full of humor and bad boyness, still lovable even behind those rose-colored glasses he wore. Burt Reynolds was 82 when death came for him last week, way too soon. He’d had heart trouble. He also gave it, ---sorry.