Burt was a pioneer in the “on location” film industry. His work in bringing productions to Georgia and providing opportunity for new actors, directors, technicians and stuntmen started many careers. The world of Hollywood, actors, car enthusiasts and truckers owe a lot to this great man. Even when he was the number one box office draw on the planet he always a smile, a laugh and a story for friends both old and brand new.
I remember fondly the day I climbed the fence at the fairgrounds in Atlanta in 1976. It was the day I talked my way onto what was to become one of the top grossing movies of all time. He was gracious and charming and I learned later that all that time he was wondering who the hell I was and why I was there.
Burt was a big fan and supporter of “Dukes” and always stopped by to say hello and hang with his old friend Jimmy Best. What a thrill it was to have him as a friend and, actually, a fan of mine.
Later in life we reconnected after he had done the “Dukes” movie. He was hysterical because the first thing he said was “I’m sorry John. The movie is crap but I wanted someone who understood the source material and wanted to honor it. Apparently, I was the only one.”
There was Burt Reynolds apologizing to me for a movie he did based on the TV show I had done years before. Unbelievable.
Always a friend to talk to, to sing with, to teach me how to overturn a shot of tequila in a glass of beer and have it leach out with every sip (I call it the “Burt Reynolds” and always will). Burt was a homebody who enjoyed people around him who didn’t treat him like a superstar. The biggest compliment I can give anyone is this… Burt Reynolds was a whole lot like Johnny Cash — the biggest star in the world and a regular guy at the same time.
I’ll miss his laugh, his parties, his friendship, his smile and his ability to make everyone instantly, welcome, appreciated and comfortable.
Be well, Bandit. Give Roscoe and Boss and Lulu and Sheriff Little a big hug and jump a creek up there for me. I’ll see you down the red clay road.
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