Scottish Daily Mail
My car-crash love life
To swooning female fans, he was the sexiest star in Hollywood. But as these riotously unbuttoned memoirs reveal, Burt Reynolds’ romantic career has been FAR from smooth
THE actress Loni Anderson was the most striking-looking woman I’d ever seen. She came up to me one evening at an awards gala, asked me to dance and whispered in my ear: ‘I want to have your baby.’ ‘Right here?’ I said. ‘You know what I mean,’ she said. ‘Yeah, I know what you mean and I’m flattered — but don’t you think we should find out if we like each other first?’
The truth is, I never did like her. We’d be together and she’d be gorgeous, though I always thought she wore too much make-up.
It would be nice and all that, but I’d be thinking: ‘This is not the person for me. What the hell am I doing with her?’
I don’t remember actually asking her to marry me, but she put me under constant pressure. I kept telling her that we’d get married as soon as I finished building a chapel on my ranch. It took four years because I kept adding things on. When it was finally done, I had no excuse.
So why did I marry her? Besides the physical attraction, it was the force of her personality. Her determination. It was something she wanted, and she would not be denied. Loni was that way about everything: anything she went after, she got. Did I have a choice? Of course I did. What was I thinking? Obviously, I wasn’t thinking at all.
On the way to the ceremony, my best man, the American football player Vic Prinzi, said: ‘Do you really want to do this?’ ‘no, I don’t,’ I said. ‘Then let’s get the hell out of here,’ he said. ‘But my mom and dad are sitting there waiting for me. My mom loves Loni. It’ll kill her.’
‘I hate to break this to you,’ Vic said, ‘but your mother can’t stand Loni.’
I paused in the doorway of the chapel. As I stood there looking at the assembled guests, Mom caught my eye. She was shaking her head: NO. But I didn’t have the guts to pull the plug. After the reception, Loni and I jumped on a helicopter and flew to Key West in Florida, where we boarded a 120ft yacht for a cruise to the Bahamas. But Loni said she was seasick. I was puzzled. ‘Don’t you think we should cast off first?’ I said. Instead of sailing to the Bahamas, we turned around and motored up some canals and rivers. not a good omen.
The first time I jokingly called Loni ‘The Countess’ she beamed — and from then on, it was in her contract.
She bought everything in triplicate, from dresses to jewellery, china and linen. She bought designer gowns for $10,000 (£7,000) a pop and wore them only once. ‘I never wear a dress after it’s been photographed,’ she said. ‘I have to dress like a star.’
I gave her a platinum American express card with a $45,000 (£30,000) credit limit. She maxed it out in half an hour.
Her spending was plunging me into debt, but my attitude was: whatever makes her happy is OK. But eventually the well ran dry.
We called it quits after five years of marriage. When we announced the separation, the Press went into high gear. Princess Diana sent me a thank-you note for keeping her off the cover of People magazine. For a long time after the divorce, the tabloids were still calling Loni and me ‘cheesecake and beefcake’.
The worst part of the divorce was losing custody of our adopted son, Quinton. I fell in love the second I laid eyes on him and we adopted him when he was three days old. One of the hardest things I had to do was tell him Loni and I were separating. He was then aged six. We went for a walk on the beach, but I couldn’t say it. Finally, Quinton looked up at me and said: ‘Daddy, is the dance over?’
‘That’s right,’ I said. ‘Mommy and I started the dance together, but the dance is over and now she’s going to her side and I’m going to mine.’
He thought for a moment. ‘It’ll be all right, Daddy,’ he said. ‘You’re a man.’ LONI wasn’t my first venture into marriage. My first wife was the actress Judy Carne, and we divorced after just three years — though it was over long before that.
We’d married in 1963, after dating for just six months, and it soon became obvious we had very little in common.
I couldn’t get into her lifestyle — the non-stop partying, the hard drugs, the kinky sex — and she wasn’t thrilled with my tendency to resort to fisticuffs in arguments with other men.
After one of my many brawls, she said: ‘God, you’re boring.’
To this day, I credit Judy with helping me to discover that a guy doesn’t need his fists to make a point.
In 1968, she suddenly became a sensation on a TV show called Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. Her role consisted of dancing in a bikini and saying, ‘Sock it to me!’ — after which she’d be doused with water or hit with a pie.
Later, Judy’s career began to wane; her substance abuse got worse, and she made a lot of money talking about me to the tabloids.
She claimed I hit her, which wasn’t true. That broke my heart. LEAVING aside my two marriages, I’ve been exceptionally lucky with the women I’ve known.
As a boy of 15, I was fascinated by an antique shop in Palm Beach, Florida, kept by a beautiful woman in her 40s. I kept going back to peer at the exotic objects on display — and one day, she asked me to her house on the beach.
We had drinks, we laughed and one thing led to another. It was my first time, and I was smitten.
After that, I’d go there once a week. We’d have dinner, tell stories and make love. This went on for several months, until the night she said it was time to call it quits.
I protested, almost pleaded, but she just smiled. And that was it. She left me bewildered and frustrated, but she’d also made me very, very happy.
not a week goes by that I don’t think about her. IT TOOK me a while to get anywhere as an actor. I had the usual jobs — waiting tables, bartending, unloading cargo ships — and when I was really broke I made ‘tomato soup’ from hot water and ketchup.
In 1957, after I landed a part in a Broadway revival of the Joshua Logan play Mister Roberts, another famous playwright, William Inge, came backstage one night and invited me to a party. I arrived early and there were only two people there: Mr Inge and an absolutely stunning lady.
He introduced us, but I didn’t catch her name. She was wearing a bright yellow silk blouse with nothing underneath — highly unusual for the Fifties. But when she caught me staring at her beautiful breasts, she just smiled and said: ‘My eyes are up here.’ ‘Yes, ma’am,’ I said. She was a mature woman, with a low, kind of whisky voice, but she had a youthful energy about her. And she was funny, not only laughing at my jokes but making me laugh, too.
I was bowled over. Other guests arrived and tried to engage with her, but she wasn’t interested: whenever I moved away to allow her to talk to someone else, she followed me.
After the others had left, she asked me to tell her my life story. I began blabbering. I heard myself talking total nonsense, as if I were outside my body, watching this idiot make a complete mess of things.
eventually, I jumped up and told her I was leaving. But as I started for the door, she touched my arm and said, ‘Why don’t you come home with me?’ Appallingly, I started to giggle. Then I blurted out: ‘I’m just down the street at the hotel and I’ll just go on home by myself, but thank you, though.’
I didn’t find out until the next day that I’d just said no to Greta Garbo, who was 31 years older than me. WHEN I made the movie Fuzz — a police action comedy — with Raquel Welch in 1972, I had the top billing — and that p***ed her off. THE picture would be a milestone in the sexual revolution, said Helen Gurley Brown — editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan — and I was the one man who could pull it off. Would I agree to become the magazine’s first male nude centrefold?
I was flattered and intrigued. I wish I could say I wanted to show support for women’s rights, but I just thought it would be fun. I found out later that she’d asked Paul Newman first, but he’d turned it down.
Everybody I respected told me not
She told the producer: ‘I will not work with him. I will not be on the same stage.’
So I’d come to work, and Raquel’s double would be there instead, with her back to the camera. I’d say my lines to her and the director would say: ‘Cut.’ As I was driving out of the studio gate, the guard would pick up the phone and say, ‘He’s leaving now’ — and then Raquel would go in and say her lines to my double. We made the whole movie like that, never together in the same scene. Put it this way: we don’t send each other Christmas cards In THE Seventies, I met the woman I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with: Dinah Shore.
She was 20 years older than me and we met on her daytime show, Dinah’s Place. Making love became a new experience: for the first time, I was sharing intimacy with my heart full of genuine, unconditional love.
I’d never felt that way about a woman before. She taught me about music, art, food and wine; she taught me which fork to use; she taught me how to dress.
We were soulmates, but marriage wasn’t on the cards.
My career was on fire and my ego was out of control. I wanted to enjoy the fruits of my popularity and I didn’t want to do it on the sly.
And there was something else: I finally admitted to myself that the age difference did matter in one important respect: I wanted a child of my own.
Breaking up with Dinah was the hardest thing I’d ever done. She sat on the sofa, holding a hankie. And she kept her composure, but I lost mine. I missed her the minute I walked out the door. I could barely function for weeks.
She’s the most wonderful person I’ve ever known. AND then came Sally Field. When I told Universal that I wanted her for my co-star in Smokey And The Bandit, they said, ‘Why would you want the goddamn Flying nun?’ — the name of the sitcom she’d just starred in. ‘Because she has talent,’ I said. They came back with: ‘She isn’t sexy.’ ‘You don’t understand,’ I said. ‘Talent is sexy.’
When I finally won the battle, I called Sally to ask her to be in the picture — but she wasn’t exactly thrilled. ‘I know your movies are commercial, but it’s not the kind of thing I want to do,’ she said. ‘Then again, my agents tell me I need a commercial movie . . .’
I wasn’t overjoyed by her reaction, but I was taken with her immediately at the first rehearsal. She was strong, funny and spectacularly good.
One of the things people say about Smokey is that it’s like watching two people genuinely fall in love,
and it’s true. I mean, the sexual tension was bouncing off the walls. Sally and I proposed to each other more than once, but every time I wanted to get married, she didn’t; and every time she wanted to get married, I didn’t.
If we had tied the knot, I think it would have been a dangerous mix, like fire and gasoline, but there would have been wonderful moments, too. And I would have been determined to make it work.
After we broke up, I wanted to see her again, but she refused and I fell apart. I wrote her a letter saying: ‘Could we just go to dinner?’ The answer was no. I still wanted to see her, but my pride stepped in and I gave up. Later, I became very sick after breaking my jaw, losing so much weight that a rumour began that I had Aids. At that point, Sally did an interview with Playboy.
Asked whether I had Aids, she said she didn’t know. Then she added: ‘There’s always been something going on around Burt.’ What the hell was that supposed to mean? I was shocked and hurt, and still don’t know what possessed her to say it.
She sent me a half-hearted note of apology, saying she’d been ‘flippant’. We haven’t been in touch since.
But I wish I could turn back the clock. I’m sorry I never told her that I loved her, and I’m sorry we couldn’t make it work. It’s the biggest regret of my life.
ADAPTED by Corinna Honan from But Enough About Me by Burt Reynolds & Jon Winokur, to be published by Blink this Thursday (Nov 19), priced £20. To buy a copy for £15 visit mailbookshop.co.uk or call 0808 272 0808. Offer until this Saturday (Nov 21). P&P is free on orders over £12.