Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Books

Review: Burt Reynolds as charming as ever in 'But Enough About Me'

If you're old enough to remember fondly the rascally, randy presence of Burt Reynolds in his heyday, bringing his brio to movie screens and TV talk shows, pick up a copy of But Enough About Me. He's back.

This memoir, written with Jon Winokur, reads as if Reynolds has settled into his longtime seat on the couch next to pal Johnny Carson's desk on The Tonight Show back in the 1970s to regale viewers with show-biz stories that are a little naughty and a lot charming.

Reynolds, who will be 80 in February, isn't performing much these days. He has a number of health issues, including the damage done by years of insisting on doing most of his own stunts. "Now, when my body hurts somewhere," he writes, "I can name the movie. 'Oooh, that's Hooper,' or 'Ahh, The Longest Yard.' "

But, judging by this book, both his memory and his sense of humor are working just fine. But Enough About Me is not a chronological autobiography, but rather a collection of stories about people who have meant a lot — for good or ill — to Reynolds over the years. Most of its chapters are named for specific people (and in one case, a horse), others for groups like "Teammates," "Jocks" and "Directors." As he writes in his author's note, most are love letters, a few "poison-pen notes, too, because my bulls--- detector has improved with age."

Reynolds was born in Michigan, but his family moved to Florida when he was a kid, to Riviera Beach, where his stern father, known as Big Burt, was police chief. A star football player at Palm Beach High, Reynolds was recruited by "a bunch" of colleges. He chose Florida State University, he writes, because coach Tom Nugent pointed out to him the "seven-to-one ratio of women to men on campus" then.

Reynolds has fond memories of playing for FSU, but in his sophomore year, in the second game, "when I made a cut, there was a sound like a gun going off." He had wiped out his knee and ended his football career — but his acting career would begin at FSU and last for more than 50 years.

Over those years, Reynolds seems to have met just about everyone who worked in movies, television and sports. He dishes about the time he met Greta Garbo — but didn't realize it was her because she was wearing a sheer blouse and no bra, and his eyes never made it to her face. He recounts the day in the 1950s that a studio executive fired him and Clint Eastwood at the same time. He remembers his experience as a business partner in the United States Football League in the early 1980s and his dealings with Donald Trump: "I hold onto my wallet when we shake hands, but I like him."

As an actor, Reynolds may be best known for good-time, good-old-boy entertainment like Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run. But that's not all he can do; he picked up a slew of nominations and awards for his dramatic performances in Deliverance and Boogie Nights, just to name a couple of highlights. (He also passed on a number of notable roles, including John McClane, Randle McMurphy and Han Solo.)

He writes with great respect and affection about fellow actors like Charles Durning and Ossie Davis. He's mostly kind to former romantic partners, although he's clearly still stung by Sally Fields' failure to come to his defense when false rumors swirled that he was suffering from AIDS. And ex-wife Loni Anderson definitely gets the sharp edge of his tongue: "The truth is, I never did like her."

Mostly, though, Reynolds is once again here to entertain us, and most often the butt of his jokes is himself — that same self-deprecating, self-aware humor that made his larger-than-life macho persona winning rather than annoying. Glad to have you back, Burt.

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