Sunday, September 23, 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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Review: Robert Olen Butler’s Paris in the Dark packed with action

Review: Robert Olen Butler’s Paris in the Dark packed with action

On a fall night in 1915, an American reporter sips Chartreuse at a sidewalk table as German Zeppelins patrol the perimeter of Paris. As he plans how to finagle his way to the front lines of World War I, a bomb explodes at another cafe nearby, and he ...
Published: 09/21/18
Novelist, USF professor Karen Brown drawn by the voices of stories of loss

Novelist, USF professor Karen Brown drawn by the voices of stories of loss

Karen BrownBrown teaches creative writing at the University of South Florida and is the author of several books, including The Longing of Wayward Girls and the short story collection Pins and Needles. On Nov. 17, Brown will be a featured author at th...
Published: 09/21/18
Joyce Maynard looks back at life with Salinger at the #MeToo moment

Joyce Maynard looks back at life with Salinger at the #MeToo moment

In 1972, Joyce Maynard wrote an essay for the New York Times Magazine called "An 18-Year-Old Looks Back at Life." It won her instant fame — and a letter from J.D. Salinger, renowned author of Catcher in the Rye and other fiction, who was then 53 year...
Published: 09/14/18
Review: Ben Montgomery’s ‘Man Who Walked Backward’ lets readers step into history

Review: Ben Montgomery’s ‘Man Who Walked Backward’ lets readers step into history

Did Plennie Wingo make any progress going backward?That’s the question at the heart of The Man Who Walked Backward: An American Dreamer’s Search for Meaning in the Great Depression, an engaging new book by former Tampa Bay Times staff writer Ben Mont...
Published: 09/13/18
Updated: 09/14/18
It’s no mystery why fans, authors gathered for Bouchercon in St. Petersburg

It’s no mystery why fans, authors gathered for Bouchercon in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURGLast Wednesday through Sunday, the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel teemed with people who write and read about bloody murder. It was a remarkably friendly and cheerful crowd. Detroit novelist Stephen Mack Jones had an explanation: "Writing abou...
Published: 09/11/18
Times Festival of Reading 2018: Get the full lineup of authors here

Times Festival of Reading 2018: Get the full lineup of authors here

A novelist whose book won raves from Oprah and Obama, the scholar who brought Zora Neale Hurston’s long-lost interview with a former slave to print, two Pulitzer Prize-winning nonfiction writers, a bestselling satirical novelist, a beloved memoirist ...
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Welcome to Florida, a land of mysteries – including why mullet jump

Welcome to Florida, a land of mysteries – including why mullet jump

Florida is a land full of mysteries. Why do we call it "the Sunshine State" when every major city gets more rain than Seattle? Why, after a hurricane destroys our homes with flooding and storm surge, do we rebuild in exactly the same spot? Perhaps th...
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Review: Gary Shteyngart’s ‘Lake Success’ a comic tale of a 1-percenter

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One night young lawyer Seema Cohen went to a Vogue party hosted by billionaire Michael Bloomberg and there met the man who would become her husband. At first, she wasn’t sure she liked the glad-handing middle-aged hedge fund guy who was clearly...
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Retired journalist David Lawrence Jr.’s reading still centers on news

Retired journalist David Lawrence Jr.’s reading still centers on news

David Lawrence Jr.In 1999, at the age of 56, Lawrence decided to retire from his post as publisher of the Miami Herald after decades in journalism. Since then, he has focused on a life’s passion, advocating for children by leading the Children’s Move...
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