Burt Reynolds gets choked up sometimes. Even when he's talking about something that makes him happy.
The 80-year-old movie star, facing a hometown crowd from a stage at the Norton Museum as part of the Palm Beach Book Festival on Saturday, was explaining why he moved from Hollywood back to Jupiter.
"My life is so screwed up, I used to land here and my blood pressure would go (down). So I thought 'I'm moving here,' " he said. "'Why should my blood pressure only go down when I fly?"
The hometown figures prominently in his recent memoir, But Enough About Me, the subject of his appearance at the second annual festival. It's full of memories of his larger-than-life dad, to Old Florida, to old girlfriends, at least one of whom was front and center for the speech.
So all those memories, all those emotions, with all these people who've been cheering him since he was Buddy from Palm Beach High — all that can get caught in your throat.
"It's so emotional," the longtime Jupiter resident said during his onstage conversation with moderator and former Palm Beach Post books editor and Hollywood historian Scott Eyman.
The discussion included Reynolds' memories of his dad, Big Burt, the Riviera Beach police chief and a tough guy who frightened him "a lot," so imposing that even the future tough-guy actor thought twice about coming home after curfew. He told Eyman and the crowd that his father, a veteran of five major World War II battles, wasn't much impressed with his son's career until he got to meet "some of my friends" like Ossie Davis and Ricardo Montalban, a guy with such perfect movie star posture "he always made you feel like your back was broken."
Later, during a question-and-answer session, the aforementioned old girlfriend, Ann Lawlor Scurry of Singer Island, asked "Who was your best girl in high school?"
"Well," Reynolds said, "I can't see. But I have a feeling it was you." Later, while signing books for fans, the old friends were reunited briefly — "I got my first kiss from her," he said.
The conversation also covered other well-trod ground like his former relationship with the "very smart" Sally Field, who Reynolds is still good friends with, but with whom he was once "so in love with, it was a joke. She didn't get it."
"The love or the joke?" Eyman asked.
"Both," Reynolds answered, raising a famous eyebrow.
After the onstage appearance, Reynolds stayed and signed books and took pictures, in honor of his hometown friends from "the best place in the world," the ones who took him back after the awards and the parties, when your face no longer gets you a table. The ones who knew him then, and still do.
"You get your BS barometer handed to you very early down here," he said.