Reader Charlene Hood of Lowell contacted me last week asking about actor Burt Reynolds, wondering why she hasn't seen him in any recent projects.
"I'm wondering about his health and if that's the reason I never hear anything about him these days," Hood said.
Charlene, just like you, Reynolds, who will celebrate his 78th birthday on Feb. 11, remains a favorite of my parents. I grew up, along with my siblings, eagerly awaiting the release of the next "Smokey and the Bandit" movie, which starred Jackie Gleason, Jerry Reed and Sally Field.
Just as famous as Reynolds' film career, is the long list of famed ladies he's courted over the years from Field and Dinah Shore to Lucie Arnaz and Adrienne Barbeau. His two marriages (and divorces) were also to noted actresses: funny Judy Carne, now 74, of TV's "Laugh-In," from 1963 to 1965 and then Loni Anderson, now 68, from 1988 to 1993. He and Anderson share an adopted son, Quinton Anderson Reynolds, who is now 25.
I've interviewed Reynolds a few times in the past 20 years I've worked for The Times, but not recently. (When Reynolds did a weekend of Chicagoland appearances at Hollywood Boulevard Cinema Bar and Restaurant in Woodridge, Ill. in April 2011, I almost took my parents Chester and Peggy to meet him, but our plans changed.)
While his health woes have made the tabloids in recent years, Reynolds is still working, but selects his projects carefully.
Just last month, he made a guest appearance on the Discovery Channel cable reality show "Fast N' Loud," which features Richard Rawlings and Aaron Kaufman from the Dallas, Texas-based Gas Monkey Garage, as the duo searches for run-down cars to restore for profit. Reynolds appeared on the episode that aired Dec. 2 when the show's stars worked on a 1977 TransAm for a payment of $70,000 plus a potential $65,000 bonus. Joining Reynolds for the cameo was songwriter Paul Williams, who starred as Little Enos, the sidekick of Texas beer businessman character in the "Bandit" movies.
Reynolds' finances have also taken a hit in recent years. His popular Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre in Jupiter, Fla., the 440-seat theater he built in 1979, was operated until 1989 until Reynolds accrued some $4 million in debts and had to sell it. (Mention of the theater became a common punchline on the NBC series "The Golden Girls," since the show was set in Miami, with the characters casually making references like: "We have tickets Saturday for The Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre to see Ruth Buzzi starring in "Evita.")
Today, the theater, now called Maltz Jupiter Theatre, continues under new ownership.
Reynolds' name is also back in the news this week after reporter George Bennett of The Palm Beach Post in Florida wrote a story Monday that "the 153-acre Jupiter Farms Ranch where actor Burt Reynolds shot scenes for 'Smokey and the Bandit' and married actress Loni Anderson could become a development of 30 houses under a land-use change approved by Palm Beach County Commissioners after the property was sold during Reynolds' bankruptcy proceedings in the 1990s."