Burt Reynolds had athleticism and great looks but died a wasted and disheveled man

Dr. Gabe Mirkin

Burt Reynolds was a famous film and television star, producer, and director who had it all.  He was extremely good looking, incredibly popular with the ladies, a gifted movie star who could be absolutely hilarious,  a college scholarship athlete who was a potential All-American, and a much sought-after actor who became fabulously wealthy.  

Yet when he died of a heart attack at age 82, he was a wasted and disheveled man with complete loss of muscle mass, weighing barely 100 pounds and unable to walk without full support.  He suffered from a lifetime of multiple and sometimes combative relationships with women, none of which ever became permanent.  He was a gifted athlete who appeared destined for professional football, but in college he suffered several injuries that prevented him from playing, let alone becoming an All-American.  He made a series of bad investments and poor judgments, and had a history of spending way beyond his means which eventually led to his filing for bankruptcy.  He was guilty of behaviors that were harmful to his health, including alcohol, drugs, smoking, a typical Western American diet and — in his later years — lack of exercise.

Burt Reynolds

Promising Beginnings

Reynolds was the son of an army veteran who became a local chief of police.  He was extremely gifted as a 5′ 11″, 170-pound fullback on his high school football team, and was All-State and All-Southern while just in the 10th grade.  He received a full scholarship to Florida State University and expected to be an All-American, but in his first game as a sophomore, he damaged his knee, and soon afterwards got into a traffic accident that almost killed him.  Doctors had to remove his spleen to prevent him from bleeding to death, and his other knee was damaged.  He did return to playing football, but he quickly realized that his injuries prevented him from achieving the success that everyone had predicted for him.   

He enrolled in Palm Beach Junior College and took an English course in which he had to read Shakespeare in front of the class.  His instructor was so impressed that he encouraged Reynolds to try out for a play that he was producing. Not only did Reynolds become the lead actor in the play, he won the 1956 Florida State Drama Award for that performance.  The award included a scholarship to the Hyde Park Playhouse in  New York, and from there he progressed to television shows and Hollywood stardom.  To support himself along the way, he waited on tables, washed dishes, drove a delivery truck and worked as a bouncer at night clubs.  

The Ladies Loved Him

At age 27 he married British actress Judy Carne, but the marriage lasted only two years.  At age 36 he began a five-year relationship with Dinah Shore, who was twenty years his senior.  From ages 41 to 46, he had a relationship with his Smokey and the Bandit co-star, Sally Field, “the love of my life.” From 52 to 57, he was married to singer Loni Anderson, but that marriage was incredibly destructive to both of them, and their divorce was horribly expensive and bitter.  At that time, he was taking Percodan for pain, Valium for anxiety and Compazine to calm him down.  She claimed he beat her, which he denied.  At age 69, his ten-year romance with Pam Seals ended in lawsuits that were settled out of court.

Bankruptcy after Great Wealth

He was the most popular Hollywood film star in the 1970s and 1980s, and made a lot of money from his films.  He earned $4,000,000 for City Heat, $10,000,000 for Cannonball Run I and II, and so forth. He owned part of the Tampa Bay Bandits of the United States Football League that went bankrupt after three seasons, an auto-racing team, a NASCAR Winston Cup team, and a private theater in Jupiter, Florida.  At various times, he owned a huge estate in Hobe Sound, the Burt Reynolds Ranch, where Smokey and the Bandit was filmed, and a 153-acre property in Palm Beach that was eventually sold and subdivided. 

In 1996, Reynolds filed for bankruptcy, caused by his extravagant lifestyle, his divorce from Loni Anderson, and multiple investment failures including the failure of his Florida restaurant chains. At that time, he owed his toupee maker $121,000.  His last home had a luxury pool, private beach, boat dock, movie theater, tennis court, helicopter landing, hair salon and a private jet. Bank of America claimed that Reynolds has made no payments on the home’s mortgage since October 2010.   A friend bought it and allowed Reynolds to continue to live there until the time of his death.

His Health Issues

He was so gifted athletically that he was one of the few Hollywood actors who wanted to do his own stunt scenes.  This proved disastrous when, in a scene where he was supposed to get hit with a balsa wood break-apart chair, he was instead hit with a real chair that broke his jaw in several places.  He lost 30 pounds because he couldn’t eat and was out of movies for two years, during which he was virtually bedridden. His pain was so severe that he took medications all the time and became addicted, which required a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.    

At age 73 (2009), he underwent back surgery to treat pain that was so severe that he had to take painkillers just to be able to get out of bed in the morning, and then he had to go back into rehab to get off the medications.  

At age 74 (2010), he had a quintuple heart bypass surgery to treat almost completely-blocked arteries leading to his heart.  News reports said that he also looked like he was suffering from  Parkinson’s disease, which could explain his hand tremors, lack of facial expression and stiffness in his joints.   

At age 79 (Dec 16, 2015), while appearing on the Jonathan Ross Show, he passed out from a possible heart attack.  At age 82, he was no longer able to walk unassisted and required 24-hour-a day nursing care.  On September 6, 2018, he died of a heart attack.

My Recommendations  for Heart Attack Prevention

Heart attacks can be caused by inflammation, anything that turns on your immunity and keeps it on.  Your own immunity is supposed to attack and kill germs when they try to enter your cells.  However, if your immunity stays on all the time, it attacks you to increase your risk for heart attacks, cancers, diabetes and premature death.  Your immunity turns on whenever you have an infection or you have damaged tissue.  Exactly the same cells and cytokines come out both for tissue repair and to protect you from infections. 

Heart attack prevention includes doing everything you can to avoid tissue damage.  Your tissues are damaged by alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs, certain pain medications, the typical Western diet, lack of exercise and so forth.  See my full report on Heart Attack Prevention  

Dr. Gabe Mirkin is a Villager. Learn more at www.drmirkin.com

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