Burt Reynolds the man might be gone, but the version of him we know still lives on. When a celebrity passes, we’re subject to the same behaviour: a reminder of time passed.
This morning we lost Burt Reynolds, the person that America thinks it seems when it sucks its gut in. Back on more foreign shores, I overheard a greying widening individual crumpled into a hat honouring another go-fast dude, Ayrton Senna, listing the movies that Burt appeared in to a similarly shocked character of similar age.
Smokey and the Bandit, Cannonball Run, The Longest Yard.
.Not Burt, they agreed, folded by the trauma of an 82-year-old leaving them, one they never knew, nor met. Vale. Interestingly, we all exhibit this celebrity woe, when we feel the loss, despite us losing something that wasn’t real in the first place. We really didn’t know him at all, yet we mourn.
The man, the icon, the mustache — legendary actor Burt Reynolds passed away at 82 pic.twitter.com/ZKiSz7wSDZ
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) 6 September 2018
In the long timeline of Burt, we knew him for about a year. Of that year, the Burt we knew wasn’t him. He was playing a character. And yes, while The Bandit held many values that Burt did, it wasn’t him, unless Reynolds spent a lot of his free time smuggling elephants across state lines with Jerry Reed in tow.
Or in the Fernando Valley cornering dishwashers in dark corners of nightclubs asking them to produce their reproductive equipment.
Or as the musical sheriff in a Texan town where he regularly banged a brothel madam/punched on with Today/Tonight.
What we have, are memories. But they’re not real. They’re preserved under the plastic of Blu-Ray covers and the glass of the monitors we watch them on. We’re not remembering Burt, we’re remembering ourselves. The people we were when we watched Smokey & The Bandit. Those people who jumped over cop cars, or wish they could. We’re mourning those people we no longer are. We all get old and tired and change, but at least the Bandit is still outrunning Buford T. Justice.
We still have that.
Burt lived a long life, but one we were separate to. To him, we were a gleeful faceless mass, to us, he was the Bandit. He probably held us in the same regard: a remembered object, a curio of times passed, times when things were easier.
Roll on, Bandit.