Imagine dancing on a stained glass floor featuring the face of Burt Reynolds.
Reynolds, one of the world’s biggest stars, opened a nightclub called “Burt’s Place” in 1977 in the heart of Atlanta. You could grab some dinner and a cocktail and dance the night away. We’re assuming the tunes heard were of the disco variety. After all, this was the same year of Saturday Night Fever.
Then there was Longest Yard in 1974. Burt Reynolds portrayed former NFL quarterback Paul “Wrecking” Crewe. He ended up in prison because he stole his girlfriend’s car and tried to speed away from police. And while in jail, Reynolds’ character recruited prisoners to play football against the guards. It wasn’t a stretch for Reynolds to play a quarterback. After all, he played running back for Florida State.
Then came Smokey and the Bandit, with Burt Reynolds driving a black Trans Am. He was Bo Darville, the “Bandit,” who prided himself at out-running the cops. He combined with Cleedus “Snowman” Snow as the best pair of bootleggers in the south.
The two of them were tasked with bringing back 400 cases of Coors beer from Texas to Atlanta. The movie ranked No. 2 on the worldwide money list for 1977. The only film to beat it was Star Wars.
The movie came out in May 1977, the same time Burt Reynolds opened “Burt’s Place” in Atlanta. But why did Reynolds choose Atlanta for a nightclub? After all, he was a good Florida boy. It’s because Georgia was the site of some of Reynold’s best movies, from Smokey and the Bandit, to Longest Yard to Deliverance.
Those who danced at “Burt’s Place” said that Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLouise would show up, unannounced, to enjoy some dinner and drinks and maybe a dance or two. They’d entertain the guests with a variety of stories. You know both of them had plenty to tell.
But, “Burt’s Place” didn’t thrive, even though it featured the name of one of the most famous men in the world. Reynolds lived a very large life. According to Vanity Fair, he made $10 million a year at his peak.
He bought a jet, a helicopter and several custom-made cars, including the Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am. There was plenty of real estate, with estates in Georgia, Beverly Hills and Malibu and a vacation home in North Carolina. Vanity Fair also reported that Reynolds owned about $150,000 in toupees.
But a lot of investments were like “Burt’s Place.” He owned a piece of the Tampa Bay Bandits in the USFL, but the league went belly up. And his giant dinner theater in Jupiter, Fla, also struggled. Plus, Reynolds and a business partner lost millions in a couple of restaurant chains.