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Jupiter - The Burt Reynolds Planet

Touring The Burt Reynolds and Friends Museum

By Julie Wiskirchen

When you think about celebrity museums, names like Roy Rogers, Elvis, and Liberace probably come to mind. One thing those stars all have in common is that they're dead. If you're like me, you might be surprised to know that the still-breathing Burt Reynolds has a museum dedicated to him in Jupiter, Florida, a town he has called home for quite a few years. If you find yourself in Jupiter, as I was for Cardinals Spring Training, this museum is definitely worth a stop. It's surreal, and you may feel like you're visiting another planet - a planet where a deity with false hair is worshipped.

According to the typo-ridden brochure, the town of Jupiter offered Burt an old bank building at the major junction of US 1 and Indiantown Rd for his museum "in recognition of his cultural contributions." The brochure states this is the largest celebrity museum in Florida. If anyone knows of any other celebrity museums in Florida, please let me know. I don't think there's a heck of a lot of competition.

The suggested donation for entrance is a reasonable $3. My dad and I were the only visitors when we arrived that Sunday morning, but as we browsed about 6 or 8 other visitors arrived. Upon entering, the first exhibits relate to Deliverance, a breakthrough film for Burt and probably his best work. There's a canoe and a jacket from the movie and autographed photos from castmates Ned Beatty and Jon Voight. An autograph from James Dickey, the author of Deliverance, assures Burt he was the only person the author pictured as Louis. This is the one movie where I find Burt to be sexy - something about the way he fills that wetsuit vest.

The museum could use more props and clothing items from Burt's films. Most films are only remembered by their movie posters. There is a Smokey and The Bandit display with a jacket, cowboy boots, and miniature Trans Am, but not much else. I would have loved to see props from Boogie Nights and Cannonball Run.

My favorite pieces were the paintings of Burt. In one painting, it appeared he was riding the range shirtless while carrying The Edgar Winter Dog. There was no explanation of this painting. Another painting showed Burt's floating head.

There was a display case full of badges and police memorabilia that reminded me of Elvis' collection at Graceland. One interesting item was a surrey that Dolly Parton had specially made for Burt after they made The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. I guess that's a gift for the celebrity who has everything.

The bulk of the collection is autographed photos of sports and entertainment personalities. Most of the greatest stars are in the collection: Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor (with flirty notes), Frank Sinatra, Dom Deluise. Some of the inscriptions were funny, such as Luke Perry writing, "Everything that works for me I learned from you." It was unclear if Burt collected all the photos while working with these folks, or if museum workers requested them on his behalf, but I suspect it was the latter. Many of the photos had been appended by Burt or his staff with little plaques that said "my dear friend." It seems that celebrities have more dear friends that any of us. Can you picture Burt and Charles Nelson Reilly going fishing together?

There was a wall of family photos including pictures of his parents and his son Quentin, but no pictures of Burt with his notable wives and ex-girlfriends such as Dinah Shore, Loni Anderson, Judy Carne. There was one trophy from the Virginia Slims tournament that ex-girlfriend Chris Evert had given him with the inscription "I won it for you." The ladies of Burt's life were only visible in the framed magazine covers that lined one wall like a border.

Burt's awards are on display, everything from his Emmy for Evening Shade to scads of People's Choice awards to a plaque from MADD thanking him for "script dialogue that discourages underage drinking." I suspect if we sent Burt the Ape Culture award for Best Hairy Chest, he would put it on display.

A screening area shows Burt-related programming. While we were there, his episode of Inside the Actor's Studio was playing but we did not stick around to hear his favorite and least favorite words.

It's hard to know what to take away from this museum. On the one hand, it's definitely a giant ego trip for Burt. On the other hand, I found it really fun to look at all the photos and peek into his life and remember the days when he was the biggest box office star in the world.

If you're a pop culture nut, it's definitely worth the trip. I don't care how you get there...by canoe or Trans Am or surrey...just get there, if you can.


-- March 11, 2007

Visited the Burt Museum or other celebrity museums? Tell us about it.

Visit the official site of The Burt Reynolds and Friends Museum.

Read our book review of Burt's book Hot Line: Letters I Get and Write and see risque photos of 70s Burt.



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