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How Burt Reynolds saved my Life in 10 Easy Steps

A lot of people dismiss Burt Reynolds these days as a relic of the 1970's. They treat him like a living caricature, as the punchline to some joke which never stops being funny. Well I, for one, want to let you know about the real Burt Reynolds. The Burt who back in 1977, the year of my birth, set in motion a chain of events which would someday save my very life.

I'll never forget what you did, Burt. Even if everyone else has.

1 Burt Reynolds turns down the role of Han Solo in the film Star Wars (1977), preferring instead to take a gamble on the lead role in a competing project, Akira Kurosawa's Flash Gordon.*

I've got your back, friend.

2 On the set of Star Wars, Harrison Ford shows Carrie Fisher how to make paper. She is immediately hooked and starts telling all of her friends about it.

3 The paper-making craze of the late 70's causes an increased demand for lumber, but a lower demand for actual processed paper.

4 Massive paper factory in Franklin, Virginia lays off 100 workers.

5 Two former employees, George Daly and Purnell Burnham, open a small antique mart, Burnham Daly, on US 460.

6 I buy a small music box from the antique mart in 1994. It plays Taps.

7 I bring the music box with me to college, but end up selling it for books, some used.

8 One of those used books, Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film, has inside it a coupon for a free Subway sub.

9 The closest Subway is on 15th Street, so I head to the Foggy Bottom Metro Station, with the intention of getting off at Farragut West.

10 While waiting for the Metro on a crowded platform, I stumble and almost fall into the path of an oncoming train when someone grabs my arm and pulls me back to safety. I turn to look and it's Burt Reynolds. He looks me up and down, smiles slyly and says, "Full circle, huh kid?" Then he turns and walks back into the crowd.

I never did get a chance to thank him.

*Interestingly, when Kurosawa found out Reynolds was not Asian, he suspiciously lost all interest in the project and went on to make Kagemusha instead. (An anti-Burt conspiracy? There may be more to it than you think.)

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Copyright © 2005-2013 Graham Cranfield