The Bandit is Gone . . . And Not Just That

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Burt Reynolds is gone and with him a different America.

He was in his early 40s when Smokey and the Bandit appeared back in 1977 – at first, regionally. The flick was meant for Southern audiences but grabbed traction and quickly became a national sensation on par with Jaws and Star Wars in terms not only of the money it made but the effect it had on an entire generation of Americans.

Me among them.

I was just a kid, years away from being even big enough to drive let alone legally drive but when I saw that movie I knew I wanted to drive.

And what.

The what being a Pontiac Trans Am, like the one Burt drove in the movie. A speedy car – purchased by Burt’s character to clear a path for the big rig full of “bootleg” Coors beer that he bet Big Enos Burdette $80,000 he and his partner (played by Jerry Reed) could drive down to Texarkana, TX to pick up and then drive back to Atlanta with in 28 hours . . .  by any means necessary.

What follows is 90 minutes of gear-jamming, cop-flummoxing, tire-squealing, sideways-driving that would almost certainly be considered “terrorism” today.

The Bandit broke every speed law on the books, magnificently. The heroic Trans-Am jumped bridges, assaulted the  asphalt and made armed government workers look like the inept and greedy fools everyone knew them to be.

Jackie Gleason’s Buford T. Justice is both an oaf and a bully but in those bygone days, affronting his Authority – as the Bandit did, serially, across several state lines – was not a capital offense.

Buford T. Justice points his finger – but never his gun – at the Bandit. He did not squeal about his saaaaaaafety. Wasn’t all Hut! Hut! Hutted! up in tacticool gear, either. Had he actually caught up with the Bandit, the worst that would have happened to him would have been a really big ticket.

It was all good fun and it reflected the America of that time. Which was the time of the Drive 55 National Maximum Speed Limit, imposed by Richard Nixon ostensibly as a fuel conservation measure (to combat the “energy crisis” of the early-mid 1970s) but which was enforced as an offense against saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety, notwithstanding that faster speeds (most highways had previously been posted 70-75) had been legal and one presumes also saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafe.

The NMSL codified the cynicism of speed enforcement; everyone knew it was the American equivalent of the Mexican mordita – the bribe you give Mexican cops to leave you alone – but without the honesty. A Mexican cop will leave you alone after you give him $20 but an American one wants more than just your money. He is an unofficial agent of the insurance mafia, for one – and of course also a kind of second-tier tax collector for the state. He usually won’t directly take your money; that would be far too above-board.

Instead, he will pretend he is performing some sort of public service by mulcting you.

Audiences in ’77 got this. The Bandit was the hero of the movie; everyone was rooting for him. If someone had whined that his driving was “reckless” or “unsafe,” they’d have received a beating, probably. Nobody buckled up unless they felt like it. They didn’t have to worry about being harassed and collected if they didn’t feel like it. The black and gold Trans-Am lacked air bags but had tire-frying style.

A better America existed then.

One which Burt gave expression to, mirrored. An America which is – tragically – long gone. Today’s America gave a North Korean-style send-off to a goitered warmongering career criminal who did more harm to this country and its people (leaving aside the harm done to other countries and their people) than all of Burt’s burnouts could ever have done.

Today’s uglified America hardly deigned to notice Burt’s passing.

It is a reflection of the sickness of this America.

Burt spent a lifetime entertaining people, not hurting them. He earned money – as opposed to using force to take it from people. He was, according to most accounts, a mensch. A good dude. He sure as hell knew how to show us all how to have a good time.

He’ll be missed – by those who remember.

. . .

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  1. That trans am was cool.Love the t-tops – the hopped up motor and the four square headlight look. One of the headlights is out though in the night scenes. My 86 mustang lx has that look.

    • I once saw a pic of a scene being done where the T/A “jumps” a river with no bridge. They destroyed a couple cars and then called for “backup” at which some time later a car hauler showed up with 10 more copies or so. It was said they used them all.

      I can still see the old Charger in the opening credits of The DOH as it was contacting the ground and you could see the front end starting to warp. There was a lot with more than 200 of those ruined Chargers at one time on some movie property.

  2. Movies & TV nowadays will never show a car going over 15mph. They just cut scene the cr** out of it. Pathetic. The world needs another good car movie right about now, with real actual video (not 3-frame-scenes pasted together) and cars actually going fast. If some company would make a movie like that, it’d be a big success.

      • I tried to get an organization going before the Internet called Drunk Drivers Against Mothers. Plenty people wanted to join but we couldn’t get any press, fuckin yankees.

        Ever noticed yankees have no intestinal fortitude? Anything a yankee supports is going to go against freedom.

    • Speaking of speed in car movies, it’s something we never really see. I guess insurance is the big bugaboo and having to move often to get a different background is another. Unless it’s on the prairie, a car doing 140 or so isn’t in sight very long in either direction although I’d love to see a few scenes like that.

      Back in the day I’d do a tune-up nearly every Sat. on the old Malibu. Early Sunday morning I’d drop the dumps and go away from town on the RM road where we lived. There were some good straights and a lot of 90 degree curves that weren’t blind so you could use every inch of pavement. It irked hell out of my mother since everybody in town could hear the engine from several miles away.

      I came home one day to find my dad mowing the yard, a chore I mostly did. He had a sweeper for the cut grass he’d drag around but it didn’t work well on his long, concrete driveway. I get there and the driveway is covered in cut grass and he was about to sweep it. I dropped the dumps and backed out and the driveway was clean. He was sporting a big smile. He never said anything to me about my car or driving since he loved to drive that car and he’d get the good out of it too. Anything you put your foot into and the back tries to pass the front is fun…..for almost anyone.

  3. I grew up watching all of those movies. Burt was just too cool. His characters all knew how to have fun. He seemed to age gracefully until around the late 90’s. I don’t know exactly when it was, but at some point something happened to his face. I don’t like to think about him after that. I prefer to remember the Gator Mcklusky Burt Reynolds. From what I understand, Smokey and the Bandit made more money than Star Wars. He was the biggest grossing star for five years, and in the top ten for a decade which is kind of surprising considering that he was admittedly not much of an actor. He was just documenting how to have fun which is something a lot of people nowadays don’t know how to do anymore.

    • Yesterday the wife and I were watching 3,000 Miles to Graceland and when it was over watched some of the scenes not in the movie. Right in the middle of all this there’s a brief out take from Smokey and the Bandit with Sally Fields is sitting backward on her knees in the passenger seat facing back and Mr. Burt is standing next to the driver’s seat looking back. It was just short enough to illicit a chuckle from me and make a minor point to those who “got it” of the connection between the two movies.

      We love DVD’s since they often have much more than the theatre movie and often have another disc with such as the Director’s cut…which might be another hour of the same movie. We really enjoy Walk Hard, The Dewey Cox Story since it has two discs and one has all sorts of scenes that weren’t in the final cut(and much better for the most part)and an entire version of the complete songs done in the movie. We can watch it for several hours since there’s so much that couldn’t be included into the commercially played movie. An acapello version of “My Girl” by the present day Temptations is a killer as is the Walk Hard version done by Jewel, Jackson Browne and our own Lyle Lovett along with a fictional version with Little Nuttzack in a “rap” version that’s really entertaining.

    • Burt Reynolds got a broken jaw from a scene in maybe Sharkys Machine? It caused him years of tmj pain and difficulty eating and weight loss. He was offered the role of Han Solo in the original Star Wars and turned it down. He was the biggest movie star in the world at that time. I would never want to compete with a young Burt Reynolds for a girl at the bar for sure. I’m also a bit surprised there wasnt more recognition of his passing.

  4. In the late 1970s and early 80s I lived for nearly 7 years without any form of valid government ID or drivers license. I was in my early 20s and I had moved across the country without thinking to get a copy of my birth certificate before I left my State of birth. Without that document, I couldn’t get any other forms of ID so I decided to live without them. I ran a small roofing business, drove a pickup truck loaded with tools and ladders. I even drove trucks for a local branch of a national moving company. I really wasn’t much inconvenienced by not having an ID. Folks at the local banks in my small town cashed checks for me just based on having seen me around town. The manager of the local grocery store also would cash just about anything I would put in front of him. And on those occasions when I did get pulled over by the police, I showed them an old drivers license from another state that had expired years earlier. And without exception, I was admonished and warned to get myself a valid license and then I was sent on my way. As best I can figure it, in those days adults were presumed to be able to drive and the driver’s license was just considered a formality. They wanted you to get one, but not having one was not considered an absolute bar against driving. How far we have come from those times. The driver’s license is now a national ID card tied to the social security number, which in turn is the number that links all of your information to your master surveillance file in the bowels of some shadowy government agency. Today if you are stopped while driving without a Drivers license you will be charged with misdemeanor that carries jail time, for which you will a be arrested and your car will be seized and towed to an impound yard. And worst of all most of my fellow Americans are OK with that.

    • Matt, lemme give you an idea of what not having a CDL license will get you. I’m copying off the letter from the state of Texas notifying me I no longer had a CDL since I had failed to get my DOT license renewed.

      I did get my DOT license renewed but as usual, the goddam state website was down (common)for so long the doctor forgot to keep trying to post it.

      Bear in mind this DOT physical license was for interstate driving but they took away my Texas license completely even though I am what is known as Grandfathered In, since I’ve had a Class A CDL since 1968,giving you a bye for a medical card.

      They say they have reviewed my driver record and determined my medical certificate or variance has been expired for more than 60 days and I have been downgraded to a non-commercial license.

      YOU HAVE LOST YOUR YOUR “PRIVILEGE” TO DRIVE A COMMERCIAL MOTOR VEHICLE. Driving a commercial motor vehicle with an invalid license can result in arrest, criminal penalties, and further suspension or disqualification. Additional administrative penalties, such as surcharges, may also be applied.

      Then it continues in this vein and gives a website and phone number I can call to see how bad $$$ they’re going to break it off up my àss.

      I had to go to an overloaded DPS location, fill out a bunch of paperwork and show them my current, valid medical card at which point I found out I had an outstanding ticket for over 2 years I was unaware of.

      Since not having certain documents in your commercial vehicle results in a fine to the driver and not the owner of the vehicle, I’m sorta, like every other commercial driver, up shit creek….and since it was a hefty fine since some dickweed had removed the paperwork from that truck, I was up that creek without a paddle.

      Tail tucked, I left and informed my former employer of the situation, a very good thing for me we are all friends since I’ve known employers who have left fines totalling thousands of dollars to not pay them and leaving a driver without a license nor the ability to pay said fine, in effect, leaving them unemployable.

      I was unaware of that fine as was the company since there were several charges on this long ticket that had been paid. So why had the employer missed one? Because of a crooked county. Why had I not been informed? Once again, because of an incompetent an/or crooked county.

      Had I been stopped again, that outstanding ticket would have insured me of more problems and greater fines,probably jail time If in a commercial vehicle, lawyers fees and a loss of license, time, money and probable termination from the current employer insuring another great payday for everyone involved….but me.

      But this is how the game is rigged even though I’ve had DOT officers express their opinion that it shouldn’t be that way.

      More time passes and more money is paid and more money is lost to nonemployment. Then I have to repeat the process, costing ME time, fuel and fees to restore a license I now see with an evergrowing dubiousness of any sort of legality the state assumes it has.

      I could get into commercial fishing and not have enough fish heads for this little shitty.

      I’ll amend my rant of fuck the poleeze several times to add fuck the state….and all its willing participants.

      BTW, drivers don’t want illegal vehicles but commonly have to accept them to make a living.

      • I didn’t know such a thing as a CDL even existed in 1968 ???????

        In Colorado, there was a regular drivers license and a “chauffeur license” which you needed to drive anything for hire. The written test (none for driving) was all about heavy and large vehicles but I got mine to drive cars for a corporation. As long as you owned a truck, just a regular DL was fine up until some time in the late 1980s. My GMC log truck was under the weight limit (at least in my opinion – nobody ever stopped me to get it weighed and it had regular plates not GTM so didn’t have to stop at weigh stations) for the new CDL so I never got one.

        The big insurance scam in 1987 was what put me out of business.

        • One thing I liked about Co. back in the day was its lack of govt. and lax laws, esp. compared to Tx.

          I recall open carry being the norm there till sometime after RR got that badass gun law passed in Ca. and then other states began to join in even if there were no upside, which there never really was. An armed society is a polite one.

          Don’t know when they passed logging laws in Tx., probably somewhere in the late 60’s. The only way I could avoid them in ’72 was to haul ag products….which I already did. I leased out my truck to haul oilfield equipment interstate in ’74 and had to start logging which I hated but it was better than the digital log now. Back then we all carried our REAL log book in an addressed, stamped envelope you closed with a steel clip and even the DPS or Feds didn’t jack with the USPS.
          Was that GMC a 9500?

          Last time I turned in paper logs I took everyone’s in the company in. I told the women there they were reading some of the finest fiction ever written. They got a kick out of it and said “Yeah, we call them Liars books”. I got a kick out of that.

          • Ha – no! It was just a piddly C-60 with a 305 v6. I had it set up as a logging semi with an army trailer. Mostly growling along in 2nd gear over a 12K’ gravel pass over the continental divide. But double-clutching is still double-clutching, right? Also had a boom truck with a 235-6 that back then I just drove around on FS and private roads without current plates. Don’t think I ever got it over 35mph.

            Open carry is still the law in CO but people are really pissy about it. I hate going down there and I refuse to ask permission when I can carry however I want in 99% of Montana. But hell I only go to town a few times a year.

            • Anonymous, we used to go to the south Texas grain harvest every year. The MO was to haul as much as you could. I asked my uncle how much to load and he said “Till it runs over the sides”….so that’s what I did.

              Everybody ran as much as their trailer could hold, really big overloads. There was a guy who everybody knew who had a C 60 with a tag axle and a Hobbs grain trailer with double hoppers with slides removed so he was wayyyy overloaded. He had a 427 truck block engine he’d built.
              I had my Detroit 6 71 wound up(turned up, marine injectors)and hauling ass. We’d loaded in El Campo on 59 headed to Houston. I saw these headlight coming up on my left…fast. I thought it was my buddy in his Mack with aluminum frame and a big dog 8V 71 T….but no, it was the guy with the 427 and he was hauling ass. Somebody hollered on the radio, You guys get out of the way and let the big dog go on. It was funny as hell since he was blowing off big Cummins, Detroits and Cat’s , leaving us watching him disappear. It was one hell of a strong truck. I didn’t see him again for another day or two since he was so far ahead in line to unload we were in different zip codes. It was another one of those “Take nothing for granted moments”. My uncle and another friend were laughing like hell watching him go by.

              I drove many C 60’s with 292’s, 409’s and 350 tall block truck engines. Those guys were clearing a lot of money. One of the stoutest I drove was a 292 inline six truck engine. It died one Sunday afternoon with me driving and some idiot loading a fire bale of cotton on . I pulled over and tried to kick the bales off but the fire was too intense. I got to watch from a distance, since I’d burned my arms trying to get the fire bale off, the 300 gallons of gasoline I’d just fueled up with blow and toast the whole rig. It burned for a week.

              An oilfield guy stopped and administered first aid to me but I barely noticed. When you’re a kid you take that hard. But I drove more C 60s after that and once got stopped by a DPS occifer I knew well. He walked around and we called each other by first name. He said he was called out for a “suspicious” vehicle. He didn’t see anything suspicious except a long-haired cowboy driving a big rig(but he didn’t say that) since we lived 4 blocks from each other. I don’t explain it, just report it ha ha.

              Never underestimate a C 60.

              • One of my biggest disappointments is never having owned a Chevy 292-6. But I did do an in-frame on one, once!

                That 305 v6 was a hell of an engine if you kept the RPMs down. Somebody before me ground the valves down too much and I got the pleasure of R&Ring both heads, but not at the same time. Easy engine to work on: it was basically two inline threes side by side.

                That 1965 GMC just didn’t have enough gears. I loaded it way over GVW with the trailer and they didn’t provide a GCVW back then. I traded everything off after I couldn’t afford insurance anymore, and I heard later it got burned up in a forest fire (including my self-built hydraulic log loader).

    • Hi Matt,

      We’re about the same age, so I can “amen” all of that. Here’s a True Story from circa 1987:

      One of my friends came over to the townhouse where I lived with a bunch of other young guys. He had a crapped out 1970 Chevelle, but it was fast. Anyhow, he came by to take us for a ride because he’d just added a new intake or something to the car.

      Now, this 1987 – I reiterate – and he had a can of beer in his hand as we left the parking lot, with him driving.

      Once out on the main road – a nice straight stretch, about half a mile long – he lines up the Chevelle, power brakes it and launches it hard (and sideways) just as a cop emerges from the sidestreet up ahead. We get pulled over. The cop gives my friend a verbal dressing down for the burnout and then tells me to drive the car home.

      That’s it.

      Not Hut! Hut! Hut! No DWI arrest. Not even a ticket.

      It was 1987…

      • And I remember going on my first trip to the Brickyard in 1970 with some friends from school. I provided the car, they provided the beer. Got drunk, and headed home fro a long day when a cop started following us. We stayed real quiet and kept to the speed limit until 4 minutes later he turned away. We were all still totally drunk. And you know what, nothing happened to any of us. Scares me to think what would happen to us today if the mad dogs had pulled us over.

        • Exactly Joeallen,
          The older baby boomers enjoyed an immense amount of freedom to party and to enjoy such things like a six pack of beer on the way home from work, yet they slammed that door shut right behind themselves by supporting M.A.D.D law proposals once they got just a little bit older! Drunk driving is indeed very dangerous, but better solutions for handling the drunks who caused the crash were and are available! Further, any accident that happens is always blamed upon the person who was drinking, whether justly or unjustly. Children seeing older siblings and peers effectively becoming slaves to the victims for a number of years until their debts were paid off would avoid irresponsible driving like the plague!

          • DUI is a cash cow for states. Texas has that thing where DUI accostees have to pay some horrendous amount of money to the state which goes to horspitals, housing some of the greediest fuckers ever known to man.

            The Texas Reform movement is trying to do away with this onus that leaves at least, 1.5 Million Texas drivers unable to drive just because they can’t make those payments or pay off the courts for some obsequious amount of money for shit like no DL or out of date tags.

            Go to if you don’t believe me. They have the stats for it.

            For years, and not now for reasons I understand perfectly, they had road signs in Tx. that said DWI, You can’t Afford It!. No shit, very few could afford it. I was once the only(sic)person sober and left a bar in a Bapdis county with a DPS trooper whose wife was the chairman of the local MADD chapter.

            I had a couple women who would scream for me to stop(20m mph down a dirt road to the highway from a bar) which I did a couple times before reading them the riot act. Screaming from the back seat ain’t cool and is uncalled for…..esp. when they’re just screaming to be screaming. Don’t scream around me, it’s liable to come back to you with no sound except a thud.

            So we get on the highway, and due to the car(new Marquis)looking like it had been in a gangbang shootout via a farm implement known as a rotary hoe that left half inch holes across the trunk. Red spotlight comes on behind me and I knew exactly what the pig would say and he said it exactly as I knew he would ‘The reason I stopped you was because you were weaving”. Trying to be on my best manners I didn’t say bullshit but was close to it. I had a couple J’s with me in my hatband and when the DPS started trying to clear out enough room in the back seat of a Mustang, I flicked them into the dark. He turned to me real fast and I was just standing there(beside a deputy sheriff) and continued to be cool(it was easy, maybe 20 degrees at the time). So we finally get enough room for me in the back seat. I had been sleeping before this all happened but everyone else in the car was toasted, including the wife. So he has My Wife, who is drunk, drive the car I was driving and puts me in the back seat uncuffed(miracles happen)to take me to the DPS station for a breathalyzer.

            This was an unusual case for me since I had been sleeping all evening and everyone else was toasted.

            After calling a lawyer, and back then, not having my license suspended or something worse, I spent the night in jail talking to the jailer whose son had been screwed over similarly, just different substances. We talked for hours since I was completely sober.

            I asked her if I seemed drunk and she she said “No, not at all although your pupils are small”. Hell, my pupils are always small due to a condition(genetic) of taking in too much light.

            In the end I was informed the trooper, whose wife was the head of the local MADD chapter had such a bad rap his testimony wasn’t good in the local court….or any other court.

            I won’t say I haven’t been “legally” drunk and driven or simply plastered and driven but that’s the only time I was ever stopped…..the only sober person in a car…..leaving a honky tonk at closing time with out of county plates.

            I was stoned…and would be right now if I didn’t drive a truck for a living. But that’s another story. I do intend to order some CBD oil to regain health I don’t have in abundance because my body in my old age, doesn’t produce CBD as it once did.

            I still don’t see drunk driving(impaired driving) except for the people who populate the highways and byways who can’t drive a nail up their ass with a helping hand….and their main drug is HFCS and too much junk food.

            • “out of county plates.”

              I always figured states that put the counties on plates did so in order to make it easier for cops to decide who to harass and rob.

              • BrentP, you probably know “out of county” plates are only identified by the letters (normally)before the numbers on the plate.

                Tx. accomplished the “out of county” thing by simply having the first letters of the plate different from other counties.

                It’s not difficult to understand why they do this since the general public has no clue.

                There’s a scene in No Country For Old Men when the rural shopkeeper directs to the badass if they’d had any rain “up your way” since he knew the codes for a great deal of counties. Chigur replies “What business is it of yours where I’m from?”.

                This is the way it works here, just so the piggos can target non-county residents and not stir up a hornet’s nest. It works the same way in many other states.

                I could write a book on how this is done and why(people get pissed off when it’s obvious certain people are being targeted).

                Maybe I should write a book on it. For sure YT wouldn’t publish it and you wouldn’t see it on those other “social media” sites.

                It wouldn’t take long for the SJW’s to come out in force and argue for something they don’t believe in in the first place….which has always baffled me.

                • Some states actually print the county name on the plate. Seen it many times.

                  In Illinois the first two digits are just digits. They show when a plate was assigned not where.

                  All one needs to do these days is frame the government misdoings as a form of racism and they won’t be censored. They are only censored if they are outside the proper frame.

                • Out of county (and out of state) is a huge revenue source for many PD’s. Indiana for example has the first two numbers for what county it is. In the bigger counties, its even tied to a town.

                  It’s done because many people in my county (lake) will register their cars at their summer places to avoid the smog test and to get lower (rural) insurance rates.

                  Local PD’s will look through large apartment complexes without garages and streets in residential areas for out of state plates, preying on new transfers. You only have 60 days to get Indiana plates. And there really is nothing stopping a hero from ticketing you before that date too.

                  So if you don’t have a garage at your new place, you have to make sure you don’t park regularly in the same place. Because some hero will get used to seeing your car, (I am guessing they take pics too) and you will get ticketed at some point. They really don’t have much to do, so it’s hard to stay off the radar unless your car has an indoor or out of sight parking place.

                  When I moved to Indiana, my neighbors were kind enough to fill me in on that scam. I still had nine months left on my Illinois plates and I planned on keeping it till it expired. So I had to make sure the car was in the garage at night.

                  It would be helpful if they would credit unused time on a plate, but of course they don’t………Uncle doesn’t work like that ever.

          • The way they manipulate the numbers is calling collisions “alcohol related”. Let’s say there’s a guy who had a couple drinks. He’s stopped at a red signal and some woman too busy texting rams the back of his car. That’s “alcohol related”. Now let’s say someone doesn’t drink but his friends do. This someone, who has not consumed a bit of alcohol drives through a green signal and is tboned by someone who fell asleep at the wheel. That’s “alcohol related”.

            There’s a very similar practice with “speed related” which essentially means someone was moving.

            So that’s how it works. And that’s how I learned to distrust every stat used to rule over us. They are all manipulated.

            • It’s worse than that. If there’s an accident and any container of an alcoholic beverage is in a vehicle involved, no matter if it’s empty, the old “alcohol related ” moniker is noted. It can be a faded beer can in the bed of a pickup. Ei

          • Hi Brian!

            What I call Cloverism is essentially Yankee-ism, which is essentially Puritanism – the disease of mind that’s afflicted this country since it wasn’t even a country. There was a tug in the other direction – briefly – in the South, which was largely peopled by folks with a different fundamental mindset. These were the so-called Cavaliers and their descendants. They had their flaws, of course – but they weren’t as unctuously moralizing and busybody-ish as the Northern Puritan-Clovers, who always had to have a Cause.

            Slavery was just the Cause of the moment; the excuse for imposing the consolidated “Union” upon the South. The unctuous moralizing and busybodyism waxed rather than waned after the war (Mencken called them uplifters) and is nose-rankling rancid today.

            I have concluded that there are two options:

            One, separation.

            Two, annihilation.

            It cannot be otherwise because people who aren’t Clovers cannot co-exist with those who are, except as their slaves – to whatever degree.

  5. I used to live right down the road from his ranch in Jupiter Farms FL.

    I read that it is going to get paved over for 160 condo units selling for a million plus.

    Eric is right. Even by so many many measures of cold and hard numbers, we’re better off now, this is Ugly AmeriKa, and ultimately we are much worse off for what we have lost.

    The authoritarians controllers figured out that all you need to do to have the population under total control and surveillance is make sure they plenty of bright shiny things to distract them.

    It’s not just middle aged grousing…things really were better then.

  6. He was the last real movie star. Any early Burt Reynolds film would give a clover an aneurysm.

    Things have changed dramatically since the 70s. It wouldn’t seem natural to make a film like that in today’s world. Just like with the awful, overwrought remake of Death Wish. Mass surveillance has made vigilantism nearly impossible.

      • And away we go….

        I watched a lot of old TV as a kid. Including Jackie Gleason’s various shows that were rerun. I can’t even watch 99.9% of modern TV sitcoms and most other shows because it’s just bad rehashes of the classics. But there is one show that has been very good, “Counterpart”. It’s a sci-fi spy story.

  7. Great article, Eric.

    I was never big on pop culture, so I never saw “Smokey” back then. But I couldn’t miss the influence of it on everything else. Saw plenty of “Dukes of Hazzard” shows as a kid… remember Johnny Cash’s “One Piece at a Time” when it was #1… basically in the same vein.

    In some ways, it’s hard to think of the 1970s as the “good ol’ days.” I vividly remember how the Carter years sucked, the hated 55 mph speed limit, the Iran hostage crisis, endless factory closings and layoffs, and … (gag) disco. Cars from about 1975 to 1985 really, really sucked. Remember the Vega? The Chevette??? Yeah.

    But, in may ways, they WERE the good ol’ days. Running the cops didn’t get you 20 years as a “terrorist.” There weren’t security cameras EVERYWHERE. The government didn’t monitor everywhere you went and everyone you talked to on your iphone, because you didn’t have one. Cops didn’t have military body armor, M4s and MRAPs.

    Most of all, the culture was distinctly AMERICAN, and — dare I say it? — white. It was a country of 200 million, not 320 million. It didn’t have 50 million foreign-born people, mostly from Third World countries, voting for government welfare. It didn’t have 15 million illegals, with the full support of half the political establishment, and all of the media. And New York and San Francisco were not considered the centers of the universe, superior to filthy swine in flyover country, who sought to outlaw fossil-fuel Trans Ams and force everyone to take public transportation or ride a bicycle like Mao’s China. Universities were not yet left-wing indoctrination camps, but places where you could actually debate things and have free speech. Men still married women, and they worked on cars on Saturday afternoons.

    Yeah… the Seventies weren’t that great, but in many ways, they were a hell of a lot better than today.

    • Yeah, the economy was “bad” back then, but a healthy young man willing to work could always find a job. You could get pissed off and quit knowing you could be working again somewhere else in a few days.

  8. If you think getting rid of guns will make you safer, why not support getting rid of illegal immigrants?

    If you think getting rid of illegal immigrants will make you safer, why not support getting rid of guns?

    • Perhaps it never occurred to YOU that illegal aliens are already ILLEGAL ???

      And I already saved my life once with a gun, so no thanks …

    • “The official trailer, which would probably trigger most of the audience these days.”

      Not me! And I’m a (gasp) “millennial”. But I’m a rare breed. I’m one who pines for the simpler times where people actually appreciated freedom of choice. One who enjoys seeing badass chase scenes, regardless of who the protagonist is. One who actually despises social media. Hell, I don’t even have a “smartphone”! Why? Simple; because I don’t need one!

      • Excellent, buegrey!

        It makes my dark Gen X heart feel some glimmer of hope that perhaps all is not lost – not yet.

        And if you haven’t had the chance, try a second gen TA with a Super T10 4-speed sometime…the gear whine by itself will make you fall in love with the thing!

  9. I was seven years old when I saw Smokey & the Bandit in a movie theater in Idyllwild, California, during summer vacation. It made a huge impact on me, and has always been one of my all-time favorites.

    A few years ago, I watched it again with my then 12-year old son. He loved it, and it instantly became one of his favorite movies. He even expressed an interest in becoming a trucker when he got older (this was the first time he ever expressed an interest in any kind of future career). Of course, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the job of truck driver is slated for extinction with the coming forced ubiquity of self-driving vehicles.

    Can you imagine Smokey and the Bandit being made today, with all those “stupid redneck” white people proudly displaying their “racist” Southern heritage? Especially one starring a hyper-masculine alpha male representing the “toxic patriarchy”?

    I didn’t even hear that Burt had died until a day or two later. I searched for news on his passing, and was surprised (and saddened) to discover how little mainstream media coverage there was. It truly is a sad sign of the times, which have definitely changed, and not for the better.

    For those of you who haven’t seen it, I highly recommend the documentary The Bandit (2016), which is about Smokey and the Bandit director Hal Needham, the making of the movie, and his lifelong friendship with Burt Reynolds. A must see for all fans!

  10. “A better America existed then.

    One which Burt gave expression to, mirrored. An America which is – tragically – long gone. Today’s America gave a North Korean-style send-off to a goitered warmongering career criminal who did more harm to this country and its people (leaving aside the harm done to other countries and their people) than all of Burt’s burnouts could ever have done.”

    Perfectly stated! You’re have an amazing ability to turn a phrase……sometimes. 😉

    I really liked The Bandit in this movie. But Jeff Spicoli was my personal role model. Clearly, they’d be on the same side. 🙂

  11. Much more than just Smokey and the Bandit. Much of the media we consumed in the 1970s and early 80s was about the outsider, the other, the bandit. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. M*A*S*H (both the movie and TV series). Animal House. Caddyshack. Star Wars (rebels vs empire). Heck, even Bugs Bunny was quick to make fun of stuffed shirt authority figures. There’s a long history of that sort of thing in media that all came to an abrupt halt in the 1980s. Basically when they decided children shouldn’t see cartoon villains meet their demise through violent activity.

    In fact about the only good-guy movies were about heroes who broke the rules. Dirty Harry. James Bond. Batman. James T Kirk. Heck, even Superman got pissed enough to break the time barrier to save his girlfriend. Imagine if Bond made sure he got a receipt for the expense report.

    Compare Jim Kirk to Jean-luc Picard. Kirk knew the nearest admiral was back at Starfleet so why the hell not do what you need to do? Picard’s weekly dilemma was whether or not the on-board psychologist felt everyone was happy with his decision.

    • Don’t forget my favorite, “The Blues Brothers”. The Illinois State Police continually wrecked their cars in the wake of Elwood piloting the Bluesmoblie. Which of course was the same make and mode as the ISP cruisers, just older and beat up. Akroyd kept one of the ISP cars from the movie and used it as his daily driver for years in NYC. It even had movie license plates. He did whatever he pleased in NYC and never got a ticket.

      Of course the window on that world was already closing in the elementary schools just a couple years later. By 1982 I got to learn about selective enforcement. By the end of the 1980s the steel pipe and gravel playground equipment was gone for stuff that was ‘safe’.

      • How could I have forgotten about Jake and Elwood?

        There’s a real multi-culti experience. I’ll bet today’s SJW would watch that film and complain that the Blues Brothers were cultural appropriators and that Akroyd exploited the musicians. But without that movie I would never have discovered all that fantastic R&B and early jazz. For sure we would have forgotten all about Aretha Franklin.

    • And don’t forget Convoy: The song even got played on local radio stations. The radio version also had a lyric about “going through the gate at 98” in it. And let us not forget about the Dukes of Hazzard: . Lets not forget about The Police Academy:
      Most of todays shows glorify cops, alphabet agencies, war, and the military.

      • Brian, I recall a lot more triple digit trucks back then although it certainly wasn’t common for more than a few that could do “98” but it was one whole hell of a lot more than now.

        The last guy I worked for was a clover and said one day “Trucks don’t need to be doing 90 mph”. He was certainly right about his and even if his would have done 90 I sure wouldn’t have run one that fast, pieces of shit they were with 18 maypop tires, flaky steering and various other maladies.

        But back in the 70’s it wasn’t uncommon for a whole line of us in the wee hours to be doing 85 with a full load….and generally a bit more. Back in the day if you were only a ton over it was a bye since that was close enough. I’d use the old rule of thumb, 500 lb bales of cotton and a tare weight of 30,000 lbs. Of course bales of cotton weighed 550 or a bit more once they went to UD bales and lots of rigs weighed well over 15 tons. I nearly always hauled 102 bales and never got a weight ticket for it.

        I had a good line of bs for hauling grain too showing them my trailer wouldn’t haul and overload amount even though 45 tons or more was my normal load.

        They’d just look at the bill of lading on stuff like upset tubing and the number of joints always worked out to be legal…..even if you had on more joints or a heavy trailer or heavier weight wall tubing.

        But Weight Watchers didn’t have the mindset of thievery they now have. Everybody had racks holding two spares too, something you won’t see and haven’t in a long time.

        The Dukes of Hazzard was a show about my life with stuff that’s not possible. It was humorous at times and Daisy was always a treat but I rarely saw it being on the road all the time.

        Remember Will and Sonny? Now that was a KW I would liked to have had but it was simply stupid. Sitting by the Houston Ship Channel one night waiting to unload grain a guy I knew had a new tv his wife had bought him. Being close to a station the shows came in well. He turned it on and set it on the steps of his rig and a bunch of us watched a show with Will and Sonny fleeing some bad guys and Sonny getting out and detaching the tanker they were pulling, an impossible task but looked good on tv. Everybody was drinking beer so that got a good laugh. I don’t guess I saw more than 2 or 3 of those shows. Hell, I can’t even remember the name of that show.

        • Hello 8southman,
          Yeah, I knew all along even as a kid that shows such as the Dukes of Hazzard had quite a bit of B!S! in them. A very few years later, I purposely drove a bit too fast over a hump on a gravel road with my ’66 C-10 pick-up truck with a 2 bbl 283 and a 3 on the tree tranny. The front suspension bottomed out to such an extent as to leave gravel on the top of my air filter cover. Yes, pick-up trucks were more front heavy than Dodge Chargers, but not all that much percentage wise.
          But even without this first hand experience; it was quite logical that such jumps cannot be accomplished in real life!
          My points in the previous post was that even Hollyweird had a low opinion of government coproaches, unlike today where the EXACT opposite is true.
          I also drove to school with guns in my pick-up truck. I even got into a few fights; yet not once did the thought of running to my truck to retrieve a gun ever enter my mind! I wanted to beat the crap out of the bully! Not kill him, which would have caused great suffering for innocent family members.

    • Smokey and the Bandit and the rest you mentioned were great. Reminds me I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie worth a sh– period. Groupthink PC killed movies and annihilated comedy.

    • RK, now the hero is the State. Have you seen Sicario, or Soldado the sequel? It’s basically about how the police state is going after the competition.

  12. In his autobiography he commented that he didn’t want to “stretch” and “reach” as an actor, trying to expand his “craft”…he just wanted to have fun.

    THAT’S the problem with the world today. Everyone wants to “make a difference” or “save the planet”. “Making a difference” is pounded into us everywhere we turn. I, for one, am sick of it.

    We need more Burts and Willie Nelsons willing to have a beer or roll one up and fewer pencil neck geeks that seem to need a massive enema.

    No one wants to just have fun.

    Well…some of us do…

    • And I wanted them both!!! Lots of friends did cam changes, changed intakes and exhaust and the performance was astounding compared to stock.

      • I used to work for a guy that had a 1969/70(?) KW log truck. It had been a fleet truck for Weyerhauser or somebody, and had a heavy frame, Eaton rubber pad rear ends, and a 13 speed AND a 4 speed Brownie!

        • And a 4 speed Brownie. Now he’s hitting peak torque and HP at feet per hour. I once ran a Spicer 5X6. It would grind along at a snail’s pace and do what you needed. I still love multiple gear boxes.


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