The unmentionables: Burt Reynolds in Cosmo

We’re not quite as prudish in America as we once were, but how can we attest to that if the obituaries for Bert Reynolds, who died today at 82, fail to mention a pretty iconic moment in the cultural landscape?

This in 1972:

Reynolds was filling in for Johnny Carson (ask your grandparents) one night when his guest, Helen Gurley Brown, the editor of “Cosmopolitan” asked if he’d pose. Paul Newman had already said “no.”

Reynolds figured why not?

Burt Reynolds had made a bunch of OK movies. But it was that centerfold that catapulted him to true stardom. “He had been a movie star,” Brown said. “Now he was a celebrity.”

And a fixture on dorm rooms all over America.

It was a first for women’s magazines.

Oh, there are still stories people tell, just not in the obit section, apparently.

Reynolds grew to regret the decision, he said.

Although no one had ever shown a naked man in a magazine before, Helen believed women have the same “visual appetites” as men, who’d been looking at naked women in Playboy since 1953. She wanted the same prerogative for women. It would be a milestone in the sexual revolution, and she said I was the one man who could pull it off. I found out later she’d asked Paul Newman first, but he turned her down.

Helen didn’t have to talk me into it. I was flattered and intrigued. I wish I could say that I wanted to show my support for women’s rights, but I just thought it would be fun. I said yes before we came back on the air. (I may or may not have had several cocktails in the greenroom before the show.)

On the way to the photo shoot, I stopped for two quarts of vodka and finished one before we got to the studio, which was freezing cold (bad for a naked man’s self-esteem).

“It was really stupid. I don’t know what I was thinking,” Burt said at South by Southwest a few years ago.

A few months later, “Deliverance,” which had already been completed by the time of the Cosmo photo shoot, was released.

  • Ben Chorn

    >”This in 1072″

    Wow, how old was Burt Reynolds??

  • Jerry

    For a man disgusted by the male body, there sure have been a lot of naked ones on this blog recently.

    • We don’t choose the news. The news chooses us.

  • Rob

    I’d heard that Burt was mostly hairless (he wore a toupee from very early on), and that they used a reverse-airbrushing process on the photo to add in some chest tufts.

  • Kassie

    I just watched The Last Movie Start, where Reynolds plays an aging movie star with a lot of physical and mental issues. A film about growing old, basically. It isn’t a great movie, but it is a very good performance. I think it is on Netflix or Amazon Prime and worth checking out.

  • Gary F

    A quart of vodka then sitting naked in a cold studio? How far away was the bathroom?

    RIP Bandit

    • JonasGrumby

      He was just doing what he does best – show off!

  • Guest

    Actors, decide if THIS is what you want to be remembered for when taking a part or giving a quote. The most interesting tidbit gets repeated, not the one that shows your talent.

    • BJ


      >Actors, decide if you want to be remembered when taking a part or giving a quote.

    • RBHolb

      I read an interview with him a few years after the picture was published. He said he meant it as a joke, and it was supposed to be a spoof of the Playboy Playmate of the Month. He was supposed to be quoted as saying things like “When I grow up, I want to be an actress!”

      His regret (at the time) was that it overshadowed his work in Deliverance, which was supposed to be his “deliverance from crap,” and a way into better roles.

  • lindblomeagles

    Sadly, you know you are old when people you’ve seen, heard, or know about, pass away. This year has been particularly tough for me because Margot Kidder, Aretha Franklin, and now Burt Reynolds, all of whom scored a hit or two in the 1980s when I was in junior and senior high school, have left this earth this year. You really have to live each day as if it were your last, because, tomorrow, it just might be.

  • Barton

    I heard on the radio this morning (The Current) that people were attempting to make this photo their cover photo on Facebook. And Facebook was not allowing it – for nudity.

    Since I’ve seen them allow the female form with more skin showing (you can’t see much here b/c of Burt’s body hair), it struck me as quite humorous.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    In the ’70s before afternoon television was littered with talk shows and early evening newscasts, WABC in NY had “The 4:30 movie”. Ninety minutes of movie and commercials (a lot for commercials). They often played movies over two days, (Mon & Tue, Wed, Thu & Fri) that way they only had to program 3 movies a week and they didn’t have to chop too much out of the 2 day movies and found something that was short enough to use for the Wednesday “feature”. Two early Burt Reynolds movies showed up one week, it was a “Westerns” week: “100 Rifles” with Jim Brown and Raquel Welch and “Sam Whiskey” with Angie Dickenson. The third move that week had a “heavy weight” cast James Stewart, Dean Martin, and George Kennedy join Raquel Welch in the movie “Bandolero!” IMDB gives them all about a 6 rating, all are worth watching if you like that kind of movie.

  • Fañch

    Wasn’t there a smoke involved in the original photograph?