A Love-Hate Relationship: Burt Reynolds & Loni Anderson

Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson did not date for a long time, but you could say it was one of the biggest love-hate relationships ever and you wouldn’t be wrong. Their divorce battle dragged on for more than 3 years which was longer than how long their marriage lasted.

Burt Reynolds / Burt Reynolds, Loni Anderson / Loni Anderson, Quinton Anderson / Sally Field, Burt Reynolds.
Source: Getty Images

The celebrity couple went from being crazily head over heels in love with each other to publicly throwing jabs before eventually settling their differences peacefully. Reynolds, who was one of Hollywood’s favorites before the divorce had his career take a downward spiral over the next few years. He also took a hit financially and emotionally. Here’s the full story of their tumultuous relationship:

Injuries & Stardom

Burt Reynold’s lifelong dream right from when he was a college student was to become a professional football player. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t happen due to several injuries that made it impossible for him to play. He however discovered other passions including acting which was what he became famous for.

Burt Reynolds attends an event.
Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images

The peak of Reynold’s career in Hollywood was in the 1970s. But during his time offscreen, Reynolds was also famous as a serial dater and was involved with many of the most famous women in Hollywood at the time.

From the Screen to Real Life

Loni Kaye Anderson attained Hollywood fame for her role as Jennifer Marlowe on CBS’ sitcom WKRP which aired from 1978 to 1982. The would-be couple had met for the first time on a movie set in 1983 after filming for WKRP had ended. Loni was already famous at the time as well after winning three Golden Globes and two Emmy nominations for her role in WKRP.

Loni Anderson speaks onstage.
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

The movie they were filming at the time was Stroker Ace, an action-comedy movie. Reynolds was the lead in that movie and the couple had an onscreen romance which later blossomed into a relationship after filming ended. The pair would go on to date and seemed like the perfect Hollywood couple for several years

Walking Down the Aisle

The couple continued to date for about five years before they eventually decided to take their relationship to the next level and get married. Keeping to their profile of being an extravagant couple, they had a big wedding in 1988 fitting of their status as a prominent celebrity. It was amongst the greatest celebrity weddings ever.

Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson attend an event.
Photo by Bettina Cirone/IMAGES/Getty Images

Both Reynolds and Anderson loved the extravagant life, and it was apparent in their wedding and married life afterward. They fitted perfectly into the celebrity lifestyle and loved everything expensive. But this fairy-tale life did not have a happy-ever-after ending. It ended all too soon after only five years of marriage.

Fairy-Tale Hollywood Wedding

Reynolds and Anderson had a celebrity wedding by all standards. It was apparent that they loved each other and were genuinely happy to be getting married. In retrospect, Anderson had revealed that she indeed felt like Cindarella on her wedding day and honestly believed Reynolds was her Prince Charming.

Anderson and Reynolds’ wedding picture.
Source: YouTube 

The feeling was mutual, Reynolds had said that he was indeed thrilled to be getting married to his best friend in the presence of their friends and loved ones. The high-profile wedding which was held in Florida was documented by People magazine.

Starting a Family

Reynolds had always wanted to start a family. According to rumors, when he was in a relationship with Dinah Shore, the couple wanted to have a child together but couldn’t. This was believed to be one of the reasons for their split.

Burt Reynolds, Loni Anderson and son Quinton
photo by Mario Casilli

Reynolds and Anderson figured they were ready to become parents shortly after their marriage. The couple adopted a son named Quinton. This, to Anderson, was a dream come true. She now had the family she had always desired and a bright future ahead of them. They seemed like a perfect Hollywood family, until the storm hit.

Cracks in the Wall

Emerging facts after their divorce showed that the couple was not as happy as they appeared to the public. Reynolds claimed that one of the reasons for their eventual split was Anderson’s extravagant spending habits. He believed that she was overspending.

Loni Anderson and Burt Reynolds arrive at an event.
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According to him, on one occasion, his estranged wife maxed out a $45,000 credit card in about 30 minutes. Reynolds admitted that he couldn’t afford her. She was a big spender and would never be caught on camera wearing the same outfit twice.

The Ship Hit the Rocks

Like every other celebrity couple, Reynolds and Anderson were always in the public eye. The media followed their every move which was why it was a big shock when they announced that they were splitting up in 1993. The announcement sent shockwaves throughout Hollywood and the question on everyone’s mind at the time was why the perfect Hollywood couple was breaking up.

Burt Reynolds talks to the press.
Photo by Ron Galella/Getty Images

Rumors began to fly around as everyone was curious to get answers. But if anyone would provide answers to those questions, it wouldn’t be Anderson. She was aware of all her husband was telling the media about her but was not ready to start a media war with him, so she decided to act dignified by not commenting about the divorce in public.

Adding Up the Details

Piecing the details of what had happened between the couple was difficult mostly because only one side was doing the talking for most of the time. Anderson claimed that a lack of intimacy was to blame for their marriage hitting the rocks. According to her, they both hadn’t been intimated for more than three years which necessitated the split.

Loni Anderson attends her custody case against Burt Reynolds.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Getty Images

But Anderson explained that she wasn’t too shocked that their marriage was coming to an end. She claimed that they both developed new priorities shortly after their wedding which were different from each other. They were headed in different directions and the divorce was inevitable.

Mama Knows Best

Reynolds honestly revealed in his autobiography how marrying Anderson was a mistake that he regretted. Apparently, his mom knew about this right from the onset and thought he was making a big mistake getting married to her. Anderson explained how his mom was shaking her head at him in disapproval when his bride walked down the aisle on his wedding day.

Burt Reynolds and his mother attend an event together.
Photo by Ron Galella/Getty Images

“I don’t remember my mother ever being wrong. What should I do?” Reynolds revealed during an interview on Good Morning America. Of course, it was a little too late and he didn’t back out of the wedding despite his mother’s warning. The couple went ahead to have a fairy-tale wedding that was the talk of Hollywood for a long time. Their marriage itself became a hit for the tabloids, but totally different and unfortunate in reality.

“A Dumb Move”

Reynolds was always willing to share details about their unfortunate split all through the years. Even several years later, in 2015, Reynolds further confirmed his regrets about marrying Anderson during an interview for People Magazine.

Burt Reynolds smiles at his book signing event.
Photo by Ron Davis/Getty Images

Reynolds called his decision to marry Anderson a “dumb move”. According to him, marriage wasn’t “lollipops and roses”, and he did not know this. Marrying an actress especially was a very big mistake. He further confirmed that Anderson’s extravagant star lifestyle cost too much to maintain and was the major reason they had to go their separate ways.

Accusations and More Accusations

In addition to claiming his now-estranged wife lived an extravagant life which led to the end of their relationship, Reynolds also accused her of being unfaithful. He claimed that this, to him, was the last straw that led to the premature end of their relationship.

A headshot of Burt Reynolds.
Photo by Walter McBride/Corbis/Getty Images

Reynolds’s public outbursts went beyond mere explanations about what happened between them and degenerated into public insults to his ex-wife. He called her an underemployed actress with self-esteem issues and a bad mother. Anderson on her part took all of this in stride and didn’t respond to his accusations for a long time. When she eventually did, she had equally ugly things to say about Reynolds and their less-than-happy married life.

Anderson Fights Back

Anderson did not respond to Reynolds or speak about their relationship for a long time despite the protracted divorce battle. It was a few years later when she eventually decided to be open about it. She eventually did and she had a can of worms to open about Reynolds and what transpired between them in their relationship.

Loni Anderson signs her new book.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Getty Images

Loni Anderson published a book in 1995 where she detailed a lot of things about her private life, including her marriage and unfortunate divorce. In the book titled My Life in High Heels, she talked about the physical and emotional abuse she suffered in her relationship with Reynolds.

Can of Worms

Anderson revealed why she was reluctant to respond to her ex-husband’s accusations all those years. She explained that the reason why she stayed quiet was that she knew Burt wanted to turn their divorce drama into a circus, but she didn’t want that to happen. This was why she waited patiently and did not tell her own side of the story till the time was right for it.

Anderson talks to the press.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Getty Images

According to her, all those years Reynolds tried to bait her into responding to his allegations. But she wouldn’t glorify his accusations with a response until she published her book in 1995. She also granted a tell-it-all interview to the San Francisco Chronicle where she divulged a lot of information about what happened in her relationship.

A Drug Problem

Anderson maintained a dignified silence for several years. But when she eventually broke her silence, she had a lot to say about the things that had happened in the past. At one point, Anderson revealed some of Reynold’s bad traits which led to the breakup; including an issue of narcotics misuse.

Loni Anderson poses for a portrait.
Photo by Harry Langdon/Getty Images

Anderson also revealed that due to the misuse of the narcotic, Reynolds ended up abusing her physically on several occasions. She had bruises all over her body and had to make up stories about falling down the stairs just to cover up for Reynolds.

No One Would Believe

Loni Anderson also provided further details about many of the other things she allegedly suffered from during her marriage to Reynolds, and why she could not say anything about them at the time. According to her, Reynolds’ reputation meant no one would have believed her accusations if she had made them while they were married.

Burt Reynolds’s portrait during an event.
Photo by Ron Galella/Getty Images

She claimed he himself believed this and told her on several occasions that no one would ever believe her because he was seen as “Mr. Wonderful” in Hollywood. Everyone loved him and her accusations wouldn’t have flown. Burt Reynolds declined to respond to these accusations. According to him “he wishes Loni nothing but the very best from this day on.”

Divorce Settlement Drama

Anderson’s tell-it-all also included allegations about Reynolds’s conduct after their divorce proceedings had ended. She claimed that her ex-husband wasn’t paying for their son’s child support as he should. She also claimed that he was also defaulting on a mortgage payment for the house she lived in as part of the terms of their divorce.

Loni Anderson and her lawyers are leaving court.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Getty Images

Loni claimed that it took the interventions of her lawyers to get Reynolds to settle the payments on many occasions. She, however stated that there were times that he would pay up promptly without any issues, especially when he was working.

Longest Divorce Battle Ever

Reynolds and Anderson had an extremely long divorce-arguably among the longest in history. It took more than 20 years for the separation to the completed for good. Despite being separated since 1993, it wasn’t until 2017 when Reynolds eventually paid off all that he owed his ex-wife.

Burt Reynolds during a court appearance.
Photo by Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

It’s hard to tell why it took so long for him to pay up everything he owed her. The settlement probably dragged on for that long because of the kind of agreement they had. But it could also be because Reynolds didn’t have enough to pay her off once and for all. But by the time Reynolds passed away in 2018, he had paid off his debt to Anderson in full.

The Cost of Marriage

The divorce was not only long and messy, but it was also quite costly. One could say that getting out of that marriage cost Reynolds almost every penny he had. He had to give up on living a lavish lifestyle and a lot of luxurious things he had which is not what he would have wanted for himself.

Burt Reynolds backstage at the Golden Globes.
Photo by Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images

Reynolds had always enjoyed living a lavish lifestyle too. When the couple was first together, they got a new mansion even though Reynolds had many properties they could have moved into. But by the time Reynolds was done paying his divorce settlement, his estimated net worth was just around $5 million – a little too low for an iconic star of his status.

Fueling the Media Drama

As expected, the media feasted on the complicated divorce story of the once-beloved couple. Everyone was interested in knowing what was going on and the press took every opportunity to report the juicy (and not so juicy details) of the divorce saga as it unfolded.

A portrait of Burt Reynolds attending an event.
Photo by Martin Mills/Getty Images

Reynolds’s actions at the beginning further fueled the media circus. They continued keeping up with the story reporting for any tiny details until it all ended in 2017. Reynolds didn’t seem to mind much. On one occasion, he remarked that he was glad that the stories helped the tabloids to sell more papers and wished that the couple could have gotten some form of financial compensation for all the papers their stories sold.

Ever Willing to Share

At the onset of the crisis, Reynolds seemed to be unbothered about letting the world know everything about the divorce and what transpired between him and Loni. He was willing to share with the public and revealed a lot of information during interviews.

Loni Anderson speaks during an interview.
Photo by M. Phillips/WireImage/Getty Images

Loni Anderson took the moral high ground and refused to respond to the accusations for a long time. She eventually did open up and made some counteraccusations herself. The way they responded led to speculations that the entire divorce was just a show to boot their popularity. It’s hard to tell if this was indeed the case or not.

The Past is in the Past

With their responses notwithstanding, it was obvious that Loni Anderson and Burt Reynolds went through the toughest times of their life during the divorce. The good news in all of this was that they were eventually able to put it all behind them during the last few years before Reynolds passed on.

Loni Anderson and her son Quinton attend an event.
Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Anderson says she prefers to remember the first 12 years of their relationship when they were happily in love with each other. Despite the sad times and bitter ending, they still had a sweet relationship and she preferred to keep the past behind them while they both moved on with their separate lives. They never got back together but were good friends and even had dinner together at some point.

Private Health Problems

During the last few years of the divorce battle, there was a steady decline in Reynolds health and it soon became apparent in his looks. He obviously wasn’t so well and many of his fans were left wondering what could be wrong as he looked noticeably sick.

Burt Reynolds uses someone’s shoulder as support while walking.
Photo by James Devaney/GC Images/Getty Images

As it was later discovered after he passed on, Reynolds was suffering from several serious health issues, some of which might have been connected to his previous life of substance abuse. While the public didn’t have the full details, the outlook of things didn’t look good.

The End of a Legend

Reynolds’ health issues were apparent. But no one expected that the situation was fatal. It looked like he still had a long way to go, and everything would be fine. This was why the announcement of his death on September 6 2018, caught a lot of his fans by surprise.

A portrait of Burt Reynolds.
Photo by Ron Galella/Getty Images

It was only a year after his divorce from his ex-wife that it was eventually settled. Reynolds passed on aged 82, much to the shock of his fans, family, and friends. His death added to a list of other beloved celebrities like Stan Lee, Kate Spade, Aretha Franklin, and Bernardo Bertolucci that had died the same year.

Cause of Death – Cardiac Arrest

Like every celebrity death, people were devastated to learn about Reynold’s demise, and many were curious to learn about the details. As expected, there were a lot of speculations about the likely cause of death at the time before the official report was released.

Burt Reynolds sits holding his walking stick.
Photo by Manny Hernandez/Getty Images

Shortly after this passing, it was revealed that Reynolds had died of a cardiac arrest, a condition that affects several Americans yearly. More than 300,000 people suffer cardiac arrests per year and up to 92% of cases result in deaths. Reynolds was sadly among the many that didn’t survive.

The Mourning Ex-Wife

Despite their messy divorce and tumultuous past, Reynolds and Anderson were friends again in the later years of his life and his death came as a shock to her. The couple had spent many happy years together as a couple and Anderson still held it dear in her heart.

Quentin and Loni Anderson walk the streets dressed in black.
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They also had a son together. Anderson still cared a lot about her ex-husband and his passing was difficult for her as well. Like other close friends and family, she mourned him even though they had been divorced for close to 20 years at the time.

Love on All Sides

For anyone that has experienced the loss of a beloved friend or family member, it’s easy to relate to how emotionally draining the experience can be. Thankfully, a lot of people sympathized with Loni Anderson and her son Quinton during those trying days.

Loni Anderson and her son Quinton smile at the camera.
Photo by Manny Hernandez/Getty Images

A lot of words of support and love poured in from fans all over the world who expressed their sadness over Reynolds passing. Anderson enjoyed the love and support of friends, fans, and family and this was valuable to help her get through the dark period. Quinton also revealed that he was deeply touched by the number of supportive messages they received from people close to them and on social media.

The Final Goodbye

Although their breakup and divorce were a messy affair that degenerated into public shaming of each other, Reynolds and Anderson ended up working out their differences in the later years of their life. After his death, both Anderson and Quinton were present and spoke at the memorial service held for him.

A projection of Burt Reynolds on a video screen in his memorial tribute.
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Anderson mentioned how Reynolds did his best to be a good father to their son. His memorial service was quite emotional. It also showed everyone that the pair had managed to work out their issues and buried their differences in the past as they should.

Love from Hollywood

The impact of Burt Reynolds’ death was felt in all of Hollywood and not just by his ex-wife and son alone. Shortly after this tragic event, condolences began to pour in from other Hollywood celebrities who took to social media to talk about Burt Reynolds and who he was to them personally.

Flowers on Burt Reynolds’ Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Photo by Sarah Morris/Staff/Getty Images

His personal problems, notwithstanding Reynolds was a mentor to many Hollywood stars and an inspiration for much of the younger generation. He was also a personal friend to many others who felt the impact of the loss personally. Celebrities like Steve Harvey, Kate Hudson, Patton Oswalt, Larry the Cable Guy, Mark Wahlberg, and several others took to social media to celebrate Burt Reynolds and say their final Goodbyes.

The Fans React

Asides from the reactions from his industry colleagues, fans from everywhere in the world were also quite saddened by the tragic news of his demise. There were several posts about him on the various social media platforms highlighting the best moments that fans fondly remembered about him. People also shared their grief about the Star’s death.

Flower arrangements on Burt Reynolds’ Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Photo by Sarah Morris/Staff/Getty Images

Scenes from some of Reynolds’s most profound movies such as The Longest Yard from 1974, and Smokey and the Bandit from 1977 were circulated on the internet for days after his death. The fans deeply cared about him and were pained by the loss.

A Ladies Man

Although his relationship with Loni Anderson was a whirlwind one, Burt Reynolds was a lady’s man. He was already a star and was known in Hollywood as a playboy before Loni Anderson came into his life.

Burt Reynolds poses with Judy Carne.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

Reynold had his fair share of ladies throughout his life. His marriage to Loni wasn’t his first one. He was married to Judy Carne between 1961 to 1963. He was also involved with other women like Sally Fields, Dinah Shore Chris Evert, and Farrah Fawcett.

The One that was Never Meant to Be

But of all the relationships he had, there was one that meant to him more than the others and that was his relationship with Sally Fields. Looking back at all his relationships during one interview, Burt Admitted that he had certain regrets.

Burt Reynolds and Sally Field in the film ‘Smokey and the Bandit.’
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

But perhaps the most prominent one apart from the obvious mistake of marrying Loni Anderson was the fact that he ended his relationship with Sally Field. Speaking to Vanity Fair three years before his demise, he referred to Sally Field as the love of his life and revealed that he still misses her terribly. He admitted that he was naïve and stupid for letting her go “Men are like that, you know.” He said during the interview “You find the perfect person, and then you do everything you can to screw it up.”

Refused Professional Help

On her end, Field later revealed some details about why her relationship with Reynolds did not work out. Some of the things she said were not all that surprising. According to her, substance abuse and some mental health issues were among the rocks that stopped their affair from sailing.

Sally Field and Burt Reynolds are attending an event.
Photo by Ron Galella/Getty Images

This revelation sort of substantiated Anderson’s claim of substance abuse. Field, like Anderson, tried to get Reynolds to get professional help for his condition but both of their attempts did not work out because he refused help. Field said she was afraid that he would ruin his public image as it would make him appear weak.

Field tells Her Story

A lot of the details about Reynolds’s relationship with Fields came to the public light in 2018 when she published her memoir. They were published in pieces and a major part of it focused on her relationship with the movie star.

A view of Sally Field’s book / Sally Field speaks onstage.
Photo by Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images / Erika Goldring, WireImage, Getty Images

The memoir was released after he had passed away and Field disclosed that she was relieved that the memoir was published after Reynolds’ demise. She was unsure how he would have reacted to some of the things she detailed in the memoir about their relationship and his past behavior because they were quite private and sensitive. He most likely wouldn’t have appreciated having such intimate details of his past revealed by someone else like that.

Burt Reynold’s Legacy

After just a few years of his passing, it’s hard to tell how Burt Reynold’s life will be remembered. All through his life, he was in the spotlight with both his private and professional life coming under scrutiny. His relationships with all the women he was involved with and most especially Loni Anderson were in the public light.

A portrait of Burt Reynolds.
Photo by J. Merritt/FilmMagic/Getty Images

But Reynolds was an iconic Hollywood star and a remarkable actor too. Throughout his long and eventful career, he had several hit roles that highlight his life. Time will tell how well people will remember him and what they will remember about him.

Happily Ever After?

The feud between Burt Reynolds’ and Loni and how their love turned sour would always remain a highlight of Reynolds’ life. Everything unfolded in the public eye. The silver lining in all of this is that the pair were able to mend fences and found a way to stay friends before his death.

Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson attend an event.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Getty Images

The fact that they were able to finalize the divorce shortly before his death was also a good one. During the final years of Reynolds’ life, they shared meals together and it became obvious to the public that had watched them go at each other that they were back on friendly terms. It may not have been the fairy tale ending everyone would have wanted when their love affair started, but it was still a great ending for a remarkable journey.