The Girl Who Loved Dancing
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An original pastel painting by June Pauline Zent.
This painting features the foal of Burt Reynolds famous horse Cat Dancing . He named this filly Dancing after her mother. I dreamed up the girl.
So here we were heading for Florida: Four of my younger kids and me squeezed into a little compact car and towing 1,000 lbs. in a U-Haul behind us. Two sons and two daughters were not all that thrilled about leaving their home state of Virginia. They were at first very quiet in the back seat. We had left at dusk; the strategy being that I would drive all night and they would sleep.
The first mishap occurred when I looked in the rear view mirror and saw their father’s car barreling up behind. I pulled over and he handed me the money. Of all the things to forget! That says something about my own ambivalence regarding this decision. All that I really knew was that I had to try for another life. Yes, I knew that it was going to be very hard raising four kids alone with one being a special needs child but I had to try. The reasons why are very personal having nothing to do with Burt Reynolds, but it was not because I had not married a wonderful guy. Not at all! Blame the whole thing on me: I can handle it.
It was a difficult trip, especially so because my autistic son did not take well to change. At least one other child recalls this as an adventure: sleeping in motels, swimming in pools and the ocean, and eating frowned upon fast food.Going through Georgia we had a long , steep bridge to climb and the clutch was slipping from the weight. Traffic was back to back at a crawl and the kids were yelling and fighting in the back seat, I shouted, “if you don’t want to go rolling backwards down this bridge you had better shut up”. Silence! until we got over the bridge of course.
When we reached Jupiter, Florida it seemed close enough to West Palm Beach: my birthplace and where Buddy and I grew up together. We drove around Jupiter and surrounding area for several days until finding a small two bedroom apartment with reasonable rent. While on this hunt I noticed several signs that said, “Jupiter, home of Burt Reynolds”. It might be his home NOW I mused but then let it go. After settling three kids in school I began the search for a program to help my autistic son. It was two years before finding one that would accept a child with the stigmatic label of autism. Remember that we are talking about 1977!
I desperately needed to find work to supplement their father’s support but this was not Virginia where my artwork was known. It was exactly like starting all over again. The thought occurred: maybe try to contact Buddy who might know people needing commissioned work. This was a shot in the dark really because we had not seen each other since childhood. I knew that he made movies but I had not even seen Deliverance. I was too busy as a pre- med student in college not to mention raising kids to watch movies. The call resulted in Logan, Buddy’s ranch manager delivering my message. Then Buddy called making a date for later in the day. I opened the door and was shocked to see him all decked out in an almost Liberace fancy cowboy suit and sporting a beard. Whoa! This was not the boy that I knew so long ago in this pale blue suit with silver dangling everywhere. He was even more handsome than I remembered but was really dressed to impress. There I stood in my blue genes. We hugged and he literally lifted me off the floor.
I introduced him to my crew and he was instantly on stage. My oldest daughter was there along with the two younger ones. They were old enough to know just who he was and he sat out to totally charm them. He carried the youngest daughter around on his shoulders and the middle one immediately got on the phone to her girlfriend. “She doesn’t believe me”, she said. He said,” give me the phone, this is Burt Reynolds; will you marry me?” Imagine how blown away this kid was! It was the talk of Jupiter middle school for days.
I noticed that along with all this charm he was also checking out my little apartment. The couch was three pillows positioned on the floor with three more against the wall.There had been no room in the U Haul for anything but the kids mattresses, pillows, clothes, and artwork. He opened the fridge and a gallon of milk fell out splattering all over the floor. Horrors! and a very messy cleanup. He sat on the ” couch ” and the tiny 10 inch TV started rolling picture. We kept a small hammer beside it. Just one tap on the side would stop the rolling. He laughed! From his vantage point on the floor he could see my current artwork stacked against the opposite wall including a print of They Walked Together.That’s when he asked about where the original was. He later refered to these paintings as his children! But that was another on stage remark.
He wanted to go out for a ride so that we could talk. My oldest daughter was there to watch the younger ones but my baby – six years old-was having none of it and was determined to keep me there. He fell to the floor grabbing my legs and held on with all his might. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry but eventually I got loose and calmed him down so off we went.
The story continues in another post. Hope to see you there!