Ronn Owens Interviews Burt Reynolds (October 1994)

Burt Reynolds Book Cover (Image)

With the news of the death of actor Burt Reynolds this week, we scrambled to find the recording of Burt’s infamous interview with Ronn Owens (BARHOF 2007) on San Francisco’s KGO (810 AM) back in October 1994.

Burt was in the midst of a book tour to promote his autobiography, “My Life,” and stopped in to spend an hour with Ronn. The friction-filled conversation, which we join in progress, became contentious early on, finds a semi-comfortable middle ground for a bit, and then gets salty and stays salty between host “Donn” and guest “Curt.”

Ronn Owens (2005 Photo)
Ronn Owens at KGO (2005)

The book tour found the superstar actor in a particularly grouchy mood. Earlier in the same week, his appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno led off with Burt cutting Jay’s necktie (in retribution for a joke about Burt’s divorce from Loni Anderson) and deteriorated into thrown cups of water with Nickelodeon kids show host Marc Summers … then disintegrated into a particularly nasty pie fight between Summers and Reynolds. (Truth to tell: Summers does get off several zingers that could have resulted in a busted lip from Burt under less-nationally-televised circumstances.)

Then, in San Francisco later on the same day as the KGO interview, Burt’s interview with Cynthia Robins of the San Francisco Examiner also fell apart, with the star crumpling the reporter’s question sheet and notebook before aggressively escorting her from the room.

In Robins’ article about the confrontation, she wrote:

The interview went south even before I’d walked in the door, probably at 10 that morning, when he angrily accused Ronn Owens of KGO Radio of not reading his book.

Reynolds seemed to lose it when Owens admitted that his “homework” had included skimming the book and reading a file of recent tabloid clips about Reynolds’ divorce tribulations with Loni Anderson.

Owens told me later over the phone that during a commercial break, he asked Reynolds how much of the anger he had shown on the air was real and how much was an act. “At which point he gets up and comes around my console, puts his face an inch from mine and says to me: `You think this anger is put on, punk?’ “

The recording heard here, from the Bay Area Radio Museum’s archive, came to us on a cassette tape via Barry Salberg several years ago. It’s about a half-hour long, with some sections of fair-to-good audio. It ends rather abruptly, but the “meat” of the interview is intact.

The off-air confrontation between Reynolds and Owens mentioned in the Robins’ piece (“You think this anger is put on, punk?”) apparently takes place during the abbreviated break almost exactly four minutes into the recording. Listen for Ronn taking the program into the break, followed immediately by a KGO imaging “logo.” (The commercials aired in that break were edited out.)

We’re guessing this is a re-broadcast from Sunday, October 23, 1994, based on two audio clues in the sports report: USC defeated Cal, 61-0, the day before, and the 49ers were scheduled to play Tampa Bay later the afternoon of the broadcast. Also heard are Joe Vincent (nom de radieux of Joe McConnell) with a news update, and Dan Shannon with a traffic report.

Please note that one shame-shame word does get through on this recording — a reference to male bovine excrement — which renders this, for at least a moment, NSFW.

On The Air Sign (Image)

Ronn Owens and Burt Reynolds on KGO
October 21, 1994


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7 September 2018 7:29 PM

I immediately called Ronn and volunteered to come over, to, as I recall “beat the shit” out of Reynolds who, was, apparently out of control. I arrived, just as Ronn was urging a reluctant Burt to do a mattress commercial and I confronted him. He expressed disdain at the effrontery of a ” pansy, good music announcer” threatening HIM so I hauled off and decked him. The entire KGO crew cheered and I, even, detected a smile on the hosts face. It’s a story never told till now although I, certainly, don’t mean it to make ME look good.

Robert Appeldorn
Robert Appeldorn
Reply to  Bill
11 September 2018 9:39 PM

May I ask your name. Bill?

Bob Ray
13 June 2019 4:38 PM

THAT’s a real radio story …!

Bill Moen
Bill Moen
Reply to  Bob Ray
16 June 2021 12:09 PM

It’s been some years, of course, but the older I get the truer it becomes.

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