Tell me about your relationship with President Trump. You’ve known him for a very long time, going back to football.
I’ve been very lucky in that sense. I’ve sat in the room, the little round room—[Vittum laughs and interjects “the Oval Office”]—with four different presidents and had a wonderful visit with all of them. Jimmy Carter was my favorite because he had such humanity and he was such a sweet man. That doesn’t help you be a good president, but it keeps you different from the rest of them.
So you were friends with Trump in the 1980s?
How did you guys meet?
He had a party and invited me. I was very flattered.
What he didn’t know was in the summertime, we used to sneak into the little beach house which went underneath the road and came up inside the house, because the house was all boarded up. And we had parties and we took up the little radio and danced, maybe 12 or 13 or 14 kids. [The house Reynolds is referencing is Palm Beach’s Mar-a-Lago. Long before Mar-a-Lago was Trump’s Winter White House, it was owned by Florida heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post.]
This is when you were a kid?
Sixteen, seventeen. Yeah, I was a kid.
My father was the chief of police, so that made it interesting. Well I mean, if he caught me [sneaking into Mar-a-Lago], he’d have thrown me in jail.
Did he ever catch you?
Yes, and he did throw me in jail. Threw me in jail and everybody that he caught, especially the really drunk ones, he threw on top of me so that I had to not only sweat it out but beat a couple guys away from me. But it helped me to not sneak into Mar-a-Lago anymore.
And that’s what you had been caught for?
And you were co-owner of the United States Football League (USFL) team the Tampa Bay Bandits when you tussled with Trump, right?
This was when Trump owned the New Jersey Generals, before the USFL ceased operations in 1985.
Well, actually, what took us down was Trump because he tried to take us up against the NFL and that is the toughest group of people to go up against anywhere. I begged him not to do it but he’s a rather stubborn man and it was the finish of our group.
I’m sorry it ended like that.
Me too. I loved being an owner because the boys were treated like men and I wanted them to be treated like more than just men. Gentlemen, you know.
The way Trump managed that football league is what took it down?
That’s what took us down the tubes.
Does that history make you worry about the country at all?
About him as president? I’m worried that we’re going to get into something that—you know, China’s barking at us and a couple of other countries and there’s no question that we could just bomb them off a map, but I don’t want America to be known as that. I want it to be what it’s been for me growing up all my life, as we’ve been the savior for a lot of countries.
Do you trust Trump’s judgment after the football debacle?
I don’t know, I hate to say it but I’m worried about it.
Do you worry he might go against North Korea like he did the NFL?
I think he’ll do a lot of things that we’re all going to go ‘Holy cow.’ America doesn’t want to go to war anymore. I don’t want to lose another young man or woman in a war. It’s totally unnecessary and when we’re the toughest country, you don’t have to. You just have to speak a little louder.
What were the parties like at Mar-a-Lago when you went?
Oh, they were great. We were playing “Shake, Rattle, and Roll,” and things like that on the radio and dancing.
How about the Trump Mar-a-Lago parties?
Very stiff. Staid, kind of.