Hard as it is to believe, Burt Reynolds turned 80 today. Decided this year I’m making it a personal mission to remind everyone how awesome Burt Reynolds is. Last year Burt released his autobiography, written with Jon Winokur (who runs the very valuable Advice To Writers.) I’ve joked around about Burt’s autobiography being the last book I’ll ever need, but there’s a trace of truth to that statement. For a while there, as one of the hugest movie stars on the planet, Burt knew well or at least encountered some of the biggest bold names of the previous century. His book has chapters on both Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin, to name just two, and I’m not sure what else a person would need to know before rushing out to buy and read this thing.
The book also has a chapter reserved for Donald Trump. Now, let’s be clear: Burt is far more civil towards Trump than I could ever be. To my eyes, as a native New Yorker having watched this character operate for years, Trump is a bully and a liar — in ways that are as provable and demonstrable as physics — and his apparent lack of self-awareness and self-recrimination makes him despicable. Again, Burt is far friendlier. But even the most generous comments about Trump are pretty damning. And in a calendar year where Donald Trump is improbably, insanely, a legitimately possible candidate for the Republican Party, I think it’s pretty telling (and quietly courageous) that while putting together an autobiography, summarizing a life that surely could have spanned several volumes, Burt went out of his way to set the record straight on Trump.
Their paths crossed in the early 1980s, when Burt became a minority owner in the Tampa Bay Bandits, a team in the fledgling and now long-defunct United States Football League. The Bandits were co-owned by a businessman named John Bassett. Trump bought a rival team, the New Jersey Generals.
So here’s Burt on the time Trump sank the USFL…
“There are always guys who come out of the woodwork and take everything they can get. Donald Trump was one such offender.”
“John and Donald were both rich kids but that’s where the similarity ended. Donald was born on third and thought he hit a triple.”
“In my opinion, it was Donald’s fault that the USFL didn’t survive.”
“Now don’t get me wrong. I like Donald. I hold on to my wallet when we shake hands, but I like him.”
“He was interested in only two things: money and publicity. John summed it up when he said Donald’s ‘ego transcended his business sense.'”
“Every time Donald runs for president, I pray he never gets the chance to do to the USA what he did to the USFL.”
For his part, and if you’d like to see the difference between a gentleman and a lout, here for contrast is the kind of thing Trump has said about Burt Reynolds.
If you think Trump is funny, if you think he’s smart, if you think he’s worth listening to, you really need to check yourself, immediately. It’s time to renounce any and all support for this goon, now or else go get a T-shirt printed up that reads “I aim to be a bad person too.” Ignorance of Trump’s record of hypocrisy, dishonesty, and ineptitude — let alone admiration for those same traits — is at this moment in American history a severe moral failing. Let’s toss this guy out with the trash, where he’s belonged all along.
And that said, I’m going to watch SHARKY’S MACHINE again. Thanks for reading. Buy Burt’s book. Be kind. Be good.
On Twitter: @jonnyabomb