The phrase “trump card” initially had no association with Donald Trump’s family name.
The term “trump” originated around the 16th century as a term for success, or alternative to “triumph.” It wasn’t until the 1990s that the real estate mogul associated the phrase “trump card” with his growing brand.
In a chance (and completely unrelatable) moment, Trump happened to be riding in a helicopter with an exec from TV production company Lorimar sometime in the late 1980s. This exec pitched a game show with Trump.
It would become “Trump Card” ― a short-lived game show filmed inside the Trump Castle Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
At the time, it seemed like a great idea, apparently. Warner Brothers got on board for distribution and the Associated Press quoted the Lorimar exec, Dick Robertson, as sayi: “This idea stopped us in our tracks ... It’s the best single new idea we’d seen in years.”
In any case, with all this excitement, the teams behind this show decided to make a play for the coveted programming space of 7 or 7:30 p.m., called “access.”
The Huffington Post came across an advertisement for “Trump Card” that’s eerily reminiscent of Trump’s campaign for president, if you switch the term “access” for the presidency.
Here’s the two-page ad:
Hmm ... hopefully it’s not America.
For easier reading, here’s the text from the second page:
This time of year you get pitched by lots of people promising an instant fix in access. But, deep in your heart, you know that to come out on top you need a lot more than a new idea and a promise of prosperity. You need a show that will compensate for the trials of first-run syndication.
That show is “Trump Card.” No other strip has its magnetic power. Not a one! Because no other show has the power of Donald Trump’s name to pull viewers to the set. Nor does any pilot have the prime time feel that comes with taping in the billion dollar Atlantic City Trump Castle. And “Trump Card” has already been proven in the trenches. Like many long-running hits of American TV such as “Three’s Company,” “All in the Family” and “Sanford and Sun,” our access strip is based on a format that has been a hit in England for over six years.
Next fall, don’t put a new strip into play with insufficient assets. Get “Trump” on your side of the deal and you’ll be in the #1 position to take over access.
Here’s a clip of Trump’s cameo in the show’s premiere episode:
Articles from the time seem suspiciously similar to this advertisement. The Chicago Tribune started a piece about the show with the line, “He’s a casino. He’s an airline. He’s a tower and a yacht. Now Donald Trump is a TV game show.”
Newsday reported on a conference held by Trump where they summarized his words: “Donald Trump said he expects the new ‘Trump Card’ game show to trade on the renown of his casinos, real estate, air shuttle, yacht and book.”
The Associated Press quoted Trump: “I think it will be tremendously successful. We’re trading on the glamour of the Trump Castle, the Trump Princess [his yacht] ... The Trump name has never been hotter.”
The lesson here? Just keep listing your best physical possessions until the country makes you president.
In any case, “Trump Card” crashed and burned fairly quickly. It taped one season and that was that.
To learn more about short-lived gameshow, check out The A.V. Club’s piece on it, too.