Tag Archive | "The Apprentice"

Celebrity Apprentice: A Win-Win Situation

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I cry at commercials.  Not all commercials, only those that are shot in and include familiar touchstones of my beloved New York City.  Thus, did this geek whose TV viewing once relegated primarily to documentaries and concerts get suckered into watching The Apprentice.  Understand that for most of my life, midtown Manhattan was my old stomping ground, career-wise, while the rest of the city was my playground.  The closest that I ever got to The Donald was to ride his escalators in the Trump Tower like a human yoyo, just to see how often I could get away it with it.  I suffer from altophobia, you see, and the side panels on those escalators are clear.  The higher I climbed and the more I gazed downward, the longer the drop to those gorgeous, sun-splashed peach tiles (splat!).  A stone’s throw from the Trump Tower sprawls the emerald jewel of Manhattan — Central Park — where I’d romped often as a kid, a teen, and an adult who’s refused to grow up.  You get the gist.  I began to watch The Apprentice for those quick, bittersweet scenes of my beloved city spliced into each week’s competition.

However, the show quickly became a guilty pleasure, a modern-day Coliseum set in boardrooms and other corporate venues in and around the city of my birth.  Having not watched the show religiously for every single season, I nearly bailed when The Donald instituted celebrity contestants instead of the normal cutthroat crew of gladiators, such as Omarosa, the “love to hate her” 14-karat you-know-what.  This season, however, I’m more or less glued to my set because this final round of celebs includes three rockers, and I do love my rock n’ roll.

Frankly, I’d wanted to see Bret Michaels, Poison’s glam-rock front man, Sharon Osbourne, music producer and Mrs. to Ozzy, and most of all, Cyndi Lauper, iconoclastic punk rock goddess, kick the other contestants’ butts.  The battles unfold in the Big Bad Apple, so I reasoned that it was time to pull off the gloves via the rockers.

I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting much of Bret, as glam-rock ceased being my bag the minute that The Man Who Fell to Earth (Bowie) actually came down to Earth to show the world his musical chops.  But Bret quickly grew on me.  He seemed a pretty logical guy and a very loving father yearning to contribute his knowledge, skills, and creativity to his team’s efforts.  Having eschewed other flashy rocker-icons as well as so-called reality shows, including the one that stuck its cameras under the Osbournes’ noses, I didn’t know much about Sharon.   But she had an edge to her that, despite her proper British upbringing, I appreciated.

As a fellow New Yorker, Cyndi Lauper was another story.  In fact, she is a beautiful success story highlighting how it was once possible for an artist who did not march to anyone else’s drummer to get airplay on commercial radio and carve a career in music.  Born in Queens, Cyndi struggled early on in her career, wondering if she’d actually be able to sell a record.  Captain Lou Albano of the WWF, and Cyndi’s then-father figure, advised the girl who just wanted to have fun that maybe people didn’t want to hear the same type of voice on the radio over and over, and since she was unique, she should go for it.  She did, and the rest is history.  While Cyndi’s accent and seemingly scatterbrained perspective has put a few noses out of joint on this season’s Celebrity Apprentice, I find her a breath of fresh air.  She could have sold her soul to the devil, as so many radio-friendly voices have done.  But she remained true to her craft, speaking her mind at every turn and promoting other artists along the way.

This past week, The Donald mixed up the remaining members of Tenacity (the women’s team) and Rock Solid (the men’s team) so that Bret and Sharon were partnered with Maria Kanellis, a young, very pretty WWF diva and model.  She’s also a hard body (they don’t get much harder than hers).  Blend these ingredients into the natural fire in her belly, and Maria made a great addition to the rock contingent, particularly for this week’s dual-focus task.

The teams were directed to create as well as deliver an exercise routine for a New York fitness club, and to garner donations for each project manager’s charity of choice.  The monkey wrench was that for each donation, there had to be a live human being participating in the workout.   Although Sharon took the helm on this project, Bret pulled out all the stops, trading on his bad-boy rocker persona to brainstorm and design “backstage passes” for the workout participants, a hot-cool promo piece that contained a few typos no one cared about, and the foundation of a hilarious and effective regimen that included such moves as the “tour bus trust,” “air guitar,” and “praying to the porcelain god.”  Sharon assumed the job of hitting up business associates for donations.  Maria took the routine and ran ably with it, to the point where the execs at 24-Hour Fitness, the task’s sponsors, are seriously considering implementing it into their own program.

By contrast, project manager Holly Robinson-Peete led a team sorely lacking in creativity, both in the conception of its proper but blasé workout routine and its promotion.  Tenacity also suffered from the absence of Cyndi, who’d had a prior commitment to Lady Gaga (from whom Cyndi extracted a donation of $25K and thus contributed greatly to this task; so much for her scatterbrain, huh?).  From Day One, Holly has been nasty and insensitive to Cyndi, so I’ve decided I don’t like her one whit and will pop a champagne cork when the actress-Autism crusader is sent packing.  I also didn’t enjoy watching Holly wheedle money out of her contacts for her charity while her two team members, trendy Australian chef Curtis Stone and 1992 U.S. Gold Medal Olympian Summer Sanders, ran their rumps off across town doing everything else.  I really didn’t get it when Holly — who has been so critical of many other contestants, and who claims to have quite of bit experience fundraising — appeared to be making a botch job of what is known in the philanthropic world as “the ask.”

I warmed up slightly to Holly as, once in the boardroom, she tearfully and genuinely praised every one of her team members, including Cyndi.  But I still wanted to see her eat crow and jump into that big yellow taxi heading toward where she’d be leavin’ on a big ol’ jet airliner.  Much to my amazement as well as Holly’s, her crew won the task by reaping nearly $80K more in donations than Sharon’s team (24-Hour Fitness gave each team $24K for their charity, which figured into the final coffers).  No one saw this upset coming!

Set upon by Trump and his progeny like the velociraptors of Jurassic Park, it looked as if someone’s head on the rocker’s team would wind up on the chopping block.  Sharon, who had been ill previously and who had taken on the role of project manager for the first time, was loath to let Bret or Maria go.   As Sharon very decently and righteously offered herself as the sacrificial lamb, The Donald went gunning for Maria.  Just when I sure he was going to fire Maria’s oh-so-toned butt, New York’s richest man announced that, since everyone on both teams had done such a fine job, he wasn’t canning anyone that night!  All parties survived to duke it out for another round, next week.

So, Celebrity Apprentice is a guilty pleasure.  The show exists to make money for its network and advertisers, probably gives The Donald a good chuckle, and stimulates awareness of various worthy charities as well as much-needed donations to those organizations.   Rarely has this reality show focused so much, as it did this past week, on that latter goal.  For one bright, shining moment, all the gladiators threw down their swords and bonded over their success in pumping funds into their charities.  Although Sharon Osbourne’s team was only supposed to walk away with the sponsor’s $24K, Holly Robinson-Peete graciously promised Mrs. Ozzy another donation, apparently from the pile her own team had raised.  These charities are the HollyRod Foundation for autistic children and their families, whose website is http://www.hollyrod.org/ and Sharon’s foundation of choice for the prevention and treatment of colon cancer, which can be accessed via http://www.cedars-sinai.com/Patients/Programs-and-Services/Colon-Cancer-Program/.


As that rarified, warm and fuzzy moment is over, lovers of blood sport and lovers of the Big Apple need not fear.  We can all tune in to the next installment to see who goes for whose throat in the race to win Celebrity Apprentice.  Before you tune in, say a prayer please, for Bret Michaels.  Although the competition is taped, we are down one kick-ass rocker.  As of this writing, the intrepid Bret Michaels remains on the critical list of an unnamed hospital, attempting a valiant recovery from a brain hemorrhage. 

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