Celebrity Apprentice, Episode 1: Hot Dog, Apprentice Is Back (Sort Of)by Brian Towers -- 01/04/2008
If you didn’t read my article that previewed this season, including mini-bios of the competitors, you may wish to check it out here first. I’ll be repeating the list of players as a reference very shortly, so please bear with me on the names for now.
The show begins with voiceover guy telling us, “This will be a season like no other before.” As long as it’s not a season like last season, I’ll be happy.
Action begins at the NYMEX commodity exchange, with all contestants assembled. Trump tells the players they are all commodities.
Trump tells them that their teams are divided by gender, and Omarosa and Nely Galán high-five. He adds that they will now be sent back to the Trump Tower to pick a team name and elect their initial Project Manager (henceforth to be referred to as “PM”). Omarosa volunteers to be PM for her team, but Trump reminds her that the others must agree to it back at Trump Tower.
In a cameo, Vincent Pastore makes tasteless fun of Omarosa’s name and says no one knows who she is. Talk about the pot calling the kettle bla… umm… wait, can I say that without her yelling at me?
Back at Trump Tower, the first order of business for the ladies is for Nely to pass out hats that are really stylized ball caps she brought for her team, to brand them as a united team. Marilu Henner says, “I already feel smarter,” but Omarosa finds the idea hokey. Me too.
The ladies all seem to be tossing around potential names, too many to put here. By now, not even Nely is wearing a cap. Playmate Tiffany Fallon asks, “Is there a word for, like, a powerful woman?” and Carol Alt (I think) replies, “Yeah – Omarosa!” Finally, they decide on the name “Empresario,” which they feel crosses multiple languages. My word processor tends to differ, and I’m pretty sure the word is “Impresario” in English, but whatever. Given their choice, since the team is all female, I’d have liked to see them gender-bend it a little to “Empress-ario” (without the hyphen), not that two wrongs will make it right.
The men are also tossing around names. Singer Trace Adkins suggests “The Champions,” but Gene Simmons wants something “more corporate.” Vince Pastore suggests “The Badda-Bing Boys.” Get past it, dude, the show is over and you’re not selling any more DVDs!
Eventually, Gene suggests “What about something that’s got a mythic quality, something like Hydra?” He identifies Hydra as the three-headed dog that guards access to hell. Vince says no, that’s his ex-wife. Piers Morgan corrects them, Hydra has seven heads, but when one is cut off, another grows back. Well, actually when one was cut off TWO grew back, so I guess that means that at some point it probably had seven heads. Satisfied at being compared to an animal, the team settles on the name Hydra.
So here’s the initial line-up of contestants for this season:
A short scene confirms that Omarosa will indeed be Empresario’s first PM. Nely is very supportive, opining that having someone who’s been here before lead them gives them a big advantage over the guys. Generally that would be so, but hey gang – it’s Omarosa! There is an absence of dissenting votes, and it becomes fact.
Omarosa tells us, “I stepped up to be PM because I wanted Mr. Trump to know that I’m here to win this game. And, the things that happened in the past are in the past, and I’m a new person.” You may wish to screen-print that one and highlight it for later reference.
The next scene is in The Boardroom, where Donald and his offspring, Don Junior and Ivanka, are present. He already knows the team names, and from their seating surmises that Omarosa and Stephen Baldwin have stepped up to be PMs.
Trump outlines the task, and it’s simple: they will be selling hot dogs on the streets of New York. The team with the greater sales is the winner. Normally selling for about a dollar or a bit more, Donald expects them to sell their hot dogs for much higher prices. He warns them that, as with real estate, when selling hot dogs, location is everything.
Carol Alt is a native New Yorker and suggests the location of 34th and 7th, near Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, plus the main post office is one block away.
The men toss around a few ideas, and Rockefeller Center is their choice.
Back over at Empresario, Omarosa states that she doesn’t think using their celebrity is a good idea. Instead, she wants to bank on what she calls “solid business concepts.” Several of the women show surprise over that. Tiffany wants to take advantage of them all being “beautiful women,” but Omarosa talks over her to reiterate that they will not be banking on celebrity, but solid sales skills. Tiffany is already deflated by Omarosa’s condescending and abrasive negativity. As if to demonstrate the point, Omarosa concludes with, “I’m glad you’re picking up what I’m puttin’ down.”
On the men’s side, Vince suggests they let people take their picture with them as a promotion. Lennox is initially against the idea, but when Vince adds that he’s going to charge $25 per hot dog as part of a package, the point is made. Piers thinks they need to think bigger and charge $100 for a hot dog and a picture.
Even as the Baldwin brother is talking, Gene suddenly picks up his cell phone and calls up a couple of pals to arrange to sell them hot dogs tomorrow. Ensuring that they know it’s for charity, he arranges to sell several for at least $5,000 a pop. Some people are even flying into town to make the purchase!
The rest of the team, who previously thought they were thinking big, is stunned into silence. Is this one over, or what? I say, meeting adjourned, let’s go get some pizza! However, Lennox says quietly, “It (the money) is not in yet.” Gene agrees, but he’s not worried.
It’s now the day of the sale. Omarosa has her team looking what she calls “All-American.” That means dressed in red caps with their names on them, white shirts, and blue jeans. The tight vee-neck jerseys are kinda hot, but the caps hide their famous, semi-famous, and quasi-famous faces, and jeans are nothing special on the streets of NYC. Initially they are happy to sell hot dogs for $5 each, but the price quickly escalates to $20 and all the way up to $500. Nely explains that people who didn’t seem to have more just paid a nominal amount, but they pressed those who looked like they could handle a steeper donation.
Trump shows up with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (no relation to RNO’s editor), and Omarosa feels the need to chide, “Ladies, Mr. Trump is here. Be calm, cool, and professional.” They are.
Meanwhile on the men’s side, initial sales are slow. Piers doesn’t like the public taking free pictures of the celebrities, and he is refusing to sell hot dogs for small amounts. One guy offers $15 but Piers won’t give him change from his twenty so the sale is lost. Piers wants to have a backup plan, in case Gene’s friends don’t come through. Gene confides that he made his contacts, and if they don’t come through because of minutiae, he’s doesn’t feel responsible. Dude, I’m not sure Trump would see it that way.
As the lunch crowd arrives, the men seem to be doing a solid business and are generating buzz. The varying backgrounds of the team members are attracting a wide variety of customers, and when Trump and the mayor drop buy, things are going very well.
There’s less than an hour to go. At the Empresario site, Omarosa doesn’t think Tiffany is very effective (okay, I decided to say it with more class), and the team suspects they are not doing well enough. They’ve had some good moments, but I’m thinking Madison Square Garden may be a better evening location than over lunchtime. Omarosa says to Nely, “They gotta up-sell.” We’ll hear that term again.
Marilu Henner decides to take action and make use of her contacts to generate some bigger sales. She sets up a “high roller” table, and sure enough, she sells a couple of bottles of water for $5,000 each to some of her contacts. It comes out later that she also sells a $1,000 hot dog at this time.
But the day is not yet done. Tito’s girlfriend Jenna Jameson (who, I am told, is an adult film star) arrives to buy a $200 hot dog. She draws another wave of customers.
Gene Simmons’ friends finally arrive. He sells one dog for $10,000. PM Stephen says, “He gets HIS hot dog FIRST!” After selling several more multiple-thousand-dollar sales, Gene tells us, “It’s not the vacuum cleaner that gets sold, it’s the vacuum cleaner salesman that sells the vacuum cleaner.” He adds confidently, “I’m the salesman, baby!” It’s scary, but I think I almost understand that.
With ten minutes left, softballer Jennie Finch has brought New York Met David Wright onto the scene. The amount he proffers is not stated, but he buys out the rest of Empresario team’s cart, and it’s free hot dogs to any passerby!
Ahh, people with money – it’s a different breed, folks!
Later that day is the first Boardroom of the season. Both PMs express confidence that they won. Don Junior reports first for Empresario, saying they had sales of $17,038.39. Hydra starts to celebrate, but Baldwin holds them back until Ivanka reports that their sales were $52,286. Hydra wins!
“Wow, that’s a drubbing!” says Trump. He adds that the men had better location, more action, and they used their celebrity better. PM Stephen gives credit to the rest of his team, and then specifically to Gene.
Trump asks Piers who the weak link is on the other team, and he replies that they already identified “Amarosa” as the weak link. Omarosa corrects his pronunciation. He replies, “I know you’re a celebrity but I just never heard of you!” Omarosa tries to pretend she can’t remember the name of his show, giving Piers the opportunity to say that it was the highest rated show of the summer. Omarosa smartly clams up.
Don Junior decides to enter the fray and reminds Omarosa that in her first season they won a similar task using the “sex sells” approach, yet this time she lost despite having many attractive women on the team. Omarosa reminds Don that they were slapped down for using sex in season one. No, “sex sells” will always be valid in the marketing world. I think the message from season one was more like, “Don’t be a tramp about it.” But that’s enough rehashing of old news.
Trump says both teams raised a record amount (just under $70,000), and it will be donated to the winning PM’s charity. This will happen every week this season, providing some impetus to take the risk and step up to be PM. Excellent move, Donald!
Stephen's charity is The Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund. The NBC website tells us, “Stephen's father died in 1983 of lung cancer, and then in 1990, his mother Carol was diagnosed with breast cancer. After undergoing a double mastectomy, Carol and the Baldwin family became dedicated to raising money for research, prevention, and treatment of breast cancer.”
The Donald adds that the men will be able to watch what transpires in the Boardroom from their suite (via a closed circuit hookup), if they want. Vince says, “Oh, we’ll be watching!”
In the Boardroom, Trump asks Omarosa who did well and who didn’t. Omarosa gives credit to Marilu for her two big sales, and Nely “on the technical side.” On the flip side, “Tiffany is not a great sales person.” She explains that in being Playmate of the Year, Tiffany is selling sex, but she didn’t do it today. Don brings up his point again, and says Omarosa is contradicting her earlier reply. Omarosa replies that each of them bring their own “brand” to the team, be it boxing or acting or, in Tiffany’s case, sex.
Remember what Trump said at the top about “commodity”? She’s right. Point, Omarosa.
In the men’s suite, Gene says, “Omarosa is a survivor, like a cockroach. No matter what you do, you cannot kill her.” Piers points out, “She’ll do anything to kill the others. This is her own teammate!”
Omarosa concludes by saying that she went to Tiffany several times to try and get more energy and push out of her, and she did not deliver. Tiffany defends her actions, saying her very first sale was for $50. The two ladies then discuss what Tiffany’s sales were for the day. Clearly, no one bothered to perform that level of recordkeeping, so that one will never be settled definitively. But even believing Tiffany’s numbers, she’s a low contributor.
Omarosa switches tack and says she is disappointed that Tiffany didn’t reach out to her personal network. Tiffany says she did reach out, but her contacts don’t have that kind of money. Trump interjects that Hugh Hefner could afford it and asks if she called him. She did not; she wanted to save him for a later task. Uh-oh.
Trump says he finds Tiffany’s low-key style refreshing compared to other Playmates he’s met. Lord, I can just imagine… let’s move along.
Tiffany says she was happy to wear the uniform, but they “were not allowed to use their celebrity.” Omarosa tries to stomp on that, but Ivanka jumps in to criticize the uniforms, saying that they promoted the product rather than themselves.
Jennie offers up that it was proposed to have a red carpet and play up their celebrity, but “Omarosa wanted to use their ‘celebrity-ness’ as a cherry on top, not as our selling pitch.”
Before Omarosa can address that specific point, Trump asks her what the task was about – hot dogs, branding, celebrity, or something else? Her reply is that it was about bringing in the most money you could for every transaction. I think that’s a good answer, but not to this question. Trump tells her that he thinks the task was about celebrity. Omarosa doesn’t respond.
Trump turns his attention to Nely. Nely defends Omarosa’s leadership, and when pressed, the two of them name Tiffany as one who’s not ready to lead the team. I’m getting another flashback to one of my favorite movies, The Christmas Story, (the one about the Red Ryder gun)… I think Nely is Omarosa’s Toady!
Tiffany says if she were leader, she wouldn’t be so condescending as Omarosa. That one doesn’t go far. Back in the Hydra suite, Vince says, “Tiffany is toast,” and Piers adds that she’s not defending herself properly. Trace laments that she can’t because, “She’s not a mean chick.”
The next topic is the location, bringing Carol to the fore. Omarosa says Carol took control of the task and failed, while Carol says she did not. Instead, Carol says she accepted the task and did her best on it. Omarosa tries to say Carol is “cowering,” but Carol will have none of that and both talk at the same time. Trump feels the location wasn’t good but doesn’t say why. Don Junior says you can make one dollar sales to Penn Station folks at noon, but you’re not going to find a lot of high rollers there.
Trump instructs Omarosa to name two others to bring back with her to the final Boardroom. Not surprisingly, she chooses Tiffany and Carol.
As their screen goes to black, the men discuss what they’ve seen. Piers is sure that Tiffany is done for. Baldwin thinks Omarosa may attack the bigger threat of Carol first. Trace thinks Carol is more valuable to the team because of her knowledge of New York. I guess that means that any time the ladies lose, they will blame location and bring Carol back to the Boardroom? That’s a big problem for Carol, because if Trump sees her in that room too often and has a tight decision one week, it won’t go her way.
Waiting to be called back in, Omarosa decides to try and keep the others off balance by telling them, “If you think that part was fun, wait ‘til this part. It gets better!”
The trio is called back into the Boardroom. Omarosa starts her defense by stating the fact that she took a big risk by stepping up to be the first PM. Carol says she stepped up where possible and that she expressed her views when she didn’t agree, but in the end deferred to her PM. Trump asks Carol, “You don’t like Omarosa very much, do you?” Carol denies it and says she respects Omarosa.
Omarosa says the whole team tried to exploit her because she’d been on the show before. Carol and Omarosa continue to argue while Tiffany stays mute. Trump notices Tiffany and asks if she’s scared of the others. She says she is not. Trump talks over her to say he is impressed with Carol’s toughness.
Ivanka asks Tiffany if she undersold relative to the others on the team and Tiffany responds that there’s no way of really knowing. She says that not all of them have those kinds of contacts. Trump suggests that she has a great contact (Hefner), but did not use it. Tiffany replies that the group made a conscious decision to be careful to use their resources to the best of their ability, and Trump and Omarosa both ask who made that decision.
Ivanka and Trump both outline to Tiffany how the holding back for a bigger/later task is fruitless if she is eliminated beforehand. I suddenly think of Survivor: China’s James, and his decision not to play an immunity idol… it’s very similar.
Tiffany explains next that Omarosa taught her about the value of up-selling, which really muddies the waters for me. Both Tiffany and Nely can support the claim that Omarosa wanted her team to up-sell, but didn’t want them to trade on their celebrity to do it. I suggest that if they were not who they were, it is unlikely they would have as many contacts willing to make the sizable charitable donations they needed. There’s a fine (possibly invisible) line here, and I don’t think Omarosa explained how she wanted it negotiated to her team.
Trump asks Carol again if she both respects and hates Omarosa, only to hear her reiterate that she respects her but does not hate her. Moan… not even one episode in, and that cheap old tactic of Trump’s is getting stale real fast.
Trump asks Omarosa whom she would fire. She thinks Tiffany has potential and an open mind, so she’d dump Carol. Hmm, maybe brother Baldwin was right!
Trump tells us it’s time for a final decision. He’s disappointed Omarosa didn’t do a better job as leader and in Carol, for her choice of location. However, it’s Tiffany who gets to hear “You’re Fired,” because she elected not to use her Hugh Hefner resource.
On the walk back to the suite, Omarosa and Carol shake hands and agree to leave it all in the Boardroom. I suggest both should sleep with their backs to the wall and one eye open.
In her cab ride to the airport, Tiffany says she is frustrated to be first one sent home. She says, “I did what was asked of me, I did it thoroughly, and we brought in a lot of money. But it wasn’t enough.” True, but to win this game, you also have to do what’s NOT asked of you, but comes out of your own inspiration and motivation. And showing a bit of this spirit in the Boardroom wouldn’t have hurt her any, either!
My Opinion: Ouch. I really think Tiffany never saw this coming until way too late. Hefner may well have made a significant donation, and holding that card back is no example of teamwork. I bet she would have stayed in the game if she’d called him and made a $5,000 sale. It would have put her in third place on the team and kept Hefner available for a bigger touch when it was her time to be PM. Still, she’s too nice for this game and her chances of winning were slim.
Omarosa has come to play! She probably should have been the one fired, because resisting the use of their celebrity when it’s part of the name of the show and then getting creamed in the results… that ought not to have been a salvageable situation. Alas, a good Boardroom performance can cover up a lot of task faults, even big ones.
Myself, I was pleased with the overall entertainment value of the show. I hope every episode won’t be determined by the size of the wallets of the contestants’ friends, though.
Well, that’s it for the first episode. I’m interested in reader response to this one –let me know what you think about it all at the eAddress below! Join me here for a recap of all the action sprinkled with my own reactions and opinions.
Brian lives in Toronto. He spent a couple of decades working in middle management at The Prudential, primarily hiding behind the coffee machines in generally unsuccessful attempts to avoid his pointy-haired bosses. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’d like to hear your opinions and promises to respond to all serious email.
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