[17 January 2007]
Laughing in the face of Nielsen and tweaking the nose of Freud, the sixth season of The Apprentice has introduced all kinds of ill-conceived and yawn-inducing changes to its well-established business model. Most obviously, of course, the show has upped stumps and moved to Los Angeles. Perhaps Donald Trump has run out of New York properties to promote. Or maybe his dead-eyed robo-babe of a wife wanted to work on her tan and hang with TomKat. Either way, this new setting does nothing to flatter either Trump or his increasingly fatuous game show.
So let’s talk about Trump. Baybee.
He’s either losing interest in his show, or he’s simply losing it. Billionaires seldom feel the need to learn the basic rules of comedy, and it’s always been difficult to tell when Donald Trump is joking. But this season he’s no longer merely loitering around the line that divides irony from delusion; he’s jumped headlong into some totally scary, reality-free netherworld we can only describe as: Completely. Fucking. Mental.
In the premiere, he talked about the contestants’ personal hygiene: “washing the teeth,” “washing the face,” and “whatever the hell you do to yourself, I have no idea, nor do I give a damn!” If you can explain those remarks without referring explicitly to the possibility that Trump pays a bevy of East European beauties to take such good care of his personal toilet that he honestly has no idea how to… well, you get the rather unpleasant picture, then you’re a better man than I. And that goes double if you could hear Trump announce, during the second episode’s boardroom session, that he has a “very, very good body” without spraying your living room with beer. Through the nose, in my case.
The move to L.A. has made it easy for The Apprentice to wallow in industrial quantities of tits and ass. And, of course, these are two of Donald Trump’s very favourite things, along with money, flattery, and publicity. So it was no great surprise to see him introduce the new season by driving himself through a veritable valley of both in an executive-sized open top sports car, mugging to the camera as he went. Cruising the babe-lined boulevards, he told the camera that whenever he thinks of Los Angeles, he thinks of movies, sex, and cars.
Insisting on its right of reply, the City of Angels retorted that whenever it thinks of Donald Trump, it thinks of bad hair, mail order brides, and multitudinous forms of bankruptcy. It also wondered: is there anything or anyone that doesn’t make Trump think about sex? Rosie O’Donnell, perhaps?
I’d like to think Trump took the wheel of his sports car because he realized he’d look silly lounging in the back behind his chauffeur, but I suspect he was just scared the wind might wreak havoc with his do. Whatever, the spectacle put me very much in mind of an ageing man with a comb-over, making embarrassing efforts at “cool” as he prepares to hit on the hot new office temp with a tongue-piercing and a lower back tattoo. The feeling came rushing back when Trump “rewarded” Week Two’s winners with a trip to the Playboy Mansion. Is there anyone with an IQ of more than one who thinks Hugh Hefner is anything other than a sad old caricature who should have been shot to put him out of our misery when he turned 120?
Well. Donald Trump for one, but then he also seems to think that Spago is still happening, so he may be living in a different century from the rest of us. Then again, Hefner is probably the only man on the planet who could make Donald Trump look low-key and wholesome. So the Playboy partay could’ve been a smart move on Trump’s part. But no. He genuinely, sincerely believes that Hefner is a thoroughly good chap and a role model for us all, to boot.
Curiously, when Trump introduced the winning project manager, Heidi Androl, to the leering old duffer in the pajamas, none recalled that Heidi got her first big break in the entertainment industry by appearing in Hefner’s video Playboy Wet & Wild: Slippery When Wet (2000). Since then, she’s been cast as a Hot Flossy Babe in an episode of Special Unit 2, and a Sexy Fan in Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt, before playing hot chicks in top movies such as Not Another Teen Movie, The Vision, and The Curse of El Charro. I don’t mean to pick on Heidi unduly. She seems pleasant, strong, and competent, and she’s merely typical of the show.
Frank is my personal Season Six bête noire. He fervently believes he’s destined to inherit the entire Trump Empire. I’m sure his rather smarter rivals all appreciate the Faustian-Warholian pact they’ve made with The Donald. The first Apprentice, Bill Rancic, may still be pimping Trump’s condos in Chicago, but the second, wooden soldier Kelley Perdew, is back out in the real world, with fingers in various pies and a TV gig on the Military Channel. And the estimable Kendra Todd, who won Season Three, has a real estate radio show of her own and a piece of HGTV’s My House Is Worth What?. Contrary to the hype, the winners of The Apprentice doesn’t get to help run Donald Trump’s topsy-turvy, boom-or-bust business empire; they get a 12-month contract to use their Apprentice celebrity to help promote the Trump brand. And so the only contestants who really need to be there are those—like Heidi—who plan on parlaying their 15 minutes into a full-on career in the meedyah.
Based on the first two episodes of The Apprentice: Los Angeles, Trump appears to be letting (what I perceive to be) his prejudices and fantasies well and truly out of the bag on network TV. The cast features more models than an East European beauty could shake Trump’s stick at. He probably hoped the first challenge—a carwash—would turn into some sort of adolescent wet dream stacked with hotties getting soaked. The second challenge focused on a swimwear fashion show. And that “reward” of an audience with a dirty old geriatric and a bunch of hookers will be followed by an episode built around the L.A. Laker Girls. Coming soon, Donald Trump flies the winners out to Vegas for lap dances all around, with the girls on the losing team providing the dances.
This interest in lithe beauties may or may not be connected to Trump’s tendency of late to fire gay black guys like they were going out of fashion. First to go was Martin. Actually, Martin may not have been even remotely gay, but if not, he should probably sue his wardrobe, his elocution teacher, and his aura. It was clearly prejudice that got him the boot. In strictly impartial terms, it should have been the deeply unpleasant loudmouth Frank who was fired. He was Project Manager and his team lost because they engaged in no planning, no discussion of price, no marketing, and indeed no project management whatsoever. However, Martin, who could best be described as a work-shy fop who loved the sound of his own intelligence, was railroaded straight outta there.
Next, it was Carey’s turn. Carey’s mistake was to indulge his ego, and to design and model the tightest, briefest, pinkest men’s swimsuit in history. He obviously didn’t get the memo explaining that Trump digs chicks in bikinis, not beautiful muscular gay black men in… well, the tightest, briefest, pinkest men’s swimsuit in history. Again, however, Carey, who had actually looked like a strong candidate for the end game until he pulled out his pink pride and joy, really should have stayed. His project manager, Nicole, approved his design and when team members shrieked in protest, it was her decision to stick with it.
Apart from his rampantly sleazy sexism and apparent bigotry, Donald Trump seems to be a good family man. After all, he’s had three of them already. And while it’s easy to assume he only wheels out Baby Barron Trump to emphasize his status as a hugely virile Master of the Universe (with a very, very good body), there can be no denying that his 25-year-old daughter, the fragrant Ivanka, is a tribute to all things Trump. Except perhaps the Bumper Book of Trump Family Names.
Stepping in to replace that fallen ice goddess Carolyn Kepcher, Ivanka won me over early on. Asked to manage a car wash for a couple of hours, one of the teams hired a pair of typical West Hollywood types to stand shirtless in the street and shill for business. When Ivanka arrived, the westside boys, playing completely against type, suggested she might like to whip off her own top and help them out. She reacted with such good grace and humour, and with just the barest suggestion of the steel that lies within, that my heart was immediately and entirely hers. And so it will remain, at least until the return of Veronica Mars. Carolyn who?