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Celebrity Apprentice Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

This is an interview with Donald Trump, Debbie Gibson and Arsenio Hall on February 9, 2012 about appearing on the show Celebrity Apprentice.

Debbie Gibson

Question:
What do you know now in business and even in life that you didn't know when you were first starting out, when you were young, when you were like in your 20s?

Donald Trump:
I think that experience is a great thing, Cindy. I mean, you learn so much through experience, and it's trial and error, but ultimately it becomes really trial because you see what goes on and you learn things. And I've actually learned many things from just doing Celebrity Apprentice. One thing I learned is that you never really know who's going to be great and we're run with two great people. I have to tell you that. But sometimes you're so amazed and so disappointed in some people that you have them and you see them and you meet them, and they look great and they're dressed sharp.

Everything's great, and you say, ???Oh, wow, they're going to be fantastic.??? And they turn out to be a total dud. And then you'll have some that you don't really predict will do that well, and they turn out to be superstars. So you really see that. That's the thing I learned the mos about the show itself, is that it's very hard to predict who's going to be the star, early on.

Question:
Debbie and Arsenio, could you tell me about what made you want to be a part of this show, and maybe what you felt would be some of the more concerns you had about joining?

Debbie Gibson:
At first I was concerned that it was just going to be basically so taxing to my nervous system that I thought, ???Oh my God, do I want to put myself through this???? I knew that it was not for the faint at heart, and ultimately the charity aspect is what kept nagging at me, and I do think anybody would be lying if they said that was the only reason for doing this show, because obviously this show is an amazing platform for every project you have going on, and like for me in my career that I've been doing that people didn't know about, this shines a big light on everything.

But ultimately the charity aspect I think is the backbone of the show, and if you are going to get up on very little sleep and run around and you know, and basically achieve the nearly impossible in 24 hour periods of time it is amazing that there is that as the backbone to the show, because millions have been raised for charity every season. And being a part of that and watching that unfold was incredible.

Arsenio Hall:
My situation was kind of two-fold. I've always wanted to do the show. I was a fan of the show, but I live in LA, and I'm a single dad. Didn't think I could leave my home for two months at a time. I just didn't think it was possible. And my son's 12 now, and it just happens to be the 20th anniversary of the Magic Johnson Foundation, which you for obvious reason, I've been a part of for a long time.

So it just seemed like this was the year and all things were pointing to the fact that this was the time for me to help the organization. It was the perfect time to leave for two months, even though that never works like you want it to, and I'm glad I did. It was probably the best show business experience I've ever had other than the Wayne Brady day time talk show.

Question:
In what ways did Arsenio and Debbie surprise you this season as far as what you didn't know about them?

Donald Trump:
I didn't know Debbie as well as Arsenio, other than I watched her on Broadway in Les Mis, and she was fantastic. So I mean, the thing I knew about Debbie is she's a very, very talented singer and actress. And I was actually there at opening night when she opened in Les Mis, and she was great. I mean, I still remember it, the way she sang.

Arsenio I knew for a long time, but I really knew him through the show. And his show is the hottest show. I mean, he was the best at what he did, and he was sort of killing everybody, and it became the buzz show, and then all of a sudden, Arsenio was gone, and nobody quite understood it. n fact, I'm going to have to talk to you, Arsenio, to figure it out, because he had this hot show.

And I think Arsenio sort of went into hiding, and I can tell you a lot of people, when they heard Arsenio was on our show, they said, ???Wow. That's a great get,??? because he sort of became almost reclusive, and people wanted him for different things and he wouldn't do it. And I view this as Arsenio's coming out party, and Debbie, if you remember, I said, ???I think Arsenio, wait until you see what happens. He really does a great job.??? And I think that Arsenio will have a very major show after Celebrity Apprentice, because he's smart. He's tough.

Question:
Mr. Trump, how do you think you would have done as a contestant on the Apprentice when you first started out?

Donald Trump:
Maybe poorly. I'm not sure I had the patience. It's such a hard job, and these people work so hard. In a way, I could never understand it, but with time I got to understand. If you look at Joan Rivers, how well she did, and I'm not even talking about people that win. I'm talking about people that didn't win.

Trace Adkins people hadn't heard too much about Trace Adkins, and he's now the number one country singer, and he didn't win. Piers Morgan took over Larry King, and people that went two episodes, three episodes, everybody was - not everybody. I mean, some people left poorly. Some people quit and you know, forever known as quitters. And you know, so not everybody was thrilled with having done it.

But most people that really worked at it, amazing. And the reason is they want to protect their brand. And in certain ways, the celebrities work even harder. And these are people, and many of them of great success. They work even harder than when we just did the regular Apprentice, where you know, frankly you had people that weren't celebrities and weren't necessarily successful.

Joan Rivers is an example. I mean, she was 76 years old when she won. She had the stamina better than any of the athletes we had on the show, and these were great, strong athletes. And it was amazing. They want to protect their brand. So it's been really a lot of fun for me.

Question:
You've had a lot to say about the election. Do you think candidates running can learn from watching the Apprentice?

Donald Trump:
I do think so, actually. I mean, you know the reason I did the Apprentice, and I was told it could never be successful, and it became as you know many nights the number one show on television, and continues to do really well, and you know, ten o'clock it's the number one show, and Sunday it's the number one show.

It's been a great success, and I was told that a business show - and I consider this somewhat of a business, show, but a business show has never made it in prime time. And I was told that very strongly by agents and everyone else. They said, ???Don't do it. You're wasting your time.??? And you know, this is 12 seasons later. And it continues to be one of the great shows. I've had a lot of fun with it, but you know, I really - this is an example of a show that's business oriented. If you think about it, it's entertainment, but it's business oriented that really made it in prime time.

Question:
Mr. Trump, the show's such a success, also with the charities, but also because of course conflict ensues with trying to win and you have such great personalities on the show. Were there any specific heated rivals this season that you didn't necessarily expected would happen?

Donald Trump:
Arsenio had a great rival, but I'll tell you, there was one rivalry that was very interesting. Lisa Lampanelli versus Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza. And that was an unbelievable rivalry. I don't know what it is that Lisa had against Dayana, but it was brutal. You know, Lisa's tough and smart, but it was a brutal - wouldn't you say so, Arsenio and Deborah? It was a tough rivalry, I thought.

Debbie Gibson:
It was, and I think people were very hard on Diana. She is a beauty queen. People assume that beauty queens can't be creative and resourceful and smart, and I found myself sticking up for her quite often, actually. I thought they were extra hard on her.

Donald Trump:
But she ended up being very smart in a very understated way, she turned out to be very smart. But Lisa went after Diana. It was brutal. And Arsenio, you had a problem, a particular problem. Go ahead.

Arsenio Hall:
I had a problem with everybody. I had a problem with Victoria Gotti. I'm happy to be alive today, and Lisa was really on Miss Universe. Lisa was our Meatloaf of this season.

Donald Trump:
Right. Lisa was brutal, and Lisa surprised me, because she's much more emotional than I thought she'd be, not just in terms of the tough. She turned out to be much more emotional.

Arsenio Hall:
I never imagined that she would cry, and her and Lou Ferrigno cried every hour.

Donald Trump:
Lou was another one. Lou's a great character, actually, but very emotional person.

Arsenio Hall:
Don't make him mad.

Debbie Gibson:
For me, when you watch the show as a fan, you wonder how much of the relationship issues are provoked, maybe by producers or whatever. And what I learned was all of the roller coaster relationships and rivalries are real. You are in close quarters will people. You don't get along with everybody.

I usually get along with everybody. I had my share of rubbing elbows with somebody, and so then it would take a turn, and one day you'd be getting along and somebody you thought that you liked would show some color that you didn't like, and suddenly that took a turn. And so all that stuff's real, which was one of the biggest surprises for me of being on the show.

Donald Trump:
Deborah had somebody in particular that really went after you, which, I never even understood why. But you had somebody that was not so nice to you, right, Deborah?

Debbie Gibson:
Yes. Yes. And then it turned, and now we're actually friends.

Donald Trump:
Yes.

Debbie Gibson:
Go figure.

Donald Trump:
So there was a lot of conflict. I do say this. This was a very, very smart cast, and I think people are going to learn a lot from Celebrity Apprentice. I think this was a very, very emotional casts, and this was a very, very smart group of people as a whole.

Question:
Lisa Lampanelli's been on a lot of shows and she's been talking a lot about Debbie. She's been very complimentary, but I just want to know if you can give us some insight into what really went down?

Debbie Gibson:
I think Lisa and I hit it off. We're both New Yorkers, and I think because I started in pop music, people assume that means you're kind of precious and prissy and I think Lisa might have been surprised by the fact that I'm very much like her. Like, I spent a lot of my life schlepping around New York, not having people doing things for me.

So the two of us, when we were put together, especially in different things, and it was just the two of us, we had a similar energy, and we, you know - if something involved taking photographs of each other we didn't care about how we looked. It was like let's get the job done and move on. So you know, we did hit it off, and that's really nice to hear that she's been so complimentary. That's cool.

Arsenio Hall:
You all hit it off because her room wasn't next to yours and you didn't keep her up all night which your loud ass music and your parties. I couldn't do my best work every day because of your ass, Debbie Gibson.

Question:
Debbie, you have already been talking about the fact that when we watch the show every year, we see celebrities who don't match up with the image that we have in our heads, and I'm wondering what kind of behavior are we going to see from you that you think will surprise people, and also, was there anything that you did or how you behaved that actually surprise yourself?

Debbie Gibson:
I definitely had times that you know, you think you're nuanced in business, and you can maintain your cool at all times, but I got to tell you, on very little sleep and with cameras on you all day, definitely there are moments where I got a little snippy with people, probably. I have three sisters, so you know, that's kind of like a dynamic that I grew up with. I think I have a very kind of nice demeanor. But at the same time, when pushed, I will snap. You know, I have a backbone, but I don't feel like I have to flaunt that until I need to. And there are moments where I needed to.

Question:
Mr. Trump, how many housewives, former, present, have approached you about being on this show.

Donald Trump:
A lot. Almost all of them, and she's great. NeNe was great, as you know, for last season. NeNe was a real piece of work, and Theresa is terrific on the show. Very tough, very opinionated, and she's got her ideas. I mean, she's got ideas, and she was a great character on the show, no question about it. But virtually everybody wants to be on the show.

We've turned down many, many people, for every one we take. And it's interesting, but you know, they give me a list of 1000 celebrities, and I'm amazed at how many celebrities there are, and every one of the thousand people, you've heard of. But we turn down many for every one that we take.

Question:
Arsenio and Debbie, was there any particular strategy you had going into the show, or do you think that you kind of just took it as you went along?

Debbie Gibson:
My strategy was to have no strategy, which might not have been the smartest thing or might have been the smartest thing. We'll have to see. I really wanted to play the game well, play as a team player, and really come into the board room each week with an open mind and a clean slate and when Mr. Trump said who fell short, simply answer the question. I didn't have any agenda or anything against anybody in particular.

There was some event going on behind the scenes. Some of the women would want to kind of target somebody in particular, and I just couldn't sleep at night if I did that, so I didn't do that, wasn't a part of that. And I just wanted to be - you know, one thing I learned from the show was not to be shy about fundraising. Mr. Trump taught me that all throughout this point. You know, I really learned - you really learn from doing the show, just when you think you've tapped out all your resources, there are more. So it was a really amazing experience in that way for me.

Question:
Watching Celebrity Apprentice, what do you think they can learn from it?

Donald Trump:
I think that the harder you work the better you do. Don't ever quit. Don't ever give up, and that's sort of a lesson in life. But they worked very hard. So I think really the harder they work, and never, ever quit or give up. Arsenio, how would you answer that one?

Arsenio Hall:
As a fan you learn that Lou Ferrigno is a fighter, not a lover. And as a contestant I learned to hate China because I listened a lot about politics to Mr. Trump. So I think I'm almost a Republican lite now.

Donald Trump:
That's very interesting.

Question:
Arsenio, did working on Celebrity Apprentice make you kind of more interested in becoming a little bit more public in the entertainment scene again, and also what are your thoughts on the passing of Don Cornelius?

Arsenio Hall:
First of all, as a fan of the Apprentice you watch and you say, well I'd like to come off that show having the life of NeNe and Pete Mayor of Atlanta. So I mean, yes, you do it because it's a great way to show your wares to Hollywood. But as for Don, as far as Hollywood is concerned I met him when I came out here, and he was one of those guys that was like my mentor. I could call him any time. I actually think when you watch the body of my old talk show, I learned to produce that kind of thing from Don Cornelius. I grew up watching him. I grew up knowing what an executive producer was, looking at credits on Soul Train and having a dream based on what he did.

And it's unfortunate that he was so sad at the end of his life and that it ended in that way. But I have great memories of laughing with him. You know, as stoic and quiet as he can be, he loves to laugh and I'm going to miss him as a person. I'm going to miss him as a mentor. Now I've got to call Mr. Trump late at night when I've got a problem.

Donald Trump:
I thought Don Cornelius was a special guy. He was amazing, and that show was amazing, and while I may not be the demographic for that show, I will tell you I was, because I watched it. That show was great and he was great, and I think he will be missed. He was really amazing at what he did. He and I would have gotten along very well, I can tell you.

Question:
Is there someone, whether it's someone who's already planned to be on the show, or just if you had your druthers, who you would love to have on the show just to see them fired?

Arsenio Hall:
Unfortunately what goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas, but I'd love to get OJ out of there so you could fire him.

Debbie Gibson:
My obvious answer would be Tiffany, but I actually know that she wants to be on the show and I actually endorse her being on the show. So that was somewhat sarcastic. But yes, I'll just leave it at that. But yes, I'd have to give that some thought.

Donald Trump:
By the way, I have a lot of people that want to be on this show, but they're a little bit afraid, like Pete Rose is somebody I'd love to have on the show, but he hates the concept of being fired, even though I think it would be great for him. So I know he seriously thinks about it. He really wants to be on this show, but he does have a little problem with that, so anyway, okay, thank you.

Question:
Mr. Trump, you've got literally Adam Corolla said people are knocking down your door trying to get on the show now. How do you - how are you choosing the celebrities now, since you have so many? What is the criteria for people to be on the show now?

Donald Trump:
Essentially it's celebrity, it's smarts, it's the level of enthusiasm, and almost all of them have, and it's actually a great question. It's very hard. All you can do is pick what you think are the best in this case 18 people. It's the largest cast we've ever had, because it's done so well that they actually have two extra episodes this year, 15 or 16 episodes. So it's just something that you have to go with the gut. You pick the people that you think will be really good together, and I think that's why we have a great cast this time. It is very easy for us to get people to go on the show.

Question:
Must have been a lot of sleepless nights trying to decide should I get them? Should I use them? Should I use them?

Donald Trump:
We've really had some tough decisions to make, and we hate to make them in many cases. Sometimes we make a decision and it's like we hate to tell other people they're not going to be on the show.

Question:
Can you tell me if there's anything different this season, maybe some twists this season to keep the show fresh?

Arsenio Hall:Question:
What was your most difficult task, an example of what you found to be the most difficult part of the task in accomplishing it?

Arsenio Hall:
I feel that getting as far outside of an entertainer's wheelhouse is what does it, and you've got to admit most people who are famous or relatively successful, they probably don't do manual labor. They don't really work hard. Hard work is - I was in the trailer waiting for more than an hour. You know, that's hard work.

So it's when Clay Aiken screams at somebody and says, ???I said clean those bugs out of that pot now!??? It's like, that's when the show gets hard, because first of all, a person who makes all the decisions in their life and no one tells them what to do is being told not only what to do, but to do some nasty manual labor, and it seems like the really tough things of that nature combined made the hardest, most interesting television moments, also, by the way.

Question:
Mr. Trump talked before about maybe a concern that some celebrities have about protecting their brand. Before you decided to go on the show, was that something that crossed your minds because somebody like NeNe Leakes last year or Meatloaf or Gary Busey, we do change our perceptions of those people. Were you conscious of, oh God, do I really want to get involved in something like this, because what if it goes poorly even if I'm trying my best?

Debbie Gibson:
I had that thought in terms of like, being a performer and being the pop singer and all of that. I thought to myself being seen in a group of people and in this context how will that feed what I do?

It's what I love to do, which is to be on stage, and you really have to come around to the fact that we do live in a different world now, and this kind of visibility really I think unless I really was going to go and make an idiot of myself, I thought it's only going to enhance everything else I'm doing. So I did go through that concern, and actually even had a conversation with Cyndi Lauper's manager, and she said you know, where houses were half-sold, they went to sold out. It's just the visibility factor really is amazing with this show. I did have that concern in the beginning.

Question:
Arsenio, now that you're back in the spotlight with the show, how do you look back at the legacy you left behind with your talk show?

Arsenio Hall:
Talk show was a totally different time. That's why I think often timing is the most important element. You can bring a project along at the wrong time, and a great thing could not work like the Ben Stiller show in the early Fox stage something great just ahead of its time or something. And I think my timing for that was perfect, and you know, things have changed now.

Television has changed. We're redefining ourselves as television, Hollywood, you know. I look now and it's extremely crowded. I don't think anyone could experience that thing I experienced now, you know. The pie is split in so many pieces. It's a whole different world, plus that era of being able to tap into syndication and try to get in the game against Johnny and the big guys.

It was a whole different era. I hope that maybe I changed politics a little by not booking Kenny G. one night and letting Bill Clinton play, you know. But you know, hopefully I helped put the rap game on the map. And right now, I'm trying to be this season's NeNe, or NayNay, if you're in Denver. In Denver it's NayNay, I guess.

Question:
Arsenio and Debbie, following up on this season's NeNe, was there anyone you saw on previous seasons, where you said I really like their strategy. I'd like to sort of mimic that.

Arsenio Hall:
Yes. Most days, Jose Conseco came to mind, because it's such a hard show. You wake up much earlier than we choose to wake up, and you're working from you know, 8 am to 10 pm and you're in a van with Victoria Gotti, and you just want to get out of the van and walk toward the airport. Just keep all my stuff in the room. You can have everything. Just walk to the airport and fly home some days. And I would think about Jose Conseco and wish that I had a reason that I could go tell Mr. Trump, I'm out of here.

Debbie Gibson:
Oh, God. I love Marlee Matlin, and in fact when I decided to do the show, I called her and her interpreter and we all had breakfast, and I just kind of picked her brain a bit. And I wanted to go on and obviously be me and be authentic, but I felt like she just was like the least gimmicky of everybody I'd ever seen on the show, and I thought I would approach it in a similar way.

Question:
What is the most important lesson you learned from Mr. Trump?

Debbie Gibson:
I said it earlier, but I really just learned that I've always been resourceful, but I really realized how resourceful you can be, and that you will do a project in whatever time you're given. If you're given three months to stage an event, you'll probably use every minute of the three months. If you're given 24 hours, you can get it done. It was a pretty incredible thing to realize. And again, it's like I knew that, but to be able to actually exercise it and do it was amazing.

Arsenio Hall:
Okay, I learned two things. I learned, one, that rich people can raise great kids despite all the pitfalls, and the second thing I learned is we cannot trust China as a people. Right on. I learned those things from Mr. Trump.

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