The Celebrity Apprentice 2012 Finale Recap: We Have a Winner!

The whole Celebrity Apprentice 2012 season has led up to tonight, the crowning (although no actual crown was bestowed) of the Celebrity Apprentice 2012 winner. This season’s cast couldn’t have been more polarizing or entertaining, seeing as how it was populated with, to quote Donald Trump (the master of hyperbole), “18 of the biggest names in the business” (What business is that, Donald? The “Who used to sort of maybe but not quite was kinda famous for a while” business?) But I digress.

We started off watching Mario Andretti pulling up in front of Trump Tower in a race car, there to escort Donald Trump to the Celebrity Apprentice 2012 finale at the American Museum of Natural History. Two things stood out watching this car ride. The first is that no matter how much product Trump puts in his hair to achieve his unique look, it’s no match for the wind whipping through it while Andretti raced through the streets of Manhattan. And speaking of that, watching the overhead view (and I’m sure it wasn’t doctored or edited in any way, right?) of Andretti zipping along reminded me of the Frogger game. Maybe not the image they were trying to evoke but it’s kind of how it looked to me.

We started off with Arsenio Hall, one of the 2 Celebrity Apprentice 2012 finalists, reminded us that “I’m gonna kick Clay’s butt”. Shades of his famous – or infamous – interview in April 1992 where he threatened that his new talk show would “kick Leno’s ass”. Sadly, for us, Jay Leno is still around on the Tonight Show but Arsenio’s promise tonight about kicking Clay’s butt had me immediately nervous on Arsenio’s behalf. Hadn’t he been down that road before and it didn’t turn out so well the first time? And, seeing a bit of the preview of tonight’s episode, I didn’t think it was going to turn out so well this time either. (Full disclosure here; I am rooting for Clay Aiken). But we shall see, Arsenio. We shall see.

Along the way of watching both Team Clay and Team Arsenio prepare for their events – which included preparing a 30-second public service announcement/video of their charity, raising as much money as possible and putting on a variety show, we were treated to various and assorted mini-meltdowns from Debbie Gibson (on Team Clay)  feeling “pissed off and micro-managed” by Clay to Adam Carolla trying to turn the variety show into a celebrity roast (much to Arsenio’s dismay).  And, of course, Aubrey O’Day (that sort-of singer fired from that made-up group created by Diddy or Puffy or whatever he goes by these days) waltzes in wearing a hair style I can only characterize as Princess Leia meets Jessica Rabbit headed to a strip club. Virtually the first words out of Aubrat’s – sorry, Aubrey’s – mouth regarding her being on Team Clay were “If I wasn’t here, he wouldn’t have a show”. Dear Aubrey, he would have. Love, Me.

Arsenio Hall’s team focused on putting on a variety show with the motto being, per Arsenio, “”Have a good time, get ‘em drunk and make ‘em laugh”. Lofty goals and seeing how much alcohol Team Arsenio unloaded in their performance space, “get ‘em drunk” probably was the most easily achievable. Team Clay, heavily populated with singers, was going to do mostly singing with a little bit of magic (Penn Jillette with the welcome addition of the always silent Teller) thrown in to break up the performances.

Cut away, at that point, back to the live broadcast where Donald Trump brought out the first group of previously fired celebrities to wax poetic on what had happened, who should win and, most importantly (at least from my perspective), which other celebrity annoyed them the most. Ooh, this part was sooo good. After watching a Lou Ferrigno montage of how often he gave 110% on Celebrity Apprentice 2012 (and I hope those of you reading this will recognize I’m giving 110% in writing this too; my personal tribute to the great Lou Ferrigno), we got 3 contestants in a row (Victoria Gotti, Tia Carrere and Dayana Mendoza) bash both Lisa Lampanelli and Aubrey O’Day. Dayana has found a way of providing a non-answer to a ridiculous question by Donald Trump, proving she was a much better strategist than ever given credit for on Celebrity Apprentice 2012. (When Trump asked her if she had a good time on the show, she said “Thank you for the opportunity”. A perfect non-answer.) Victoria Gotti – without initially naming names – referred to the 2 evil queens of the show as a cartoon character and, for the other, “rude, crude and classless”. When pushed by Trump, she named names. (And if you can’t figure out who she meant, clearly you haven’t been watching the show this year). Tia pointed out that the divisiveness and biases of the women’s team resulted in 2 men being in the Celebrity Apprentice 2012 finale. Well done, fired celebrities. Well done.

From there, the Celebrity Apprentice 2012 finale headed back to the Team Clay/Team Arsenio events where far more Claymates turned out to buy tickets to support Clay than did Arsenio fans. But then the celebrity donations for Arsenio started rolling in, somehow delivered by random people waiting in line to get in. I’m not sure how that happened but I guess that’s the magic of television, or the power that Donald Trump holds over space and time. Lisa Lampanelli (playing for Team Arsenio), showing one of the first bits of humanity she’s displayed on the show, made a $10,000 donation – via a Lisa Lampanelli drag queen (is that an an oxymoron?) to Team Clay.  After lots of schmoozing by both teams and their guests during the events, the spaces were combined and the audiences were treated to the main events.

Arsenio Hall put on a comedy show, doing standup on his own for the first time in 10 years, preceded by Adam Carolla being more funny than I expected and Paul Teutel Sr. getting a pretty big laugh by telling the audience that his prior memories of being on Adam’s show were that he was a d*ck. According to Paul, he went off-script with that comment but it played well in the crowd. Team Clay entertained us with a really good duet from Deborah (don’t call me Debbie) Gibson and Dee Snider, followed by Aubrey O’Day singing “I Will Survive” and telling us as an aside that she sang the words “I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong” directly to Donald Trump because “Everybody knows I should have been in the final two”. (Hey Aubrey, I watched the whole Celebrity Apprentice 2012 season. You shouldn’t have been in the final two. You’re welcome.) Clay sang beautfully after that, Penn (and Teller) came out and did some pretty basic magic stuff that entertained the crowd and then Clay and Aubrey dueted. All I can say about that is one of them is a great singer from American Idol and the other has red hair.

Following the events, all participants of Team Clay/Team Arsenio headed back to the boardroom and I think my favorite Celebrity Apprentice 2012 season/finale moment happened here.  Donald Trump asked Aubrey’s opinion of what Arsenio’s weaknesses were. Arsenio jumped in before Aubrey could and said “I”m breathing” but Aubrey, being Aubrey, couldn’t keep her mouth shut and let Donald Trump know that “I don’t have enough time” to tell Trump all of Arsenio’s weaknesses. And here it came, Arsenio’s biggest moment on the show. “Mr. Trump, she (as in Aubrey) gave me a donation privately”. ” Trump, clearly impressed, responded to Arsenio Hall “Is that true?” “No, I’m just kidding”, Arsenio responded to not only big laughs in the boardroom but huge laughs from the crowd watching the Celebrity Apprentice 2012 finale in the theater. Sadly, being alone when I watched this, I couldn’t turn around and high-five someone for Arsenio schooling Aubrey but boy oh boy, the look on Aubrey’s face was priceless. Aubrey, you got served. We also learned that Team Arsenio raised $167,000 for the Magic Johnson Foundation and Team Clay raised a whopping $301,000 for his own charity, the National Inclusion Project.

The final few minutes were treated to a time-filling but pretty good duet (who knew Arsenio could carry a tune) from Arsenio Hall and Clay Aiken singing “Lean On Me”. And then the guys each made their cases for why they should be the Celebrity Apprentice 2012 winner. The quick answer is that Clay didn’t want his mother – who was in the audience when he lost American Idol to Ruben Studdard – to see him come in second place again. Arsenio made a great impression that the Donald Trump seal of approval would motivate him to keep on keeping on raising money for his charity. The various celebrities weighed in and it seemed a real even split between Arsenio and Clay. I found myself weighing the criteria Donald Trump had designed for the Celebrity Apprentice 2012 finale, which were raise a lot of money, put on a great show and do a 30-second video for the charity.  Based on that criteria, how could he not give it to Clay Aiken, who had out-raised Arsenio Hall by almost double, put on (in my humble opinion) a much better show than Team Arsenio and did a pretty good (although not as good as Arsenio) video for his charity.

And then Donald Trump delivered what I think was an OMG moment when he named Arsenio Hall as the Celebrity Apprentice 2012 winner. I’m sure Trump can and will explain what led him to that choice and I have no real problem with Arsenio winning because both Arsenio Hall and Clay Aiken played great. I think, as Trump said, it was as close a finale as there had ever been. But I’m wondering why Donald Trump wouldn’t or couldn’t have named them co-winners or at least given Clay matching money (as he did to Holly Robinson-Peete when Bret Michaels beat her in the Celebrity Apprentice 2010 finale). Both were equally deserving and, to my mind, Clay was the better choice but hey, if Donald Trump wanted my opinion, he probably would have invited me to the finale tonight.

So Celebrity Apprentice 2012 season is now officially over and I can reclaim my Sunday nights and turn back to following the Kardashians. I don’t know how Donald Trump will ever find a cast to match this one but topping my list of suggestions for next season are Phaedra Parks (of the Real Housewives of Atlanta), William Shatner (and if you don’t know who he is, shame on you) and Lindsay Lohan (hey, your comeback has to start somewhere). Can. Not. Wait. Celebrity Apprentice 2012, over and out.


  1. Your wit is appreciated, Ellen, especially since it is difficult to take these celebrities seriously!! Do they realize how they are coming across? And if they are not acting, then Hollywood is more egocentric than I thought!! It’s all about Egos, isn’t it? Loved your insight and glad to have someone following along who can point out nuances like the ones you did!! Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Donald Crump says:

    The entire series from Episode 1 was about who raised more money period….But the finale was more about who DANIEL BOONE wanted to win Wow! Hall comeback has already bombed; not only does he look like an alien he acted like one, the meltdown and abuse he bestowed on Aubrey (talented but way too imature) makes him a bully, a predator, and a pig. His teams finale had more “dick” jokes that a Sasha Baron Cohen movie. Classy; just the meglamaniac Trumps who’s oldest son couldn’t attend “probably due to hunting and mutalating some soon to be extinct species.
    Aiken on the otherhand was sometimes a bit testy but THROUGHOUT showed poise,professionalism, and he’s been charitable prior to his fame not just when it affected him or someone he cared about.Arsenio is just weak and was wealk all year and came off as out of touch and all his make name celebs or (the in crowd) bestowed on him 167K…OBVIOUSLY they don’t want to see a comeback either.

  3. Good post. I was happy with the outcome!

  4. Your column is pretty forthright but the clear winner was Aiken not the washed up late night talk show host.


  1. […] I don’t know how Donald Trump will ever find a cast to match this one but topping my list of suggestions for next season are Phaedra Parks (of the Real Housewives of Atlanta), William Shatner (and if you don’t know who he is, shame on you) and Lindsay Lohan (hey, your comeback has to start somewhere). Can. Not. Wait. Celebrity Apprentice 2012, over and out. […]

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