Hey Apprentice Fans! We're back, and this season promises to be the craziest and most entertaining to date. My father met the celebrities at Radio City Music Hall, which was fitting, as many have performed in that very venue. The group walked in, wisely with their guards up, ready to play. A few of the charities were introduced and it reminded each of the contestants what they were battling for: awareness and ultimately raising money for incredible causes. Star Jones, who has recently undergone open-heart surgery, shared her story with us, as did John Rich, who will be raising money for St. Jude Children's research hospital, another amazing cause, one that my brother Eric is also very involved in. We soon found out most of the celebrities this season don't have very much in common. But one thing's for certain, raising money for charity is their priority - that and avoiding two tough words from my father.
The teams were divided up, men versus women, and then were off to pick a team name and project manager. I think in Apprentice history no one has suggested more interesting names than Gary Busey, although would you expect anything less? I mean, Bologna & Dirt or The Sperm Farmers? The men finally settled on a less ridiculous name: Backbone. They also decided on their first project manager, the first "Survivor" champion Richard Hatch. The ladies broke off into their suite where they unleashed their creative juices and also Star's Maltese. I think this may be the first team mascot I've seen on the Apprentice, a dog with pink bows no less. The ladies decided on the team name, ASAP. They had a little bit of trouble explaining the name to my father when they entered the boardroom, or as Lil Jon called it, "The Haunted House." Star stepped up as the project manager and I was looking forward to seeing her take the lead.
Being a New Yorker my entire life, I can agree that pizza is very important to our city. Pizza became very important to our celebrities, as their first task was to make and sell pizza. The teams moved full steam ahead, hitting the phone lines immediately to try and get donors to come down to buy pizza. Within minutes, Jose Canseco formed an opinion that his leader this week was demanding, controlling and aggressive. Working together for five minutes with Richard made that impression? As a team leader beginning a task, it's so important to have the support of your teammates behind you. I was curious to see Richard's leadership style unfold, as the atmosphere only gets more stressful. He certainly wasn't off to a good start with Jose and David.
The teams rolled up their sleeves and began prepping for the big day ahead. The ladies' team seemed to be a little aggravated that their team leader wasn't interested in getting her hands dirty. Star was busy working on the creative, and the team collectively thought she might have taken too much time out for that. My sister Ivanka visited the men's team and Richard was very confident in himself and their team. He said he would surprise us. I was hoping that we would be surprised - in a good way. I for one would never want to be referred to as a "depressing taskmaster," which is how Jose described his Project Manager. With that aside, I was looking forward to seeing how Team Backbone would perform on Task 1.
It was game time and "The Pepperoni Profit," aka Gary, was dressed and ready to lure in customers for the men's team. Very wisely, the team put Lil Jon, John Rich, and Gary out front to get the buzz going. If I was walking by and saw Gary Busey throwing pepperoni on the street and sharing his wisdom on why their pizza was "good for you," I'd find it hard not to stop in, although I might be too skeptical to eat a piece. It was a smart use of the talent on the team by the guys. Overall the men's team had great enthusiasm, which I think is hugely important. Richard and David continued to clash, David thinking Richard was overly aggressive and Richard feeling like David wasn't working hard enough, taking multiple breaks. Regardless, the men had a packed house all day and seemed to be bringing in great sums of money, which hopefully would be enough.
ASAP divided and conquered this task, having the very loud voice of NeNe Leakes out front with La Toya Jackson hoping to drum up business. Niki Taylor hugely impressed everyone by being head chef for the day. Aside from her modeling career, it seems Niki could join Curtis Stone in the kitchen, as he thought the ladies' pizza was the better of the two. Dionne Warwick took over the register, and from the get-go it seemed that she didn't have it down quickly enough. The lines were very long, and really in almost all tasks, time is money. I think as Project Manager, Star should have insisted on jumping in and helping out, or at least come up with another solution. Perhaps cash and credit should have been separate lines. I think this was a glitch in their plan that could have been fixed, but rather was acknowledged and overlooked.
The ladies team also had a huge donation - $40,000 for one slice of pizza. Pretty incredible! As Project Manager, Star took the executive decision to close down the shop, only to handle the delivery orders. That was a pretty risky move and if it didn't work out in her favor I was sure the rest of the team would look for her to take responsibility. ASAP had some trouble with NYC traffic (although who doesn't), and wasn't able to make their last delivery to the firehouse. Little did they know that delivery would be the difference of $35,000! Ouch.
It was time for the boardroom. If the celebrities thought that they had a rough day, they weren't prepared for what was ahead. My father started with the ladies. Initially, it was apparent the air wasn't cleared between Star and Lisa. Star referred to Lisa as "a little girl," not exactly nice but I've definitely heard worse in the boardroom. In usual fashion, Gary cut the tension, literally, with his cell phone going off in the boardroom. I don't think he'll make that mistake again. It was the moment of truth. Ivanka and I read off the profits for the day. The ladies took this one home, more than doubling what the men took in. It was a great win for Star and her charity, The American Heart Association, and additionally for Niki. For being a star in the kitchen, she took home $35,000 for the American Red Cross.
Now the men were left to battle it out. I have to say I was a bit disappointed Gary didn't keep his "Pepperoni Profit" costume on for the boardroom. He did however share his pitch used all day, scary, but very funny. When it came down to it, Jose, Richard and David were left in the boardroom, fighting to stay in the game. Both Jose and David clashed with Richard from the get-go. Even during the boardroom, I wasn't sure that David really brought the energy. I didn't agree with Richard's leadership style but I also agreed with my father that David seemed to have lacked passion to be there. One of the most important tools in business is to always be passionate about the task ahead. If you aren't, it will show through to your colleagues and bosses. David, who's a great guy that we all respect, was sent home. It's tough to be the first one to go, but we wish him the best.
I hope you all enjoyed the first episode of this all-new season. Please send me your comments on the episode here on the blog and via Twitter. I hope you'll also tweet with me live, every Sunday at 9 p.m. See you next week!