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'THE APPRENTICE' Trump finally talks as show finale nears



Published: Sat, April 16, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Season 3's finale will air live from New York University.

By VERNE GAY

LONG ISLAND NEWSDAY

Huge news from the land of Trump: Donald Trump on Tuesday announced that his first "apprentice," Bill Rancic, had been rehired to another year contract, and (even huuuger news) that this year's season finale will last a mere hour May 19.

Why is this huuuge? Very glad you asked: Season 2's finale lasted a brain-deadening three hours, which was apparently even too much for the Trumpster, who admitted during an interview Tuesday that he "thought it was terrible." Trump said Season 3's finale will air live from New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts (leading into "ER's" season finale).

Of the Chris Shelton mess -- you know, the tobacco-masticating meathead and Season 3 contestant who got busted at a Florida casino over the weekend for disorderly conduct -- Trumpster on Tuesday told a news conference at Trump Tower that "I will be there for Chris if he needs me. He's got a problem. He truly is an angry guy."

In a private interview a little later though, the boss didn't sound too unhappy about a little off-campus controversy. "This Chris thing is a huge monster," he said. "We've had more press and calls -- it's amazing."

Finale fanfare

But Trump didn't hide his unhappiness with padded finales. For the Dec. 16 one at Alice Tully Hall, he said, producers wanted him to fire (then hire) a new contestant too quickly into the show, leaving the balance of the critically panned finale for a reunion, and other nonsense. Says Trump, "No one wants to watch a reunion show [but] we brought out The O'Jays, and talked about 'The Contender' ['Apprentice' partner Mark Burnett's other NBC show]. I said [to NBC] 'Does this count [in the ratings]?' I could have kept the boardroom going but everyone was screaming, 'Do the firing ... ' People don't even want to go through three hours of 'Gone With the Wind.' "

Meanwhile, Rancic said Tuesday he would work on other Trump projects this year, including a golf course in Mexico. "A year from now," he said, "I'd like to do a real estate deal of my own, maybe with him as a partner. That would be a pretty amazing end to the story."




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