Blagojevich to vie on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’

By Frazier Moore

NEW YORK — Donald Trump boasted that the upcoming season of “The Celebrity Apprentice” is the best ever and promised the star power of its cast “blows ‘Dancing With the Stars’ away.”

Yes, it’s a new cycle for the Trump-hosted competition show, which won’t premiere until March 14 but threw an introductory news conference way back last October, with sworn-to-secrecy members of the media meeting the contenders.

Now, NBC says it’s time to unveil that roster of 14 participants, who will likely spur responses ranging from “Wow!” to “Huh?”

Maybe the most interesting (to use Trump’s pet adjective) participant is former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Vaulted to infamy by headlines and punch lines, he is charged with scheming to auction off President Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat, campaign fund-raising abuses and other offenses. He was removed from office last January but has denied wrongdoing.

Maybe not so interesting: the comedian-actor Sinbad and Australian TV chef Curtis Stone.

“I’m certainly not a household name,” said comedian-author Carol Leifer, but she sounded confident. “I’m not surprised that Joan Rivers won [last season], because, as a stand-up comic, you’re a one-man band — it makes you very prepared for stressful situations to be able to react to a lot of pressure. Humor is a weapon anywhere and everywhere!”

Former Poison vocalist Bret Michaels declared that, with a party- hearty rock singer’s image, he would be assessed as the season’s “super-underdog.”

“But I’ve been my own boss since I’ve been 19 years old,” said the 46-year-old former star of the “Rock of Love” reality show. “For better or worse, I’ve been on my own, I’ve learned to roll with the punches.”

Then the pro wrestler-actor who calls himself Goldberg issued fair warning.

“I know I’m going to explode during this show at some point and say things I probably don’t mean,” he said. “I realize that about myself. I’m human and have flaws.”

Baseball great Darryl Strawberry, rock-star wife and TV personality Sharon Osbourne and Olympic gold-medal sprinter Michael Johnson also will be competing, along with singer Cyndi Lauper, actress Holly Robinson Peete and Victoria’s Secret model Selita Ebanks.

As they spoke, the contestants were scheduled to begin taping “Celebrity Apprentice” the next day, and WWE wrestler-model Maria Kanellis was asked if they were already sizing up each other.

“Of course, we are!” she replied.

The celebrities won’t be vying for a job with Trump, as in the old, civilian-cast “Apprentice,” but instead will compete in business-oriented tasks around Manhattan to raise money for (and publicize) their favorite charities.

“I live a fairly normal life. I’m a mom with two kids,” said Olympic swimmer Summer Sanders, who is championing the Right to Play, an organization that uses sport and play to improve the lives of disadvantaged children. “But to have the opportunity to introduce my charity to the world is the reason I chose to do this.”

Blagojevich, whose chosen charity is the Children’s Cancer Center (which assists kids with life- threatening diseases and their families), has tried before to land a role on a reality show. Last spring, he attempted to join NBC’s “I’m a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here,” but a federal judge barred him from going to the Costa Rican site where the show originated. His wife, former first lady Patti Blagojevich, competed in his place.

The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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