Charity fundraiser plays key role in how finale of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ ends

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fundraiser key in ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ finale

NEW YORK — Comedian Joan Rivers was hired and poker champ Annie Duke was fired on the final faceoff of “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Rivers beat out Duke on Sunday’s finale by planning a better fundraising gala — and, maybe, by launching better zingers at her rival.

Rivers won $250,000 for her chosen charity (God’s Love We Deliver, which brings meals to the seriously ill who are homebound). She also won sweet revenge against her bitter adversary, with whom she swapped many less-than-charitable words as the season wore on.

NBC’s over-padded three-hour broadcast eventually led to Duke being summoned to the decisive boardroom session, aired live from Manhattan’s Museum of Natural History. There, she heard the dreaded verdict from series host Donald Trump: “You’re fired.”

But before that, as she and Rivers sat across the boardroom table from Trump, the fur continued to fly.

“You are a two-faced person,” Rivers railed at Duke. “You have said I’m a cancer. You said you hoped I would die. You never said it to my face!”

“For six boardrooms,” said Duke, holding tight to her composure, “I sat here and acted professional.”

“Professional-ly,” Rivers corrected her.

“And there’s only so much a girl can take,” Duke continued.

“You’re not a girl anymore, darling,” Rivers shot back. “You’re a woman.”

Rivers and Duke were the last of 16 celebrities who started the season vying for the title of Celebrity Apprentice.

In its eighth season, “Celebrity Apprentice” has displayed remarkable stamina as a reality-show infomercial whose mission, in the form of a contest, is to plug brand names. Last week’s challenge called for the celebrity contestants to come up with the winning jingle to promote a certain brand of tuna. Sunday’s finale was built around a photography brand piggybacked onto product placement for a popular theater production.

“Celebrity Apprentice” is also dedicated to breathing new life into the brands of the celebrity participants themselves, who, as this season began, included Olympic figure skating gold medalist Scott Hamilton, comedian Andrew Dice Clay, former “Monster Garage” host Jesse James and TV personality Khloe Kardashian.

For the final task, dueling project managers Rivers and Duke were assigned to create a pre-theater party and silent auction, sponsored by Kodak, for patrons attending Cirque du Soleil’s “Wintuk.”

Project teams were composed of previously fired contestants including former football great Herschel Walker, Playboy pinup Brande Roderick, country music performer Clint Black, former NBA basketball bad boy Dennis Rodman, comedian Tom Green and TV host Melissa Rivers, reunited with her mom, Joan.

Difficulties (and enmity between the teams) spiked when Rivers tangled with the design firm that had been hired to assist both teams. The company pulled out on Rivers’ team — and Duke’s team, too.

“This woman needs to die,” Duke seethed as she tried to fix a problem she blamed on Rivers.

But now that the game is over, can the rift between them heal? In the show’s final seconds, Rivers rose to her feet and gave Duke, still seated beside her, a hug.

NBC is owned by General Electric Co.

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