It was just another morning in midtown: Dennis Rodman in a jacket with tails and jeans, Donald Trump in a conservative suit, Marilu Henner and Lisa Rinna in elegant dresses, shivering against the cold of an open-air double-decker bus wending through Manhattan.
Some New Yorkers glance up and continue walking to work. Tourists stop, point and snap photos as Poison frontman Bret Michaels smiles from beneath his red bandanna.
Trump had just announced the 14 participants of NBC’s “All-Star Celebrity Apprentice,” which debuts Sunday, March 3. Zap2it was invited to ride with the celebrities, who reveal why they wanted to compete again.
“It suits my energy,” says Henner. The “Taxi” star, one of the rare people with total recall, is playing for the Alzheimer’s Association.
Rinna, playing for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, volunteers that her last go-round on the show was not one of the high points of her life.
“The hardest part for me of doing this is last time, I don’t think I was as prepared mentally,” Rinna says. “It was a very, very tough group. Now I know what to expect.”
“I was never, ever going to do it again,” she says. “Sometimes the most uncomfortable path is that which makes us grow.”
Rodman is less fortune-cookielike.
“The only reason is Donald asked me to do it,” he says from behind white shades. “I thought it would be fun to show people it was no fluke and I could win this damned thing.”
On the surface, Trump and Rodman may not look as if they would be good pals, but Rodman says, “We talk about a lot of cool stuff – sports, life in general. We try to outwit each other. It’s obnoxious sometimes.”
Trump surveys the streets, points out his buildings and talks about this as “the No. 1 show on television.” Nielsen ratings had it as No. 70 for the 2011-12 season.
Trump and executive producer Mark Burnett pick the contestants, whose careers were greatly helped by “Celebrity Apprentice,” Trump says.
“Trace Adkins became a major star,” Trump says of the country singer who was on the first season.
Taciturn and gloomy, Adkins speaks as if each syllable pains him as much as an organ being ripped from his body. Still, he has one of the best lines of the day: “They asked me to come back to provide energy and enthusiasm.”
Though Adkins isn’t a talker, Trump certainly is, and he’s happy to pitch the show, the first of the “All-Stars” ilk for this series.
“We took some of the good people we liked,” Trump says. “We turned down 15 people who wanted to be on it.”
Some contestants seem to cling to their celebrity. Omarosa — resident meanie of the first season of “The Apprentice” — and La Toya Jackson were not on the bus ride but are on the show.
The women’s team is Henner, Rinna, Jackson, Omarosa, actress Claudia Jordan and Playmate of the Year Brande Roderick. The men’s team has Rodman, Adkins, illusionist Penn Jillette, former Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider, actors Stephen Baldwin and Gary Busey, rapper Lil Jon, and Michaels.
Those on the bus seem to be having a pretty good time, despite the unseasonable cold and, for some, the early hour. Even the Naked Cowboy has not yet staked his corner of Times Square.
Snider is having a blast. “The first season, I was running a marathon, and it turned out to be a half marathon. This time, I am sprinting from the start.”
Snider’s silver rings clang against the bus railing, and he grins to a fan taking a photo. He reflects on being at the top of a career, then sliding.
“I had a down period in the ’90s,” he says. “When I fell from grace it makes you appreciate when you get back into the spotlight.”
This show requires players to meet tough challenges and raise money. Trump calls it how he sees it. Failing will land you in the boardroom with Trump uttering his signature line: “You’re fired.”
Naturally, everyone is intent on avoiding those words, but what brought them to the bus is different.
“I consider it my job,” Jillette says. “They tell me to do something, I do it.”
Henner is sanguine about the challenge and being on display.
“This is part of the business,” she says. “I always appreciated the publicity, and this is part of what we do. I have never been on top of a bus in cold weather before.”
When Henner played last time, her task involved selling hot dogs, and she lost an important receipt but was able to focus and recall the details.
“The Celebrity Apprentice” continues to entertain, Henner says, “because it’s fun to watch people out of their element, having to think on their feet, stripped away of assets.”
And some are fixed on the prize.
Roderick says, “I really want to win that $250,000 for my charity, Promise to Kids.”
When she competed, she had a problem with Melissa Rivers.
“Her mom got upset,” Roderick says.
That could pose a problem since Melissa’s mom, Joan Rivers, who won that season, returns as an adviser. That alone will be reason to watch.