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Book: Donald Trump Amused by Martha Stewart, Arnold Schwarzenegger Failures on 'Celebrity Apprentice'

 June 19, 2024

Apprentice in Wonderland is a revealing new book by Ramin Setoodeh that dives into the reality TV rise of Donald Trump through The Apprentice and the show’s broader cultural impact.

Setoodeh's book features numerous anecdotes and interviews with Trump, offering insights into various facets of his career, celebrity interactions, and personal reflections, including the glee he felt when prominent celebrity Democrats showed weakness on subsequent iterations of the program, as the New York Post reports.

The Apprentice's Rise and Trump’s Catchphrase

Trump was catapulted to national fame beyond measure with the launch of The Apprentice. The iconic phrase "You’re fired!" was first uttered by Trump in 2004 during the show's filming. He vividly recalled the first time he said it: “Everybody, because they have so many screens, they saw what was going on in the boardroom. The place just reverberated. People were screaming. They were shouting,” he said.

The book Apprentice in Wonderland is enriched by interviews with Trump, conducted between May 2021 and November 2023. Real estate mogul Sam Solovey remarked on Trump's impact, stating, "The Apprentice normalized him. It made him almost like the personification of the American dream. He was an aspirational character for Middle America.”

Salary Negotiations and Network Challenges

Negotiations for Trump's salary for the second season of The Apprentice marked a notable event. Trump demanded an exorbitant $6 million per episode from TV executive Jeff Zucker. He remembered, “I said, ‘You should pay me $6 million an episode,’” and added, “They went f—king crazy.” Initially, Zucker considered replacing him, yet in the end, they reached an agreement. “I agreed to a fortune,” Trump commented.

Despite Trump's popularity, reruns of Friends outperformed The Apprentice in ratings. This presented a persistent challenge for the network executives involved.

Celebrity Hosts and Their Performance

Trump expressed strong opinions on the performances of other celebrity hosts tapped to helm later versions of the show. He was critical of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tenure on The New Celebrity Apprentice, stating, “I said it was terrible. I just felt it had no energy whatsoever.”

Jeff Gaspin shared that Martha Stewart's stint as host was also unsatisfactory in Trump's eyes: “As soon as we saw the episodes, she wasn’t the dynamic reality star [Trump] was.” Trump echoed this sentiment, saying, “How can you get better than Martha? And it failed miserably.”

Trump's Celebrity Interactions and Feuds

Trump's relationships with various celebrities are also depicted in the book. He expressed disappointment over Kim Kardashian’s support for Joe Biden despite his assistance to her with a criminal justice project. “I was disappointed in Kim... She went for Sleepy Joe!” Trump said.

His views on Caitlyn Jenner also highlighted personal disconnects. “I don’t know her. I knew Bruce. But I don’t know Caitlyn,” he remarked.

Contentious Relationship with Jeff Zucker

Trump shared his contentious relationship with Zucker, whom he derogatorily called "human scum." Trump claimed to have played a significant role in Zucker’s later career at CNN. “I got the guy the job. And as I was campaigning, people would come and say, ‘Sir, CNN is hitting you a little hard!’ I would say, ‘That’s not possible. Go back and check.’ And I’d call Jeff,” he recounted.

Despite these tensions, Trump and Zucker continued to work together through the show's success.

Trump Expresses Admiration Amid Feuds

Amid his numerous feuds, Trump disclosed his admiration for liberal actress Debra Messing, despite their conflicts, saying, “Debra Messing, who I always thought was quite attractive – not that it matters, of course.”

Moreover, when preparing for his 2018 meeting with Kim Jong Un, Trump considered consulting basketball star Dennis Rodman. “I didn’t use Dennis for it, but I thought about it a couple times before I got to know Kim Jong Un,” he said.

Alternate Personalities: TV vs. Real Life

Former Apprentice contestants recounted contrasting aspects of Trump’s personality. Alex Thomason noted, “From that moment, I realized that’s the true Donald Trump, and the exterior he projects is all for advertising.” Stephanie Myers added that the show allowed Trump to unwind and adopt a more laid-back persona.

These insights contrast sharply with the stern persona he projected on the show.

COVID-19 Leadership and Vaccine Development

Trump also commented in the book on his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and took pride in the rapid vaccine development. “We did unbelievable, and then I came up with a vaccine. Then I bought $12 billion of the vaccine before we knew it was going to work,” he stated.

He pointed to this achievement as a significant aspect of his tenure.

In summary, Ramin Setoodeh’s Apprentice in Wonderland provides an in-depth look at Donald Trump's rise through "The Apprentice" and the broader cultural ramifications of the show. The book covers Trump's interactions with fellow celebrities, his notable negotiations, and personal anecdotes, painting a complex picture of his journey and influence.