Celebrity Apprentice: Out With a Pop

The Celebrity Apprentice S012E14: "And the Winner Is..."

Last night's Celebrity Apprentice finale made me really wish Andy Warhol was still with us. He had a manner of deflating celebrities and summing up ridiculous behavior with such cool detachment, and this age would've kept him so, so busy. What would he have ever written about last night's episode? You KNOW he would've DVR'd the show religiously, probably watched it on Monday mornings. The finale was such a mad scramble for money, for popularity, for the celebrities proving they have friends who will give them gobs of money for no good reason. Their poor fans and friends trundled along with their tributes and the celebrities, on an adrenaline high, just slung it around, like Arsenio did last night when one of the Andretti clan brought him several thousand dollars in cash. "Classy family!" Arsenio said in voice-over as he threw bills to the floor.

And that sad fan of Clay's who brought $20,000 or $10,000 of combined donations from several fans, how many combined donations? How many kids will go without new shoes this next school year because their mothers, in a fit of guilt and misplaced sexual tension, decided to "treat themselves" to helping Clay's charity? This show insists that elegantly panhandling for charity is somehow kosher, but it's SO gauche. Warhol would have had much to say, he did NOT approve of glittery creatives borrowing money from their rich pals.

Warhol had some works he called "living portraits" because the sitter who was depicted would change his or her appearance and then demand he change the portrait to match. Aubrey O'Day would never get into the Factory (a camel has a better chance of making it into Harvard) but if by some fluke someone (besides me) agreed to make a portrait of her, can you imagine how often you'd have to retouch it? When she showed up last night to the live finale, the size of a couch with honey blonde hair, I didn't know what to say. Quelle chameleon! Also her eyelashes are the length and breadth of raven wings now, and its unnerving because it looks like she can't get the mascara all the way through to the thick, bristly ends, and the tips are beige or something, like a dusty fringe inches from her eyes. It's insane! There's never been anything like it! Not since ancient Rome have women been allowed to appear in public with such weirdly fake hair and makeup. Okay maybe Marie Antoinette times.

How ridiculous was it when Aubrey met the Trumps and started walking them through Clay's half of the party space? She knew there was no way for her to be declared the winner at that point, so maybe her tragic bossiness this season was less strategy and more a compulsive need for approval. Maybe it's tied to how "undervalued" she's been her whole career, but if that's your takeaway from a lifetime of effort then perhaps you're in the wrong career. Perhaps, instead of navigating the choppy waters of being famous, Aubrey should join the circus. This is not an attempt at derision. The way her eyes glowed around those carnival games and the shoddy mural that sprang up around them? "The tent-booths looked incredible." That is just not true. That's like saying "the fire was cold."

The tent-booths were depressing, the fake turf was a hazard, and the mural was disgusting. After Debbie whining and pleading and begging and showing Clay a mural her cousin/sister/whatever had made probably over the course of a month, Clay graciously agreed to cut the cousin a check and the muralists showed up and painted the walls like a weird high school community theater background for Barnum: The Musical.

In stark contrast, the winning Arsenio party had a much more effective landscape: low couches, lots of liquor, and an understated celebrity appearance by Whoopi Goldberg.

Of course, nothing that happened at the actual event could truly sway Trump. His motives were as primitive and as incapable of being influenced as the spray that gushes through Old Faithful. The fact he asked the Greek chorus of Unapprentices who they would choose is a good example of how seriously he's taking any of this.

Warhol would have found some way to dismiss the whole venture that would sum up the surreality and fakeness and desperation. Something that would tie in Mario Andretti committing $80,000 worth of moving violations on New York City streets on-camera at the beginning of the show (don't worry, it was all done in post-production, Aunt Mimi) with the inexplicable duet by Arsenio and Clay moments before the winner was announced. Nothing in my reality TV viewing career has ever equaled how antithetical that display was to the supposed concept of the show. This is about people competing in small-business projects for charity, yet we had a full gospel choir screaming at the audience as some emotional denouement before the official "hiring" of the Celebrity Apprentice.

It's like some weird parody of American sensibility in one of those dingy dystopian movies they used to film in the 1970s with too many big ideas and no budget (see: Deathrace 2000 or Gasssss or even more appropriately, perhaps, The Apple). The rapturous goodwill of two men competing over a job position while SINGING at each other, folksy spirituality rattling the thin supports of half a FAKE boardroom from a gospel choir that was ushered in out of nowhere, alongside rows of chairs filled with grinning, nervous celebrities. What weird mish-mash of recession-era career anxieties and our visceral connection to failed celebrities makes this plausible entertainment in the year 2012? Previous generations always thought that by 2000 we'd be scooping designer drugs into our mouths and shutting ourselves in sensory deprivation booths to maintain a constant state of bliss. We don't want bliss, we want to see the sacrosanct tomb of culture excavated and its bones rewired into an unrecognizable dragon, and have the breath of life blown into its fame until it stands upright and sings to us in fire. We're so completely conscious and saturated by advertising and celebrity culture that the only way to renew their impact is to vivisect them on camera like this show does.

Arsenio won, is what I'm trying to say. I was a Clay girl, but last time I checked being Celebrity Apprentice didn't give you any kind of congressional power, or any power really, so, (laughs) whatever.


– What does being Celebrity Apprentice mean?

– Do you still love Clay anyway?

– Who was the biggest winner this season, in terms of making good PR choices?

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