Blagojevich competing on `Celebrity Apprentice’

By FRAZIER MOORE AP Television Writer

NEW YORK(AP)—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 fundraising 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 standup 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 will also 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 conventional thinking among a lot of traditional lawyers is that you simply don’t do these things, you don’t say anything, you hide somewhere until you have your day in court,” said Blagojevich.

By contrast, his instinct is “to fight back,” he explained, which maybe helps account for his participation on “Celebrity Apprentice.”

“It’s a wilderness period for me,” Blagojevich acknowledged. “But sometimes real opportunities develop in your life’s journey that you can’t really see when you’re facing tumultuous times and the kind of storm that I’m facing.”

NBC is owned by General Electric Co.

On the Net:

http://www.nbc.com

Updated Monday, Jan 4, 2010