- - Sunday, October 14, 2012

NBC’s “The Apprentice” is bringing back 13 players fired from past “Apprentice” contests, plus one notable winner, in the first-ever “All-Star Celebrity Apprentice.”

“We wouldn’t have done the ‘All-Star’ concept unless we were able to get the right contestants back,” said Donald Trump, the host and boardroom boss who once again will be pronouncing each contestant’s fate.

The series, which starts shooting this new season Monday for a March 2013 premiere, announced its slate of 14 contenders Friday morning.

They include country music star Trace Adkins, actors Stephen Baldwin and Gary Busey, magician and illusionist Penn Jillette, DJ artist and rap star Lil Jon, NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman and Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider. Also returning will be actress and author Marilu Henner, singer La Toya Jackson, TV personality and actress Claudia Jordan, actress and author Lisa Rinna, Playboy Playmate of the Year Brande Roderick, and reality star Omarosa, who competed in the first, pre-celebrity edition of “The Apprentice.”

The only previous winner on the panel will be Poison frontman Bret Michaels, who in 2010 emerged victorious despite life-threatening ailments that included a brain hemorrhage and hospitalization for what doctors called a warning stroke.

Jennifer Hudson was among the artists who performed Thursday at the Nokia ... more >

“They’re all very smart, and I think they learned a lot from their last go-around,” Mr. Trump told The Associated Press. “This time, some of them will change their game to fool their rivals — some for better, some for worse.”

The winner, as usual, will collect $250,000 to donate to his or her chosen charity.

Mr. Trump was asked whether, beneath the tough manner he displays for each contender in the boardroom, he has secret favorites in the race.

“Absolutely, I do,” he replied. “Some people I like much more than others. I’m a human being, so I have my likes and my dislikes. But I don’t let that cloud my judgment. If I like somebody but somebody deserves to be fired, I’ll always fire them, as opposed to somebody that I don’t like if they don’t deserve it. I would lose total credibility if I did otherwise.”

The upcoming season will be the 13th for the overall “Apprentice” franchise, a track record that amazes Mr. Trump.

“Who would have thought?” he marveled. “When we first signed for it, they didn’t even take an option [for more seasons]. No one thought it would go any further.”

It did, catching on with its debut in winter 2004, as Trump introduced “You’re fired” to the treasury of TV catchphrases.

Since then, he said, it’s been lucrative and fun.

“My business is real estate, but the show has been an amazing experience,” he said, “good in every way.”

Hudson, Spears, Usher take part in Houston tribute

Story Continues →