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Tuning in to TV: ‘All-Star Celebrity Apprentice’ brings back 14 participants

- - 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.

"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

Jennifer Hudson embodied the look of one of her idols, Whitney Houston, during a tribute to the late singer put on by Grammy organizers.

Rocking a pompadour and glittery jacket reminiscent of Houston's stage costumes from the 1980s, Miss Hudson belted out a medley of Houston's hits Thursday at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles for "We Will Always Love You: A Grammy Salute to Whitney Houston," which will air as a TV special next month.

"She has been a huge part of my life musically," Miss Hudson said. "She's just been like this outline, this blueprint for myself."

Britney Spears, LL Cool J, Halle Berry, Taraji P. Henson, Usher, CeCe Winans and Yolanda Adams also participated in the musical tribute.

Miss Spears said she's always been "a huge fan" of Houston's.

"I think she's amazing," Miss Spears said. "And I think that her voice is better than God. I just, I love her."

Houston died at 48 the night before the Grammy Awards in February from accidental drowning complicated by drug use and heart disease. LL Cool J honored her at the awards ceremony in February but said Thursday that the singer's musical contributions merit more.

"The time that we spent remembering Whitney at the Grammys wasn't really enough for her career," he said. "Even though it was wonderful, and I got to say the prayer, and I got to address her death, her career was larger than just a few segments. You need a whole show to celebrate a career like Whitney Houston's."

The tribute is set to air as an hourlong special on CBS on Nov. 13.

Anthony Bourdain roasted by celebrity chefs

It's comeuppance time for Anthony Bourdain. And by his tally, he deserves his lickings.

Mr. Bourdain may have earned his culinary fame eating his way around the globe, but he built his bad-boy persona in part with searing assessments of fellow celebrity chefs.

And Thursday evening, they shot back during a raunch-laden comedy roast of Mr. Bourdain held at the start of the New York City Wine and Food Festival.

"I figured I would actually have the easiest time of anyone," said Food Network star -- and longtime victim of Mr. Bourdain's verbal lashings -- Rachael Ray. "I don't have to write jokes. I don't have to write insults. If you ask the man of the hour in the hot seat, my mere existence is clearly insult enough."

Mr. Bourdain shot to culinary fame with his 2000 memoir, "Kitchen Confidential," a brash and blunt account of his early -- and drug-soaked -- days in the food world.

The book led to shows on Food Network and Travel Channel, but before long he turned his razor wit on the celebrity food industry, taking particular aim at food celebrities who are not chefs, such as Miss Ray.

Ted Allen, host of Food Network's "Chopped," called him an "ex-chef, ex-junkie who's made a fortune insulting his ex-industry."

Before the start of the festivities -- or perhaps hostilities -- Mr. Bourdain reflected on his history of tirades against Miss Ray, Paula Deen, Guy Fieri and other food television stars.

"I've always felt that if you're a public figure and I'm making fun of you and your work on television, at all times it is perfectly appropriate for you to give it back to me," he said "Well, we've set an official appointment for that."

Comedian Bonnie McFarlane poked fun at the tell-all nature of Bourdain's book, saying he clearly didn't understand what "confidential" meant.

"Truth be told, you're a pretty amazing guy. You're a husband, a father, a recovering drug addict, he stars in multiple TV shows, he's traveled the world, he's written multiple best-sellers," she said. "Anthony, is there anything you can't do? I mean, besides cook?"

• Compiled from Web and wire reports