When it comes to exposing the secrets behind The Apprentice, executive producer Mark Burnett would prefer that they remain "behind the curtain. As the Wizard, it doesn't serve me to talk about the inner workings of production." But as rabid fans of NBC's monster reality hit, it does serve us. So, with the show's two-hour season finale airing tonight, TV Guide Online is firing off 11 things Donald Trump (and Burnett) would never tell you about the nation's guiltiest pleasure.
1. The contestants aren't shipped home after getting fired. Those cabs, which stop mysteriously without ever having been hailed, escort the newly unemployed to a nearby hotel, where they stay until the show's six-week shoot ends. "They sequestered us because we had to keep secret who was still playing the game," explains Kristi Frank. And for those who got the boot early on, that meant having "a free month in New York City on Donald Trump and Mark Burnett," says Bowie Hogg, the fourth pink-slipper. Adds Ereka Vetrini: "We went to dinners, movies, played paint ball..." Dodged Omarosa...
2. The winner may not be the only, er, winner. The final Apprentice standing wins a yearlong gig at the helm of one of Trump's companies and a $250,000 salary. But show boss Burnett hints that he's "working on" giving the runners-up a little somethin'-somethin', too, despite the fact that, as he points out, "They already had their prize — they were on TV for 13 weeks."
3. Those suitcases aren't really full. "We are told to bring — just in case we're fired — a bag of stuff that we will need for an unspecified period of time," reveals Tammy Lee, adding that the rest of their belongings are "retrieved for us by production people. We were not allowed to go back into the suite."
4. They buy their own clothes. Unlike American Idol, which helps get its wannabes ready for their close-ups, The Apprentice did not provide its stars with a wardrobe allowance. "That was all of our own clothes," laments Heidi Bressler. Adds Ereka: "It really wasn't about being pretty. I mean, we tried, but it wasn't easy."
5. Contestants are paid... sort of. Teammates are given some petty cash (roughly $1500) to cover marketing, inventory — and, in rare cases, grub. "You really don't [use the money for food]," Heidi points out. "You better bring something from the loft — like a Power Bar."
6. Contestants can't phone a friend. The aspiring Georges and Carolyns had to have their cell phones on walkie-talkie mode to ensure that they weren't seeking outside counsel. "It was a shame, too," says Ereka, "because I had a lot of connections in New York, but we weren't allowed to use any of them in our tasks." One exception: Players could fall back on contacts they made during the contest.
7. The secretary is not a robot. She's an actual human being named Robin Himmler, and she has served as Trump's executive assistant for the last four years. "She was really nice," says Heidi, "but you could have a booger in your nose and she'd say, 'Mr. Trump is ready to see you'." Fires back Himmler: "It wasn't my job to take care of Heidi's personal hygiene." Oooh, another catfight!
8. That's not a real apartment they're staying in. Like the boardroom, the monster suite that houses the cast is actually a set built specifically for the show from unused space within Trump Tower. In other words, as one Trump insider puts it, "There's no loft like it in the building."
9. The boardroom is closer to the loft than you think. Trump utters a little white one every time he gives his underlings permission to leave the boardroom and head back "upstairs" to their posh suite; both are located on the same floor.
10. You can't sell lemonade everywhere in the Big Apple. Think it was strange that teams Protege and Versacorp didn't set up their lemonade stands in more congested locales? You weren't alone. "As a New Yorker, I got a lot of flak for not selling the lemonade in Times Square or on Wall Street," says Ereka. "But we were not allowed, because we couldn't get permits [in those areas]. There are a lot of rules that are not explained [to viewers.]"
11. Tasks aren't a week apart. "A big misconception is that we had a week off between tasks," says Ereka. "It was barely even a day." — Additional reporting by Rebecca Peterson