NBCCleveland native Arsenio Hall, a Kent State University graduate, won the fifth edition of NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice.”
Crank up the “woof, woof, woof” chants. Cleveland has a reality-show champion. Arsenio Hall won the fifth edition of NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice,” edging out pop star Clay Aiken in Sunday’s two-hour season finale.
“You both should be very, very proud,” host Donald Trump told the two finalists just before naming the winner. “This will be a very, very tough decision . . . I’ve never been so torn. You’re both amazing people. There is no loser tonight.”
There was someone in second place, however, and that was Aiken, the 2003 “American Idol” runner-up.
“I don’t want to come in second on another TV show,” Aiken said during Sunday’s finale. “I’ve been a runner-up before, and I’m going to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
But it did when Trump decided that Hall, a Cleveland native and Kent State University graduate, had done enough throughout the season to deserve the title.
The season closer followed Hall and Aiken through their final task: producing public service advertisements and staging benefits for their charities. Hall, a class of ’73 graduate of Warrensville Heights High School, created a clever commercial featuring basketball great Magic Johnson, then promoted a stand-up comedy event with the help of four eliminated contestants: comedians Adam Carolla and Lisa Lampanelli, “American Chopper” star Paul Teutul Sr. and “Real Housewives” star Teresa Giudice. Whoopi Goldberg showed up to support Hall, and donations were sent by such comedians as Jay Leno, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, George Lopez and Jimmy Kimmel.
Hall was returning to his stand-up roots for this benefit.
“I haven’t done stand-up for about 10 years,” he said. “So I’m really, really nervous. I’ve never wanted something so much in all my life. I really, really want to be the ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’ “
Aiken’s benefit was a carnival-themed variety event planned with the four eliminated contestants of his choosing: Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider, comic illusionist Penn Jillette, former teen idol Debbie Gibson and pop star Aubrey O’Day.
Aiken’s benefit raised $361,000 for his charity, the National Inclusion Project, more than doubling the amount Hall’s team raised, $167,000, for the Magic Johnson Foundation.
But Hall’s public service ad was stronger, he had a better overall record as a project manager and he had raised more money throughout the season before Sunday night ($105,000 to Aiken’s $60,000). by winning “The Celebrity Apprentice,” Hall added another $250,000 to the total going to the Magic Johnson Foundation.
After establishing himself as a stand-up performer in the ’80s, Hall appeared in such films as “Coming to America” and “Harlem Nights.” in 1989, he began a five-year late-night run as star of Fox’s “The Arsenio Hall show.”
When asked for a prediction about the outcome, Hall jokingly paraphrased his infamous 1992 line about competing against Leno: “I’m going to kick Clay’s butt.”
He was kidding, and the good-natured banter between the two finalists couldn’t have been more complimentary. Hall, 56, and Aiken, 33, played extremely nice, teaming up for a rendition of “Lean on me.”
This fifth edition of “The Celebrity Apprentice” began on Feb. 19 with 18 contestants, including supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, “Star Trek” star George Takei, actor-bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno, miss Universve 2008 Dayana Mendoza, retired Formula one driver Michael Andretti, reality star Victoria Gotti, model-actress Patricia Velasquez and actress Tia Carrere.
Andretti and Tiegs were the only contestants fired by Trump who did not appear in Sunday’s episode, although Andretti’s father, Mario, did show up in the opening bit. He was the fastest driver Trump could find to get him to the live season finale at New York’s Museum of Natural History.
The fifth editon of “The Celebrity Apprentice” raised more than $2.1 million for 11 different charities ($522,000 going to the charity Hall was representing).
Win or lose, Hall wanted his strong showing on the series to reignite his career. He is hoping to land a new late-night talk show.