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The Donald shares insights to ‘Celebrity Apprentice’

One thing about Donald Trump: The man is never boring and always extremely quotable. During our recent chat about the seventh season of the real estate mogul and sometime presidential candidate’s “Celebrity Apprentice” (premiering at 8 p.m. Sunday on WMAQ-Channel 5), I was reminded of a comment once made by a New York TV colleague who knows Trump well.

“You never need to worry. Donald always comes through with just the perfect 10-, 20- or 30-second soundbite. The man was born giving good quotes.”

As Trump picked up the phone, he proved it — right from the get-go.

I reminded him the last time we spoke — at the time of Joan Rivers’ untimely death — and Trump reminded me that the comedian was in his office “three days before she died. I had some very sophisticated business people in here, who said, after she left, ‘She’s amazing!’ They couldn’t believe the level of her vitality at age 83.”

Trump went on to explain how he and NBC are going to handle the airing of two episodes Rivers had taped before she died. “As you know, when things like this happen in show business, people are cut out of shows. But Joan was so good in the two episodes we shot — with her taking [Trump’s daughter] Ivanka’s place as a judge. She was honestly so terrific, we decided to leave it in. We will really build it up and promote and treat it as a tribute to Joan, because she really deserves it.”

Trump claimed he’s delighted but somewhat amazed the two “Apprentice” series have gone on for so long. “We were the No. 1 show on television for a long time [referring to the original ‘Apprentice’]. We had 42.5 million people watching for the finale of the first show. We were second only to the Super Bowl. The Academy Awards were No. 3!

“Of course, now things have changed, and there are so many other things for people to watch on TV. But we still do very well, and I expect we will again this coming season.”

Trump agreed that one of the secrets to the program’s success is the eclectic nature of the contestants.

“But this group — this coming season — is really something, if I may say so. This is a group that dislikes each other intensely. The level of dislike is something I’ve never seen before. With Kenya Moore and Vivica A. Fox. Oh boy! Watch out! We’ve got Geraldo Rivera and Brandi [Glanville]. I’ve got to tell you, Bill, you will definitely see sparks fly — and a lot of them!

“But along with the level of enmity, there also is a great level of competitiveness. I think it’s a great cast, a smart cast.”

One of the things that makes Trump proudest about “Celebrity Apprentice” is how the show has breathed new life into the often faltering (if not totally extinct) careers of the celebrities he brings on.

“Virtually everybody on that show has been enhanced by having participated. Even if you look at Dennis Rodman — as crazy as that whole situation is — it helped him.”

Trump went on to point to Piers Morgan, who followed his “Apprentice” victory with a good run on CNN, and country singer Trace Atkins, whose career got back on track after his “Apprentice” gig, as examples of stars reviving their professional lives.

“Look, no one was helped more than Joan Rivers herself,” added Trump. “Her career was over when she did ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ — and then she won and look how everything took off for her. She did that documentary right after doing ‘The Apprentice’ and she showed her date book with no dates in it. Then she admitted that after she did ‘The Apprentice’ she became the hottest comedian around. She made a fortune.”

Another successful “Celebrity Apprentice” winner was Arsenio Hall. Trump was quick to note that even more than Rivers, “Arsenio was deader than a doornail. His career was over. He was out of show business for 12 years. He was gone. But he got a show after doing ‘The Apprentice.’

“Now, his show did not do well and it was canceled, but that’s not my fault. I can only bring them to the trough. They have to take it from there.”

Asked if he’s ever had a celebrity turn him down, Trump quickly said, “We have no trouble getting celebrities, but someone I’ve always wanted is Pete Rose. I believe he should be in the Hall of Fame.

“But he’s turned me down. He told he just doesn’t want to be fired! He said he just couldn’t stand it!”