Published April 16, 2004
Maybe you watched the big two-hour finale of "The Apprentice" last night.
The people in the audience at NBC sure did, but for about a minute the audio feed in the theater was a sound they didn't expect to hear — Deborah Norville, broadcasting her own live show on MSNBC. Someone in operations undoubtedly heard the expression "You're fired!" before the night was out.
After the show ended, the real fun began as the contestants, plus the ubiquitous Donald Trump, his girlfriend Melania Knauss, Trump's kids Donald Jr. and Ivanka and, oddly enough, Billy Joel and fiancée Kate Lee, all piled into a big party NBC threw on the ground floor of Trump Tower. The catering was from the Trump International Hotel over on Columbus Circle. That's four mentions of the word "Trump" in one paragraph, which I think is the whole idea.
The real star of the night wasn't Bill or Kwame, but Trump's longtime and long-suffering personal assistant Norma Foederer.
Back the days of the Ivana divorce, Marla affair, Marla wedding, Chuck Jones shoe fetish, and Trump's financial collapse, it was Norma who we in the press all had to call to get quotes from The Donald. "The Apprentice" has been a big payoff for Norma. Now she's a star thanks to her appearances on the show.
"People have been stopping me on the street!" she said last night. Norma looked quite glamorous, with her hair tied in an Asian bun and those big Chanel-type glasses. "But don't you think Donald's going to be overexposed? I'm worried that he's overexposed."
Norma, I do think the overexposed thing happened a long time ago. It doesn't seem to matter. Trump, it turns out, is contracted for and will do two more seasons of "The Apprentice."
And then there were the contestants. How about Nick Warnock? Isn't it true, I asked him, that he'd been on another reality show, NBC's failed "Dog Eat Dog"?
"I can't remember," he said. What did he do on it, exactly? "I can't remember that either," he said.
By the way, Nick's kind-of ex-girlfriend, Amy, drew hisses from some of the females in the party crowd — some of whom worked on the hit show "Sex and the City" — as she descended the escalator.
"What is she wearing?" snapped one. "This isn't a prom! She's wearing a gown!"
Of course, there was Omarosa, splendidly turned out in a super-fine gown of her own, made of white leather and trimmed with fake white fur. What's she up to?
"I'm cutting a book deal and a deal for a talk show," she said. "I'm presenting this weekend at 'VH1 Divas.'"
My personal choice for winner, Kwame, lost, but don't think of him as a loser. One of the top guys at his old shop, Goldman Sachs, personally e-mailed him an invitation to return to the firm at a substantial salary.
Kwame declined the offer, he said, and will instead branch out on his own with some college buddies from North Carolina. They're going into the business of raising financing for upscale black films, which is a great idea.
"The Apprentice" will return in the fall, and creator Mark Burnett — who looked like he was wearing a Paul Smith striped suit — said there will be no changes from this season's format. Why fix what isn't broken, right?
Finally, I come to news of the rest of the extended Trump family, namely Ivana.
If this were "Dallas," Ivana would be Sue Ellen, you know. Sue Ellen was always looking to one-up J.R. after they divorced. Remember her line of sexy lingerie?
Well, Ivana — I can confirm this — has sold some sort of reality show to a TV network. The Gersh Agency did the deal. I asked Ivanka about it last night, but all she could say was, "I've heard something about that. But you know I'm at school."
Ivanka, who's finishing up at the prestigious Wharton Business School (she's no Paris Hilton, folks) confirmed for me that she will be going into — surprise! — real estate. She will join her father and her brother in the family business where, though she is smart as a whip anyway, she will never hear the words "You're fired!"
P.S. What was Billy Joel doing there? Well, I never figured that out, but he looked great and so did his charming fiancée. He showed off the finger he cut using a can opener a couple of weeks ago, but rolled his eyes when I mentioned his emergency-room experience on Long Island.
"He was signing autographs with one hand, and bleeding from the other," quipped Kate.
Congratulations to famed writer Salman Rushdie and his fiancée Padma Lakshmi. They will finally marry this weekend at an undisclosed private location.
A few years ago, Salman and Padma made their first public appearance at a movie premiere for Anjelica Huston's movie "Agnes Browne." The buzz in the room then was that Rushdie had left his wife for the ravishing, much younger beauty, who was a part-time actress and cookbook author. Scandal!
But time has proven these two to be a seaworthy couple. Padma's family is here, and Rushdie's is too. Considering Rushdie's notoriety from "The Satanic Verses," the wedding will be low-profile, high-security and full of love and good wishes.
The foodie world is abuzz over New York magazine's coming-soon account of the fight between Rocco DiSpirito and Jeffrey Chodorow, co-owners of Rocco's, centerpiece of NBC's other Mark Burnett-produced reality show, "The Restaurant."
The show starts its second season on Monday and features the breakdown of their partnership, which led to a spate of current lawsuits.
What's perplexing is that I hear New York magazine — the least objective publication when it comes to restaurant coverage — has sided with former federal felon Chodorow, giving the likeable DiSpirito short shrift at best.
If so, this should be news on the clattering-plate circuit. Chodorow — who also owns the China Grill and Asia de Cuba — spent four months in federal prison in 1996, followed by three years' probation. He is one of the least agreeable people in food service.
Chodorow's partner in many ventures is another former federal felon, Ian Schrager. They've spent more time behind bars than behind bars, if you know what I mean.
But Chodorow's relationship with Schrager, who has been very successful with many hotels and restaurants, gives him more leverage with New York magazine than the fledgling DiSpirito has.
Personally, I can't wait to see this article on Monday. Neither, I'm sure, can the prosecutors in Brooklyn who worked hard to put the nasty Chodorow — who was found guilty of lying to the U.S. government — in prison only to be out-maneuvered by a wily defense lawyer's assertion that the restaurateur's 10-year-old kid had Tourette's Syndrome and couldn't be without his highly principled dad.
I'm told, by the way, that Chodorow has followed O.J. Simpson 's lead by moving his operations to the beautiful "homestead" state of Florida, where assets such as real estate can be protected from court judgments.
Chodorow nevertheless owns multi-million dollar properties in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and New York's posh Hamptons. Who says crime doesn't pay?
So will DiSpirito be dispirited by New York magazine and/or Chodorow? The answer may lie in who has more litigation stamina.
According to court clerk records in Dade County, Florida, Chodorow and wife Linda have a list of filings longer than Rocco's menu: 20 different entries since Jeffrey's incarceration in 1996, mostly to do with real-estate problems — mortgages and deeds. This would give lie to the argument that most ex-cons prefer to stay out of courtrooms.