'Celebrity Apprentice': Winner John Rich discusses Def Leppard gaffe, Star Jones hitting on him, and Donald Trump in a cowboy hat

Image Credit: Heidi Gutman/NBC

In the end, there could only be one, and although Donald Trump promised to “do something a little different,” he picked the person most people expected he would pick, John Rich, as his Celebrity Apprentice champion. The country crooner chatted with EW.com about his experience on the show, being hit on by Star Jones, burying the hatchet with Busey, and his “hardest task of all,” which had nothing to do with 7UP. Read on after the jump for the full Q&A.

There was a little bit of controversy over you raising $275,000 on what was not a fund-raising task. Marlee seemed taken back by that in the Boardroom.
Well, here’s the thing: I knew that there was some more money out there, and because the finale task was not a fund-raising task I thought to myself, just because it’s not a fund-raising task doesn’t mean I can’t keep accepting money from people. You know, you make the finale and you’re talking about huge exposure, and a huge moment on television, so I kept making calls to the donors and one company that I called was Dollar General who has been a big supporter of country music and St. Jude for a long time, and they had wanted to make a donation earlier but couldn’t get it all done in time because they put such time constraints on you. I called them up and said, “Listen, I made the final two. Are you guys still good for that donation?” And they said yes and they came in there with $250,000, and I don’t know how you leave that on the table. You’re talking about the kids at St. Jude. Anybody that has a problem with that, they just have a problem. You can’t have a problem with that.

Part of being successful is picking the right team of people around you. I thought from the start that you picked a much stronger team with Lil Jon, Mark McGrath and Star. You agree?
Absolutely. Mark, Star, Lil Jon — these people are, in my opinion, all-stars from the season, and I definitely felt like I had an advantage having that kind of brain power. You have the best calculator and strategist on the show in Star Jones, and Lil Jon is obviously the best marketer, and Mark McGrath is like a popcorn machine, just constant energy and different ideas coming out of him. And I agree with you that having a great team around me definitely helped us get that win.

You had a bit of a Spinal Tap moment when you introduced Def Leppard 20 minutes early. Was that your biggest gaffe of the season?
It was a hiccup for sure. I said, “Ladies and gentlemen, Def Leppard!” And there was no Def Leppard. And it really wasn’t their fault. I had just gotten ahead of the time and had a little lapse there for a second. But like I said, if you get a lemon, you make lemonade. So I just grabbed my guitar, which allowed me to open for Def Leppard, which is something that’s pretty cool. I don’t know if I would have ever had the opportunity to open for Def Leppard.

Whose idea was it for you to perform at the finale with Marlee and the New York School for the Deaf?
That performance to me was the highlight of the whole show. To have both of our charities represented, and then have Marlee signing and me singing, and to have St. Jude kids in the audience and the deaf choir — all that coming together at one time — I looked out at the audience and people were really, really moved by it.

You had some issues with Gary Busey during the season. What was your interaction like at the finale and did you buy on Omaha Steaks kite off of him?
Well, first of all, I’m glad Gary finally got his kite. He can finally stop talking about it. Me and Gary are fine, and actually Gary was in Nashville last week and came over to my house to watch the last episode of Celebrity Apprentice together at my house. It’s pretty cool to have Gary Busey in your cell phone because any time you want to have a Twilight Zone moment, you just hit speed dial and there it is.

So, is Star Jones still hitting on you and has she tried to get you to beat up NeNe for her?
Star Jones is still hitting on me I’m proud to say and she was squeezing on me pretty good last night. Like I always said, I’d rather have Star Jones loving on me than hating on me.

I know where Richard Hatch was, obviously, but what about Jose Canseco and Dionne Warwick? They were also M.I.A.
I think Dionne had a concert in London — a really, really big concert that was just too good to turn down. I’m not sure what happened to Jose, but obviously we know that Richard Hatch was in his jumpsuit watching it from somewhere. That poor guy. I feel bad for him. Richard and I actually became pretty good friends on the show. You gotta pay your taxes — that’s the thing.

I have to imagine that you would have been crushed had you not won, so how is Marlee taking it?
You know, I would not have been crushed If I had had not won. I wanted to win because I wanted that last quarter of a million for St Jude, but raising over a million dollars for them and getting the awareness factor out there — I couldn’t have ever thought we would have accomplished that much so yeah, of course I wanted to win. But if Marlee had won I would have been jumping up and down and clapping for her because she has a great charity as well. So I don’t think there were any losers last night.

How did she take it?
Well, she was emotional about it. She wanted to win. But I thought she was a good sport about it. She said, “It is what it is. It’s Donald Trump. You never know what he’s going to say or do.” I think that was a true horse race right down to the wire.

As a winner, this means you get to come back and interview next year’s final four. Think you can get Trump to put on the cowboy hat again?
How cool is it that Donald Trump put on a Stetson cowboy hat? Who would have ever thought you would see that in your lifetime? To me, that was the hardest task of all — getting him to put on a Stetson. I think that’s just a great sign of respect and I guarantee you right now that every country music radio station out there is talking about Donald Trump wearing a cowboy hat.

Make sure to also read Dalton’s recap of the Celebrity Apprentice season finale and weigh in with your thoughts on his casting suggestions for next season. And for more Celebrity Apprentice news and views, you can follow Dalton on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss.

Comments (188 total) Add your comment
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  • CandaceTX

    classy guy

    • gigivni

      i lo’ve wha’t pe’ople said here. Now I am se’eking a good man who can give me real lo’ve ,
      —–B’lack’WhiteCu’pid.℃óM——-it’s where to me’et bl’ack, whi’te, gorg’eous, beaut’iful for roman’ce and enduring relat’ionships ! i love it ! —a H’ot p’lace for s”eeking int’err acial l’ove.which gives you a chance to make your life better and open opportunities for you to meet the at’tractive s’n gles and treat you like a king or Queen. Maybe you wanna check it out or tell your friends.

    • Ivana Trump


  • Peggy

    EW, seriously, DID YOU REALLY HAVE TO have the result of the finale on the title????? Some of us still haven’t watched it, and I just couldn’t help to look this way while browsing. Please, at least change the title so others aren’t spoiled…

    • Raw

      Stop whining Big Baby. You know the results are in. Don’t look at websites if you don’t want to know.

      • Spoiler Alert

        A country singer will win this season’s American Idol title.

      • A Liberal

        Yeah, it’s the Internet. You can’t expect people to have class or decency.

      • Ivana Trump

        Because it’s flooded with Liberals. Let’s all give Peggy a hug! Maybe file a lawsuit against this site for intentional infliction of emotional distress for reporting the news after it’s happened! Or Peggy could behave like any logical sports fan who dvrs a game, and not check scores on ESPN until AFTER watching?

      • John Cusack

        Stop crying Peggy. Why are you people so emotional?

    • Slammin

      Seriously, if you didn’t watch the show, why would you be on an entertainment site??? If I haven’t seen a game I was going to watch, I stay away from sports websites.
      Common Sense people!

      • Sara

        Because it’s one of hundreds of shows, and it would be considered a courtesy from the website not to display the winner on the front page. Perhaps Peggy was coming here to read about another show and intending to stay away from all Apprentice news. It’s not in ew.com’s best interests to tell their customers not to come here for any purpose unless they already know the outcome to everything.

        It’s not really comparable to sports. ESPN’s front page often shows the scores for several top events. The expectation of that site is that you go there to see who’s winning, and that’s not the expectation of this site. If you want to see NFL scores but not MLB scores, you maybe google “espn nfl” to get to the football-centric portion of the site, but you can’t really google “entertainment weekly everything but the winner of apprentice”.

      • Donald Trump

        ^ Sara your fired.

      • Sara

        It was an honor to be considered. I worked hard for a great charity I really believe in, and I’m so glad to win for them. All of my competitors are wonderful people and I really enjoyed spending time with them. Thank you, Mr. Trump, for having me on your show and allowing me to raise attention for my charity. It’s a truly important cause – so few people know the difference between “your” and “you’re” these days, and a blowhard of your caliber can bring this issue to light like no one else.

      • Donald Trump

        Thank you. You can go now.

      • Ricky

        LOL @ the above!!!

      • Marcia

        Seriously Sara? You expect a website that makes its money from reporting entertainment news to NOT report entertainment news? Spoilers aren’t spoilers anymore once a show has gone to air. Do you expect everyone to wait until Sara has caught up on her Tivo in a couple of months?

      • Donald Trump

        Sara has been waiting for her shipment of girl scout cookies before watching the recording. The 6 boxes she picked up from the store 2 weeks ago were planned for this episode but she ate them all watching the biggest loser last week. Dont worry though she just made some cupcakes for the season finale this week.

      • Spoiler Alert

        …The Green Bay Packers won the XLV Super Bowl.

      • Sara

        No, sorry, I watched it mostly-live on Sunday night. However, as I avoided the lobotomy truck and retained the capacity for empathy, I can understand where Peggy is coming from.

      • Ivana Trump

        …Sara says while chomping on her own Girl Scout Cookies…

    • MrsDolly

      Peggy, it is Monday afternoon. How long should EW have waited to put the results in the headline? Tuesday night? Next Monday?

    • Friday

      Yeah, this is crap. Thanks for Spoiler picture. And to those of you who for some reason can’t understand why this would be irritiating… well, to you I fart. I fart in your general direction. Also I hope all your dvr recordings mysteriously dissapear.

      • Ivana Trump


    • jared4ever

      I agree with you Peggy. I HATE spoliers.

      • Donald Trump

        I hope you die

      • Spoiler Alert

        … Obama was elected US President.

      • Ivana Trump


    • TOM

      um so….in TODAY…this morning the apprentice winner was announced……hmmmmthey should have waited till FRiday for peggy and sarah….EW gives you a few hour window and even say to not read below if you do not want to know! GROW UP!

  • Brad C

    Even if you are not a Trump fan, you had to like the way many of this year’s celebs really put their passions into winning money for their charities. Both Rich and Matlin were deserving winners as they played hard without bad mouthing others. The conflicts between celebs make for good fun but the best moments of this season were watching all the touching moments of the celebs giving to the truly needy. You had to smile at the end cause the real winner was charity.

    • Ivana Trump

      I’m not a Donald Trump fan

  • Satan

    REALLY DALTON? Did you HAVE to spoil the finale in the title of your article? Hello, some people watch this on DVR/Hulu.

    • CandaceTX

      move to a cave OR
      don’t visit entertainment websites.

      • Satan

        Advice: Don’t give SATAN advice, mortal.

      • Spoiler Alert

        … the rapture did NOT occur 5/21/2011

      • Satan

        Yeah, somebody needs to buy those clowns a clock.

    • Donald Trump

      Come on if you didnt watch it live then you deserve to have it spoiled

      • Satan

        Donald, you’re fried. No that’s not a spelling error.

      • Donald Trump

        Satan you cant fire me I am Sauron and lead the satanic rebellion. Nice try though.

      • Satan

        Sauron, what have I told you about these pointless rebellions? They just take time away from me tempting mortals and whatnot, and really, we all lose when that happens.

      • Donald Trump

        You are correct on that point but I cant help poke at the silly mortals lapping their pudding up complaining about not watching a program on their DVRs. The only thing I havent watched yet is the Last season of 2 1/2 men. BTW I almost had that role. Was this close.

      • Satan

        Well, things have been busy in Hell since Osama Bin Butthead got here. It was hilarious when he realized that his “virgins” were all dudes, but keeping up with the demands of such a d-bag is a full-time job, and I don’t trust it to underlings. Luckily I have Xfinity.

    • stephanie

      The show is available by like six am the next day not a good excuse.

  • penguinfan01

    I am so happy John Rich won, he seems like a true gentleman. He has a wonderful, worthwhile charity, and he inspired me to give money to them real soon. I think this was the best season of Celebrity Apprentice so far. There was a lot of great talent there. Kudos to Donald Trump.

    • Laura

      I agree! John Rich was the best role model for a gentleman I’ve seen on tv since the 50’s. Only he was real not play acting. I was scared ever since Trump’s roast that Marley would win because she was on that roast. John Rich and all the guys really shined bright, Lil John, Meat, all of them. I may just d/l some John Rich music now because I came to admire him as a person. I think he earned it more.

  • George

    There is a way to write a headline and first paragraph and to use a picture without spoiling the result for those who could not watch live. It’s convenient to call people who request that big babies, but this is just common sense and good blog etiquette.

    • Donald Trump

      Your Wrong. You should have watched it live of not at all. I hate to say it but George your fired.

      • Meeghan

        My wrong what? Oh, did you mean you’re as in you are wrong? Because you are.

    • Donald Trump

      You dont deserve the time it takes me to add the apostrophe and additional keystroke.

  • BeeBee

    Trump did do something different: he did not fire Marlee.

    • James

      No, he always does that: Hires the winner on the final episode rather than firing the loser.

    • PN

      He didn’t even say “You’re fired” to the runner up and “You’re hired” to the winner like on past seasons.

      • Toots

        No James, he doesn’t, that’s why Trump said, “We’re gonna do things a little different this time”.

  • Suzanne

    I was disappointed that John Rich won … any other task where the lead attraction was mis-queued would have been an automatic ‘You’re Fired’ result. I don’t see how that didn’t factor in more to Trump.

    • anonymous

      I agree. I don’t think he should have won.

      • Donald Trump

        Your fired. He did deserve to win and thats why he did. You may go now.

    • Helena

      I couldn`t agree more with you. Could the issue have been, in the end, about where the charities are held ? One being in the States, the other in Africa ? … Maybe Trump prefered to encourage a cause that is closer to home, that is his fellow Americans rather then Africans… If that`s the case, then that is a very poor way of thinking because they can barely survive over there. Clean water and food is a rare luxury for them… imgine hearing aids.

      • SMC

        Marley’s charity gives all over the world including the US. She just went on a trip that happened to be in Africa. St Jude is also a world wide charity, they take kids in from all over the world. If you can get there, they help you. Both are worthy but one saves lives and doesn’t turn you away ’cause you can’t pay. Kinda hard to top that!

  • hillary

    You missed it. What Donald did different was not picking the favorite. What was different from previous finales is he did not tell what’s her name she was fired.

  • sarah

    it’s a stetson. donald trump wears a stetson now. stetsons are cool.

    • SUZIE

      thank you Dr. Who

  • Charise

    I am oh so very happy that John Rich won: not for any of the reasons posted by most viewers, but because St. Jude is the ONLY organization to whom I’ve donated money…EVER! I could care less about how nice he is (… honestly, that hillbilly disposition was quite annoying). I just believe that St. Jude probably the only worthwhile charity in the US. The rest are full of crap, especially Nene’s charity: woman against domestic violence or something to that effect. Ugh! Way to go John Rich and all Hail St. Jude!

    • Southern Belle

      That “hillbilly disposition” is called being polite and having good manners. Sorry the way we behave under the Mason-Dixon line annoys YOU.

      • Sylvie

        I think it is ridiculous to resort to the “hillbilly” phrase when describing Southern people. I have had the plesure to travel in many states in teh North and have encountered “hillbillies” in all of them. As for accents, I find it amusing when people who put r’s on the end of words that don’t have them and then claim other people have accents. Our regional dialects whether in north or south are a part of our rich culture. Charise shows her ignorance by attempting to appear superior.

      • Marguerite

        I’m not a country music fan, but I am loving me some John Rich. Compared to Meat Loaf’s crocodile tears and Gary Busey’s … well … Gary Busey-ness, Mr. Rich’s calm, polite demeanor was a pleasure to watch. Trace Adkins was the same. There’s a lot to be said for Southern gentlemen!

      • sharon

        Trus southern gentility. Love John Rich…a (true)MAN with manners. Nothing sissy about being a gentleman.

    • candid

      Your ignorance is worth commenting on. Apparently you believe in violence against women and don’t believe in politeness

  • Blake

    I don’t care personally, but I do think it in bad taste to list the winner in the headline for those who wanted to see the show later; should have some spoiler alert. I FF through the whole thing to the boardroom and get the whole show in about 10 minutes. The tasks are boring. Trump should stop with this celebrity mess anyway and go back to the original Apprentice with real people trying to get hired. I think it would be neat for him to pick some homeless people, clean them up and let them compete.

    • Donald Trump

      Blake your fired. If my show is so boring then you have no place to complain. Move on People.

      • Don Jr.

        You tell em dad!!

      • Ivanka

        It wasn’t easy, but that was the right decision.

      • Eric


      • Donald Trump’s 2nd Grade Teacher

        Oh Donny… You continue to fail in English Grammar. Your homework assignment is to finally learn the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’.
        your = possesive form of the word you (as in, your stupidity is showing)
        you’re = contraction of the words, you are (as in, you’re an idiot).

  • Hector Brouillette

    Great job to both finale candidates, in my opinion there was no better choice, both had a lot of integrity, poise, and self control, I take my hat off to Donald making these tough decision’s.

    Good job Donald.

    • Donald Trump


  • Buzz

    what did Marlee and her charity win as runner-up?

    • Donald Trump

      Nothing she lost the game.

      • orville

        Well, she did raise over a million dollars for them, so that can’t be considered a total loss.

      • Ivana Trump

        To me it’s obviously a loss of gargantuan proportions. Suck it, Marlee!

  • PN

    I thought that John Rich did very good on Celebrity Apprentice and there were still donations coming in even as the Def Leppard show was starting. I didn’t know that those were the execs from Dollar General that gave him the check for $250,000–sounded like the audio was distorted when they were talking to John over the loud music playing when they gave him the check.

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