Clay Aiken gets nasty on 'Celebrity Apprentice'

bcain@newsobserver.comFebruary 19, 2012 

Raleigh's Clay Aiken is competing on the new season of "The Celebrity Apprentice," which debuts at 9 tonight on NBC.

On "The Celebrity Apprentice," figures from the entertainment industry form teams - usually men vs. women - and compete in business-themed tasks around New York City to prove their worthiness to host Donald Trump. The contestants compete for charity and, in many cases, for the chance to rejuvenate a stalling career.

Some of the celebrities who will compete alongside Aiken are Lou Ferrigno, Arsenio Hall, Dee Snider, Cheryl Tiegs, Debbie Gibson, Lisa Lampenelli, Penn Jillette, Adam Carolla, Michael Andretti and George Takei. Several reality show stars are also involved.

The first task will be running a midtown sandwich shop for a day. In a preview released by NBC, Aiken is shown convincing a businessman to pay $1,000 for a sandwich instead of the already generous $500 he offered.

"Wait a minute, this is a platinum card," Aiken says. "I think you can do more than $500! What about a thousand?"

Aiken should go far in the competition. Trump told "Today" host Matt Lauer recently that Aiken is a "tough" and "nasty" player. And Trump means "nasty" in a good way.

"Clay Aiken is totally different than I thought," Trump said. "I figured he wasn't going to be that strong of a player. He's a really strong player. Great singer, but he's a tough guy, and he's nasty. You wouldn't think it."

Aiken, the runner-up on the second season of "American Idol," has sold more than 4 million albums since 2003, written a New York Times bestseller and starred in"Spamalot" on Broadway.

In 2011, Forbes ranked him No. 9 in its list of top-earning American Idols, estimating the singer makes about $1.5 million a year.

He's competing on "TheCelebrity Apprentice" for the National Inclusion Project ( www.inclusionproject.org), a charity Aiken started with Diane Bubel to help kids with disabilities be mainstreamed into programs for children.

Cain: 919-829-4579

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