‘Celebrity Apprentice’ Boardroom Blow-Up – Melissa Rivers Tells All

by | April 27, 2009 at 8:03 AM | Celebrity Apprentice, Cover Story, Melissa Rivers

Celebrity Apprentice has not been kind to Melissa Rivers. Nor has it been easy. The plucky, intelligent, and yes, good-humored daughter of comedy icon and fellow ‘Apprentice’ competitor Joan Rivers entered the show wanting to win. She survived some hard-fought early shows filled with personal insults and attacks, but the most recent episode proved her Waterloo.

The end looked inevitable when she was partnered with poker champion Annie Duke and former Playboy Playmate Brande Roderick – or as Rivers put it on the show, “the two mean girls from high school.” From the outset of their task, creating a deodorant ad, Rivers felt excluded and her resentments went from a simmer to a boil by the time she defended herself in front of Donald Trump in the boardroom. It got even worse when Rivers simply lost it following her elimination. In a break of protocol, she stormed off before her exit interview.

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“What can I say? It was pretty messy and not anything I’m proud of,” said Rivers. “But I was emotional and I was hurt.” The 41-year-old veteran TV producer and author – her first book, “Life Lessons from the Red Carpet,” will be published in January 2010 – provided Fancast with her behind-the-scenes take on the show, the show’s other personalities and her long, and loud, good-bye.

So the boardroom – Only the tip of the iceberg has actually made air.

Really? From what they show, I seem to be very, very quiet and start addressing different things in a pretty cohesive manner as Annie and Brande, and specifically Brande, sat there and just flat out made up lies about me. They accused me of saying I did things or did not do things that were completely untrue.

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Let’s jump back a bit. You guys were organized into teams and for this task. When you were on the team with Brande and Annie did you smell a rat? Did you sense trouble? Well, the problems had started two episodes ago with the fashion show. Until then, Annie had been constantly pulling me aside and telling me how much we had to get rid of Brande, that Brande was dead weight, blah, blah, blah. Then suddenly she became best friends with Brande. So I knew what was going on.

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So Annie was playing the game? Let me just say that Annie is very smart and as she’s said, she’s playing to win.

And Brande? I actually confronted Brande earlier in this episode. I organized for Annie to go out and get all these different locations, these shoots, which she took credit for, which was fine. I didn’t really care. And Annie kept calling in and Brande kept taking the phone and going out of the room. Or going in the corner and whispering and laughing into the phone. None of that was shown. I finally confronted Brande and said, “Enough whispering. Enough. This is ridiculous. You guys are making me feel terrible.” And then Brande used that against me, saying I was too personal, too crazy.

What about Annie? She played both sides of the fence. It just got worse. You didn’t see the two of them constantly whispering in the corner. Constantly. It wasn’t my imagination.

What else don’t we see in this episode that leads up to the blowout? You don’t see the constant phone calls between Annie and Brande with them laughing and giggling in the corner. You don’t see them whispering. You don’t see – you don’t see everything falling out of the van and those two walking ahead and me in my walking cast, picking everything up out of the street and carrying it upstairs. You don’t see a lot of what they – how they behaved. There is just simply no time to show all that. But they were the mean girls. It was back to the worst of high school.

Going into the show, what was your take on Brande? I liked her. I also knew Annie socially. I thought she was very smart.

Had those opinions changed going into this episode? By then, I knew she was ruthless. I also knew I was in the room with two enemies. They’d proven that the week before, and Annie did not stop throwing verbal jabs at me about my mother. They created a very uncomfortable situation and shut me out. But I didn’t just sit there. Unfortunately you don’t see a lot of me where I blow up and I’m like drop it. It was very much like I said the other week, like I had walked into an episode of Mean Girls.

One of the things I wonder when watching the show is how real it is, as opposed to planned. It’s pretty darn real. My frustration is that what they showed in this episode is really, in my opinion the tip of the iceberg on what happened in the room between me and those two.

So you come off portrayed unfairly? Not unfairly. As I said, they just didn’t show the two of them constantly on the phone, whispering and talking, driving me crazy and being mean, and that’s fine. There’s only so much time and only so much you can show.

What was your state of mind going into the boardroom? I knew if we lost, those two were going to throw me out. I knew it was coming.

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So take us into the boardroom. We’re in the board room and Brande starts spewing lies about me that actually you don’t see on air, claiming that I had not done all the things that I had done, which were blatant outright lies. They felt that Brande finally stepped up and defended herself and all I was doing was sitting there going that’s not true, that’s not true…

What was your breaking point? I kept it together in the board room. My breaking point was when I walked out of the board room, and that’s when I lost it. I’m not going to say that I’m proud of my behavior when I left the board room, but it’s everything I ever wanted to say, and I feel like I said it for all the girls who have been maligned by the cliquey girls their entire lives. Whether it be in high school or the sorority girls or the country club or wherever.

You certainly let go. I think I spoke for a lot of people when I just teed off. And I felt like I had been so manipulated, I couldn’t even – I couldn’t stay for my exit interview. I came back and did it the next day. And I basically blow – I blew. I blew. I was in extraordinary pain. And I mentioned that in the board room. Because I had torn two ligaments in my ankle and I spent the entire – more than half the show in a walking cast. I have been in a walking cast since episode 5. I was in extraordinary pain and exhausted and I finally snapped. And I’m a competitor. And I don’t like getting outplayed, and I saw – I could see Annie playing Brande. And Brande buying into it.

Is that what hurts most – getting outplayed? I said this in a lot of my interviews – none of which have been shown this yet – but I talk about the fact that I believe in winning, but also in retaining some honor. That’s very much a part of me that’s like my father. He taught me that you have to decide how far you can go to succeed, how ruthless you can be, how willing you are to hurt other people. And the bottom line is that I can still put my head on my pillow at night with a clear conscience.

To Jim Cramer, who guested on this episode, it came down to fund raising, and you came in fourth. And that was really the end for me. It wasn’t enough. And at that point, after what I had been going through for something like three weeks or whatever it was with them, and the constant bashing of my mother and the constant triangulating and the constant whispering and the constant giggling in the corner, I finally snapped afterwards.

They managed to show that. Almost all of it, of course. (Laughing.)

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What you were expecting when you went into Celebrity Apprentice? I went in focused on winning. But I also believe in playing the game not to damage people.

Is there anything you would have done differently? No. I had two pieces of information, one on Annie and one on Brande, that would have been very damaging to their lives outside of this game. But I chose not to use it. On the other hand, Annie continuously attacked me about my mother and Brande followed Annie down the yellow brick road.

That must have been hard to resist. It was very hard to resist, but, you know, I am who I am. And I’m not going to sink to that level of manipulation and mind games and damaging someone.

Did you expect this show to get as personal? It was way too personal.

Seriously. Annie is a poker player, and Annie played to win. Do I think that she is ruthless and crossed a lot of lines? Yeah, I do. And Brande, I expected more from her as a person. Calling me emotionally unstable. Give me a break.

You and your mother were big targets. I took the beating for both of us.

What was the most hurtful thing said to you? I didn’t really appreciate being picked on for what I look like. That didn’t feel so good.

Have you kept in touch with anyone from the show? Absolutely. I’m still friends with Jesse. I’m very close with Dennis and Herschel. And I was just texting with Natalie.

What about Brandee? Brande called me once and I had actually been planning on calling her after I saw the Claudia episode because that really hurt me and I really thought she was a better person. But I decided not to call because I couldn’t. I didn’t think I could control what I would say and then she called me and I told her that I was really disappointed in her.

What did she say? She denied things.

What about Claudia? I haven’t talked to Claudia. I have nothing to say. What am I going to say?

How is Dennis doing? He’s great. I love Dennis. I really do.

What about Donald Trump? I think Donald is very, very smart and very, very savvy. And he runs those board rooms to get exactly what he wants. And what, you know, he knows what he’s doing and that’s why he’s Donald Trump.

What’s your mother’s take on all this? My mom had a great time doing the show.

What reaction have you gotten from people when you’re out and about? Everybody has been really supportive and telling me good job and a lot of women seem to be identifying with me. And a lot of them are like you go, you don’t let them get you. So I think the way I’ve been treated has definitely hit a nerve

It is good television. No, it’s great television.