Bret Michaels made it to the finish line Sunday of “The Celebrity Apprentice” despite life-threatening illness and was rewarded with victory and $250,000 for charity.
“You’ve done an amazing job in every single way,” Donald Trump said before announcing his choice on a live segment of NBC’s reality show. “A little flaky, but that’s OK. … You’ve also proven … to be very brave. I appreciate that.”
The other finalist, actress Holly Robinson Peete, has been “amazing,” Trump said, and then rendered his decision.
“Holly, I have to tell you, we all love you. And Brett, I have to tell you — you’re hired,” Trump pronounced, drawing a lusty “whoop” from Michaels.
Michaels’ appearance on the finale, which included live and taped segments, had been in question after he suffered a brain hemorrhage in April and was hospitalized again recently after suffering what doctors called a warning stroke. He faces surgery for a hole in his heart.
Trump didn’t downplay the drama involving Michaels’ health, asking the 47-year-old rock star of Poison fame if he was risking his life by coming on the finale against his doctors’ advice.
“Lately it seems like me just standing me up is risking my life,” Michaels replied, lightly, adding that it was worth the risk and he “came to win.” He walked haltingly and with a slight limp.
His presence brought a moment of honest reality to a carefully constructed TV genre.
After the show, Michaels said he’d been through a rough period but added, “I’ve got to be honest. I feel great right now.”
“You have no idea how bad I want to cut loose and party, and there’s about eight texts (messages) saying, `Do not drink, do not party,”’ he said. “The fact that I won … and to just hang out with my friends, that’s a party enough.”
During the broadcast, Robinson Peete, 45, said she and Michaels had become close during the series and there would be none of last season’s animosity — a reference to finale fireworks between winner Joan Rivers and runner-up Annie Duke.
Robinson Peete teared up when she and Michaels took the stage before a studio audience in New York.
“Holly, that’s so beautiful. You’re crying,” Trump observed.
“Well, I mean, who in America isn’t?” she replied. Trump said that he’d never cried for his opponent.
“My 5-year-old son woke up this morning and said, ‘Mom, I love you, but I’m kinda pulling for Bret.’ How do you beat that?” Robinson Peete responded.
Both celebrities, who were playing to raise money for their favored causes, came out on top. Michaels, who as a child was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, claimed the winner’s prize for the American Diabetes Association, and Peete learned that her charitable group would receive a matching amount.
Trump said the maker of Snapple beverages had agreed to give a matching $250,000 to HollyRod Foundation, whose mission is to support families who have a loved one with a serious medical condition. The actress has a son diagnosed as autistic.
The final challenge for “The Celebrity Apprentice” had required Michaels and Robinson Peete to each create a new flavor of Snapple and a marketing campaign for the soft drinks. Their versions are being sold for a limited period and highlight their causes.
This season of “Celebrity Apprentice” began airing in March with 14 contestants, each competing in business-oriented tasks around Manhattan to raise money for and publicize their favorite causes.