“You both should be very, very proud,” host Donald Trump told the two finalists just before naming the winner. “This will be a very, very tough decision… I’ve never been so torn. You’re both amazing people. There is no loser tonight.”
There was someone in second place, however, and that was Aiken, the 2nd place winner of “American Idol” in 2003.
“I don’t want to come in second on another TV show,” Aiken said during Sunday’s finale. “I’ve been a runner-up before, and I’m going to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
But it did when Trump decided that Arsenio Hall had done enough throughout the season to deserve the title.
The season finale followed Hall and Aiken through their final task of producing public service ads and staging benefits for their charities.
Arsenio created a commercial featuring former NBA star Magic Johnson, then promoted a stand-up comedy event with the help of four eliminated contestants: comedians Adam Carolla and Lisa Lampanelli, “American Chopper” star Paul Teutul Sr. and “Real Housewives” star Teresa Giudice. Whoopi Goldberg showed up to support Hall, and donations were sent by comedians Jay Leno, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, George Lopez and Jimmy Kimmel.
“I haven’t done stand-up for about 10 years,” he said. “So I’m really, really nervous. I’ve never wanted something so much in all my life. I really, really want to be the ‘Celebrity Apprentice.'”
Clay Aiken’s benefit was a carnival-themed variety show planned with the four eliminated contestants of his choosing: Twisted Sister lead singer Dee Snider, comic illusionist Penn Jillette, former teen idol Debbie Gibson and pop star Aubrey O’Day.
Aiken’s benefit raised $301,00 for his charity, the National Inclusion Project, nearly doubling the amount Hall’s team raised, $167,000, for the Magic Johnson Foundation.
But Arsenio Hall’s public service ad was stronger, he had a better overall record as a project manager and he raised more money throughout the season ($105,000 to Aiken’s $60,000). By winning “The Celebrity Apprentice,” Hall added another $250,000 to the total going to the Magic Johnson Foundation.
After establishing himself as a stand-up performer in the ’80s, Hall appeared in such films as “Coming to America” and “Harlem Nights.” In 1989, he began a 5-year run as the host of Fox’s “The Arsenio Hall Show.”
Just before Trump announced a winner, Hall, 56, and Aiken, 33, played extremely nice, teaming up for a rendition of “Lean On Me.”
The 5th season of “The Celebrity Apprentice” began with 18 contestants, including supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, “Star Trek” star George Takei, actor/bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno, Miss Universve 2008 Dayana Mendoza, retired Formula One driver Michael Andretti, reality star Victoria Gotti, model/actress Patricia Velasquez and actress Tia Carrere.
Andretti and Tiegs were the only contestants fired by Trump who did not appear in Sunday’s episode.
Win or lose, Arsenio Hall wanted his performance on the show to reignite his career, and emphasized that he hopes to land a new late-night talk show.