Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice 3" starts Sunday and is bookended with notorious characters -- recovered coke snorter Darryl Strawberry and indicted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
But Trump says the show had lined up other celebs who would have been even more controversial.
NBC rejected those scandalicious celebs because TV execs "just felt it was not appropriate, because of the difficulties" such celebrities could have wrought on NBC's bottom line.
Trump wouldn't tell me their names. I asked if he was talking about forever nemesis Rosie O'Donnell. Nope, he said.
"She would be somebody very acceptable to an NBC," he says. "I'd love firing her.
"Rosie's got nothing else going. She should do ('Apprentice').
"She lost her husband," Kelli Carpenter O'Donnell in a breakup. "I wrote a congratulatory letter to Kelli: 'What took you so long?'"
BRET MICHAELS on 'apprentice'
"Apprentice" contestant Bret Michaels is excited to film "Rock of Love 4" eventually, but he has asked VH1 for a vacation first.
Michaels -- who performs March 27 at Terrible's in Primm -- is in "heavy" talks with VH1. But he's on tour all year, with a new Poison album coming soon.
And he wanted to spend time on "Apprentice." On the show, he Clooney'd up his look, trading rock duds for a suit.
"I've never really worn a tie. Not because I hate them. It's just not my thing," he says.
"I was like, 'I got this Armani suit. I have to take out the shoulder pads from 1984, but it's a classic!'"
In person, Trump was funny and self-deprecating, Michaels says.
FIVE MORE QUESTIONS WITH THE DONALD
1. What does Trump make of the brouhaha between fellow NBC'ers Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien?
"I told them right up front, 'You're making a mistake'" by moving Leno and O'Brien to new times. "'You've got a guy who's number one. How do you replace number one with somebody, even if it's somebody who's good?'
"They made the right decision to put it back to the way it was.
"Jay's nice," he adds, and, "Conan wasn't meant for television. When you watch him on television, he's so uncomfortable on the camera. Nobody talks about him."
2. Has anyone ever dropped out of "Apprentice" at the last minute, before taping started?
Yes, Joan Collins "chickened out" once, after demanding control over tapes that viewers saw.
"I would have loved to have had Joan Collins," he says. "I would have treated her with respect.
"And ultimately," he jokes, "I would have said, 'You're (expletive) fired, get the hell out.'"
3. Has he been friends with contestants?
Yes. He knew last year's winner, Joan Rivers, and last year's loser, Dennis Rodman. He knows Strawberry.
4. Is it awkward firing friends?
"I don't find it awkward, because they know what they're getting into."
5. Trump says he golfs only "weekends, max." What's his handicap?
"Probably a 1," he says.
"I don't play that much. I understand the game. I understand the swing. I've always been a good athlete," he says. "And I've been a good putter.
"When you develop a swing, there's no reason to hit thousands of balls" at the range. "I see guys hitting balls on the range for four or five or six hours, and their swings are off. And all they're doing is getting into worse and worse habits."
Doug Elfman's column appears Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.