ALEXANDRIA,Va. – They stood in the cold wind at a car dealership,some since before 6 a.m.,most of the 600 knowing they would get fired even before meeting Donald Trump or Martha Stewart.
There was Jolene Sugarbaker,an “ageless” comedienne from nearby Washington,wearing a pink Hawaiian muumuu,a Victorian-style hairdo and a “real-cicada” pin.
“Martha Stewart is great,and I think I have the style and talent to be in her show,” Sugarbaker said,batting thick,black eyelashes.
And there was Dan Alford,51,of Washington,an instructional technologist at Northern Virginia Community College,sporting a striped prison outfit made of duct tape and a picture of Martha Stewart on his chest and carrying a scrapbook labeled “Martha Stewart Not Guilty.”
“This is a career shift for me,” Alford said,adding that his background in arts and interior design are advantages over his competitors. “I'm here to start a second career,as a designer.”
In a sea of men and women in black business suits,the two delighted the crowd that descended on a suburban Washington Mercedes-Benz dealership to try out for the fourth season of NBC's hit reality show “The Apprentice” and the premiere of its new show,“The Apprentice: Martha Stewart.”
It was one of 27 venues nationwide set to choose contestants. Interviews began at 9 a.m. and were still going on after 4 p.m. The show's producers expected to notify some of the group Friday night that they had made the first cut. That group faces more interviews and two more rounds of cuts before the show's cast is chosen.
Contestants for “The Apprentice” compete for a job running a business for Trump with a $250,000 annual salary. The spin-off show will be centered on Stewart's expertise in media,entertainment,home renovation,design and style. Stewart is serving a five-month sentence for obstructing justice and is due to be released from federal prison March 4.
One at a time,Apprentice wannabes introduced themselves to cast producer Scott Salyers or another producer and joined one of three roundtable discussions with nine other applicants.
Salyers fanned the group's applications on the table. He posed a question to start the discussion: “Do you think the U.S. should have a national I.D. system?”
A policewoman said yes,citing security,but a majority said no,and a debate ensued. Salyers said the free-form discussion was not designed to gauge the contestants' knowledge but is an indicator of “group dynamics.”
When the session ended,Salyers took the pile of resumes to a private room to evaluate the contestants.
Nigel Henry,24,of Washington,takes evenings classes at George Washington University,but his morning was open for a try at Trump's show.
“I can't name anyone on the show. I've maybe watched it two times,” he said. “What I did see when I looked at the show,though,is it seems like they were doing something that was very easy. Anyone can do it.”
Barry Florence,48,of Washington,owns an advertising company and has already had a successful business career. He couldn't decide which show to apply for.
“I'm debating because I'm a cook,and I love,I actually love to cook as a hobby,so it could be interesting to be on Martha Stewart,” he said. “But,my background is,you know,corporate. I've been president and chief operating officer of one of AT&T's subsidiaries,so the Trump show also is an enticement.”
Erica Francis,28,came from Winchester,Va.,with her 11-week-old son,Pierce,whom she kept in a stroller while waiting to interview for Stewart's show. “We're kind of a package deal,” she said. “I found something to do with my almost-3-year old,but the baby,kind of small to pawn off on somebody at this point.”
She arrived at 9 a.m. and finished her interview a little after 4 p.m. She said she was optimistic.
Mike Fleming,38,was selling cups of hot coffee for $2 from his nearby coffee shop,Cameron Perks. “I got a call saying that they desperately needed coffee,” he said. He sold more than 25 cups of coffee,even though the dealership had been giving it away.
Donald Trump himself came to be interviewed,sort of. A man wearing a Trump mask would only identify himself as “Donald Trump.” He said he thought his chances of getting on the show were “pretty high.”