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''The Apprentice'': The ''gay swimsuit'' controversy

On ”The Apprentice,” Carey shoots himself in the foot in the swimwear-design challenge by insisting on modeling his own pink trunks

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The Apprentice
Carey S.: Mitch Haaseth

The Apprentice

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
01/08/04-04/15/04
performer:
Heidi Bressler, Katrina Campins, Jessie Connors, Amy Henry, Kwame Jackson, Carolyn Kepcher, Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, Troy McClain, Bill Rancic, Robin Himmler, George Ross, Sam Solovey, Nick Warnock

”The Apprentice”: The ”gay swimsuit” controversy

Well, ducklings, as far as I could tell, no one said ”at the end of the day” tonight — but that doesn’t mean there weren’t two other phrases I could have lived without.

The first was ”price points,” a phrase that they must teach in Execu-Speak 101 and that rarely, if ever, turns out to be an effective argument in sending someone home. The second was a metaphor for pushing to get one’s point across, a formerly innocuous expression turned deadly when Carey, an articulate, persuasive, strapping gay black man with ”erect nipples” and exotic taste in swimwear, was sent home for repeatedly taking his point and ”ramrodding it down the throat” of us all. While wearing a pink bikini bottom. And, have I mentioned, having ”erect nipples”? Okay, just making sure.

Frankly (or should I say ”Frankie Suits-ly”?), this move to Los Angeles is making me uncomfortable in all sorts of ways. I mean, just when I had gotten over the loss of Robin-Rhona and embraced the father figure of Gunther, he disappeared, replaced by a generi-blonde called Andie. Then there’s the fact that Los Angeles freeways do not lend themselves to the same interstitial-shot beauty as the New York skyline. Also, there is something sad about watching the contestants roll their suitcases up and down Trump’s driveway; there is something even sadder about watching a bunch of alleged grown-ups huddle around a hedge to eavesdrop on other alleged grown-ups. And finally, whoever decided to add those ”You’re fired!” voice-overs to the opening credits should get the Cobra for allowing Trump to wring another 2.5 seconds of screen time out of this vanity project.

Speaking of vanity, swimsuit designer Trina Turk should ask for her product-placement money back, because I learned nothing about the woman or her swimwear line tonight except that she was willing to put her name behind a bunch of real estate brokers funnying about with spandex — and I’m still not sure exactly what designing and modeling swimwear has to do with running a company. (Yes, you’re right: about as much as designing hotel uniforms, or marketing sandwiches made with pizza for bread. Touché.) At the same time, we got almost too little footage of the teams pounding out ideas: I’d barely had time to vote on who I’d send to Tent City before they’d thrown together two thoroughly unimpressive lines of bikinis and board shorts. (I kept praying that Tim Gunn would swoop in and declare the entire thing an abomination, and then push everyone into the sea using only his mind, but no such luck.)

We did get a couple highlights: First, I loved tonight’s Arrow project manager, Nicole. She’s totally delusional if she thinks she can win through motivation alone, but I’ll sure enjoy watching her try. And second, thanks to Carey, we learned perhaps the most important lesson of all: Swimsuits, just like people, can have varying degrees of heterosexuality.

It’s true: There are gay swimsuits. Gay swimsuits, at least as defined by tonight’s episode of The Apprentice, are women’s boy-cut trunks, worn by men — and they may involve pink. Now, setting aside for a second the fact that this generalization means that (as suspected) 80 percent of the men on the European and South American continents are flaming homosexuals, I’d like to address the suit itself, and suggest that no self-respecting gay man would buy that thing, but not because of its cut or color. No, the problem with the suit Carey designed was — how can I put this delicately? — it rendered his ramrod damn near nonexistent. If you know what I mean. And I think you do, ducklings. I think you do.

In the end, Heidi’s Kinetic outsold Nicole’s Arrow by about $500, and everyone was quick to make the point that the difference was mostly in menswear. Had the Arrow folks won, they would have been out of the tents and into the ”mansion,” and they’d be exempt from next week’s task — but Arrow did not win, which means that instead we got to watch Heidi and the rest of Kinetic try not to look mortified while visiting the Playboy Mansion, a reward that was so sexist and gratuitously boobalicious that I will not address it except to say I really enjoyed the fact that the only person who ended up in the pool was Derek, who is gay. (And, ironically, he went in the pool fully clothed.)

In the boardroom, Nicole picked Carey and this crabby chick named Michelle to join her; Carey tried to take Michelle down on ”price points,” but Heidi, smelling a weakling, fought for Grumpy Smurf to stay; and Trump made the icky point that while he has, and I quote, ”a great, great body,” even he would not wear Carey’s suit, because it was ”a loser.” So Carey became the second black man to be fired this season and the first to call Ivanka ”Ivana” on his way out the door. ”If they don’t win the next task, they won’t win at all,” he sighed as his town car drove away, and ordinarily I’d agree, but I watched Survivor this season.

(PS: It’s worth noting that Trump used the same words to describe the gay swimsuit as he has used to describe Rosie O’Donnell of late. I’m not saying he ever seemed like the most queer-friendly dude, but parts of this are becoming ridiculous.)

Some final business: Last week I said I liked this twist of having the winning project manager sit in on the boardroom, and I still do. The thing I’m unsure of is the rule that says the winning project manager stays project manager until he or she loses. I have yet to hear an inarticulate thing come out of the Hottie’s mouth, but her teammate Marisa (brown hair, sour expression) is right to say that the new rule seems like an unfair way for someone to coast to a win. Surely it can’t be that easy, but it could be that boring. You know, at the end of the day.

What do you think? Was Carey treated fairly, or was he ramrodded? How do you feel about the new rules? And did the combination of a swimsuit competition and a visit to the Playboy Mansion seem a little desperate?