Are you willing to shell out a hundred bucks for D-list celebs, old sports stars and unsavory ex-politicians to serve you lunch? NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" sure hopes so.
Following a lead that the reality show would be filming in New York today, I knew I was in the right place when I spotted Sinbad wearing a sandwich board on the sidewalk. On East 53rd Street between Madison and Fifth avenues, I approached the comedian as he was ushering passersby into Burger Heaven to grab some lunch for charity. He couldn't tell me which charity exactly, and neglected to mention today's midday nosh would mean some serious dough.
Unable to resist the former star of "A Different World," a personal after-school favorite, I slipped into the diner to see what he and the camera crew were so excited about. Inside, I found a cash register, some tourists holding credit cards and a stack of "Celebrity Diner, NYC" menus I probably could have designed on Photoshop. When I looked up from the menu, a little surprised by all the zeros, former baseball player Darryl Strawberry greeted me and asked if I'd like to be seated.
Thankfully for my budget, he got distracted by a gaggle of potential patrons, and I slipped by him to get a better look at my ex-governor waiting tables in the back.
On the same day former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected in district court to see if the judge will let him participate in the reality show -- because it will air months before his federal corruption trial and may sway jurors -- I found him casually leaning toward a pair of suits with pen to pad of paper. What's on the menu? Australian chef Curtis Stone was cooking up mushroom risotto for $250, and a burger, chicken cutlet, grilled shrimp salad and turkey sandwich for $100 each. For those looking for the deal, soda or a cup of Joe is included.
After I got a good gander, I made my way back up to the register, just in time to overhear Darryl tell a couple that stopped in that they would have to leave if they weren't going to pay up. Behind him, glam metal rocker Bret Michaels and pro wrestler Bill Goldberg chatted up those seated at the lunch counter with their plates of food, even though it was just after 11. The DIY-menu also claimed Olympian Michael Johnson was in attendance, but after scanning the room and not spotting him, I thought I'd better leave before Darryl demanded I lay down a too sizeable chunk of my paycheck.
While no one at the scene would confirm that this was indeed a "Celebrity Apprentice" filming, the New York Post reported this weekend that this motley crew, along with the likes of pop star Cyndi Lauper and Sharon Osbourne, are on the cast of the upcoming season of Donald Trump's celebrity reality show.
And good thing I left when I did. My suspicions were confirmed when I ran into Joan Rivers, last season's winner, on my way out, as she proudly trotted toward Sinbad with a cameraman in tow.