Gary Busey was voted off the Celebrity Apprentice last night and the entire process was disgusting and detrimental to the human spirit.  Gary’s “Backbone” teammates — Lil John, John Rich and Meatloaf — were cruel to Gary from start to finish and it was hard to fathom why they were being so mean to a guy who had a massive brain injury a few years ago.

All season long the men’s team have taken their shots at Gary.  Last night, John Rich called Gary a “saboteur” because Gary is so “sly and cunning off camera.”  I don’t know what show John Rich is watching, but just watching Gary on the show, it is clear he has memory problems and cognitive issues that are greater than he admits or, perhaps, even realizes.  When Gary claims he didn’t say something, and he often does — he isn’t being a saboteur or sly or cunning — he just plain doesn’t remember and there’s no malice in the not remembering; and you can’t really get angry with a guy who has no short-term memory because his brain is incapable of reliably remembering every detail.  You have to deal with the brain injured with patience and understanding and not labeling them for your own endgame benefit.  John Rich also needs to toughen up.  If Gary called you “boy” and it ruined your day and insulted you to no end — you have an extremely pervious life that needs some hardening from your own misaligned hurt feelings.

Meatloaf played the baby card last night in the boardroom with Trump while cupping both of his breasts with crossed arms.  Meatloaf rocked himself in his chair with the unholy notion that all their troubles were caused by Gary and with that bad man gone, the big baby could sleep again at night. The previous week, Meatloaf screamed at Gary for 15 minutes because he thought Gary stole all his paint when Gary did not.  Meatloaf did not apologize until much later in the show and, of course, Gary forgave him.

Lil John — a strange addition to the cast who appears totally disengaged every show — only mocked Gary last night and refused to take any initiative whatsoever to help his disabled teammate.  Lil John should be on the street this morning, not Gary Busey.

The most interesting thing that happened a couple of weeks ago was when Gary told the story how co-competitor on the show — and friend in real life,  Marlee Matlin — noticed Gary wasn’t understanding things that were being said to him.  Marlee, a Deaf woman, sensed Gary wasn’t able to hear well, so she had him visit her ear doctor.  Gary was given a hearing exam, and it was discovered he had a 70% hearing loss in both ears from the motorcycle accident that caved in his face years ago.  Gary thanked Marlee for helping him become part of the world again where he can now “hear toenails grow” and he wears in-ear-canal aids in both ears.

What does that story tell you about Gary’s life and the people who surround him?  It took Marlee Matlin, working closely with him on the Celebrity Apprentice, to recognize something was wrong with Gary and she proactively got him the help he needed.  Marlee did that out of respect and love and hard understanding of what it is like to live a real life with a disability that few people truly understand.

Marlee also saved Gary from being sent home earlier on Celebrity Apprentice by standing up for him and helping Donald Trump try to understand Gary’s multiple disabilities may hamper others in comprehending his behavior, but that in the human moments, Gary’s intentions and purposes are always pure and good.

Lil John and John Rich and Meatloaf didn’t deserve Gary Busey — they didn’t know how to best use him as a teammate — and instead of searching for a way to engage Gary for their own goodness, they instead chose to spurn him and label him and mock him behind his back where there was a much kinder and more moral path to be lighted with him in the example.

In the end, Gary left the show and told us, with a smile on his face, that he had just faced a tornado and a thunderstorm and now he was over the rainbow.  That was a touching moment that let us know Gary will be alright in the end, and that he understands who he is and that he knows what he can and cannot do, and that he lives in the moment and never looks back to cry about what was when there’s so much more ahead of him in what can be.


  1. My strongest association with Gary, sadly, is a clip of him from a few years ago yelling that he was going to tear out a reporter’s endocrine system :

    Out of context, of course. That may be one thing that got him on the Apprentice, nevertheless.

    1. Did you watch the clip you posted, Gordon? Gary is clearly kidding around. He says, “If you put that straightjacket on me, I’m going to pull your endocrine system out of your body.” He’s smiling and playing with the tech guys on set.

      1. Goodness, David — I have never thought about it from that perspective. Of course I always saw it on a clip show that teased people so that might explain.

        1. Gary is a pretty straight-forward guy, Gordon, and I think he’s in a pretty good place right now. He seems to be at peace and he accepts who he is and where he is in life.

  2. You took the words right out of my mouth. Everything you just wrote is what I have been saying for weeks now. It is totally incongruous that people who are supposedly fighting for charity for children and people with disabilities would have no charity towards a fellow teammate. Last night was heartbreaking to say the least but happily Gary remained true to himself and rose above it. I am appalled that so-called Celebrities who have already achieved a modicum of success in life can be so petty and so driven by ego-issues that they would cannibalize a weaker associate and one who has demonstrated no malice towards anyone, to the contrary, one who has demonstrated tremendous patience with his own and other’s shortcomings. I believe the men on that team are lacking one thing a Backbone.

    1. That’s right, Anne, Gary was marked from the beginning as “unmanageable” and in needing of “babysitting” by his team — and it was all very wrong — and the person who should’ve put an end to it was Trump! He should’ve called them on their cruel labeling and forced them to live the example of a righteous life by the way they engaged and included Gary. Trump didn’t do that, though. He played right into their “Gary is a mad man” theme and so greater shame is really his because Backbone got their tone clues from Trump on how to interact with Gary.

      You make an excellent point that the entire season is about raising money for charity and the disabled and the disadvantaged — and right there in the midst of everyone is Gary, a shining example of their greater mission, and he’s alone, abused, a little confused and quite a lot hurt by those around him — and Gary’s searching for a kind hand and only getting slapped in the face every way he turns. It was tremendously sad to watch it all unfold and I’ve wanted to write about Gary’s plight since the season started, but I wanted to wait first to see just how Gary actually met his demise. Would it be by his own hand, or was he done in by the knives his teammates stuck in his back? Last night gave me the bloody answer.

      Did you also notice how genuine and compassionate Gary was to his team? Yes, he’s an actor, and often annoying, yes, he’s self-serving at times — but when it came down to it, he was always eager to get involved with the task and he was the first to apologize and humble himself before others. I think Gary offered apologies to everyone on his team at different points during the season, and I can’t remember him getting a single heartfelt apology back when he was aggrieved — and he was absolutely, repeatedly, wronged. What Mark McGrath did to Gary last week in the waiting area before they went into the boardroom together was incredibly tasteless and crass and I was thrilled when Trump sent McGrath to the street.

  3. I was just telling my husband the exact same thing — that these celebrities would say how much they care about their charities and that these poor people need their help and money and there they, especially the guys, demeaning Gary in each task. If Gary wasn’t a celebrity, he would have benefitted from charities related to head injuries. To me, all these celebrities understand is taking money out of their pockets and other people’s wallets. They don’t understand what they are competing for — it has nothing to do with Trump or the title — it has to do with helping people are are less advantaged than you.

    In the boardroom with Donald Trump, the guys kept saying “I like Gary” but they showed how they really felt about Gary after he was fired and Gary went to the elevator for his exit. Not one of them went to say good-bye to Gary. I believe it was Lil’ John who held the door closed inside the boardroom so the team couldn’t go out and say goodbye to Gary. Why listen to Lil’ John? Couldn’t one of them have said, “I want to say goodbye to Gary. Let’s wish him him the best.” No. They left Gary in the lobby alone. Those are grown men. They couldn’t handle a simple goodbye?

    That behavior showed me they don’t understand Gary’s disability and they are not empathetic people who care about those with disabilities or who are in a bad situation. Donald Trump should change the show a little bit. I understand it’s a business competition where celebrities try to earn money for their charities and to be a winner of a meaningless title, but it wouldn’t hurt for them to do tasks in the actual environment of the charities — like an AIDS hospice or in a homeless shelter. Imagine John Rich seeing the hardship of homeless people with their kids. Maybe being called a “boy” wouldn’t bother him so much if he saw some real suffering in his life. John Rich has no idea how lucky he is. He gets to sing about hardship, not live it.

    I have to add that I love Marlee Matlin and for what she did for Gary and what a shining example of a Deaf person she is. As a Deaf person myself, it’s exciting to see a Deaf person in one of my favorite shows. Go, Marlee, Go!

    1. Thank you for your wonderful comment, Janna!

      Your thoughts made me remember the boardroom scene after Mark McGrath was fired and Gary was leaving. Trump belittled Gary, treating him like a child, by telling him to “shape up” and “behave” and to get it all together. It was a demeaning moment that was unnecessary, but again, Gary smiled, took the advice, and didn’t take it as a personal dig against his brain injury — even though that’s precisely what it was.

  4. Disturbing story, David. I am a Gary Busey fan. Not a Trump fan now that he’s revealed himself to be a racist and a bigot as a birther. Gary deserves better. Maybe this will play out for him and he’ll get a big break?

    1. I, too, am disappointed in Trump. He’s ruining his brand. He thinks we all know it’s a big put on and he’s winking at us — and those of us in New York who are used to his massive ego lolling around us like a Thanksgiving Day balloon all know he’s full of hot air and exaggeration — but those outside of NYC aren’t really in on the Trump-is-a-joke meme and they’re taking him at his word that he’s a birther and wants to be president. Those folks will be in for a rude awakening as soon as Celebrity Apprentice ends its current season. Trump waits a generation before making a massive fool of himself and it’s that time of year, I guess.

  5. I thought my wife and I were the only people outraged by what has happened this year on the Apprentice. Four years ago my son suffered a TBI and it saddens us to think about what he will face as he grows and enters the world at large. If “compassionate” celebrities raising money for charity can’t find some patience and understanding for someone who is disabled, what is the general public going to be like. I am a big fan of the Apprentice and have been since day 1 but am utterly ashamed at Donald Trump and NBC for essentially parading a disabled person around on a weekly basis for everyone to laugh at an make fun of. I am honored to have read your comments and to have shared my story with you.

    1. Thanks for your excellent comment, Kenneth. I’m sorry to hear about your son and I hope he is doing well.

      You’re right that Gary was put on the show to be made fun of and for comic relief — and he played along when asked — but if they’d asked him to be serious and contemplative instead — I’m certain Gary would’ve been happy to play that intellectual role as well. John Rich’s “saboteur” label still stings today — because it disavows the effects of Gary’s head injury and makes everything he says or does suspicious to others because he’s seen as being duplicitous and sneaky. That’s a killer way to decompress your competition with spite and hatred, but I expected so much more from John Rich than lowering himself to that desperate level.

      Gary’s newly discovered “Deafness” on the show should’ve been enough to earn him some compassion and additional understanding — but you can’t ask for kindness when those on your team are incapable of providing simple human caring.

      1. I’m with ya Ken and family!! I have faith your little man will take the world by storm. After all, look at all the cheerleaders he has ;o) I’m a new one in his corner.
        Much love to you and your family,

  6. Trump exploited Busey. Pure and simple.
    He kept pumping Busey up, telling him, and the other players that Busey was “a genius”, etc. etc. When the other players tried to just keep Busey occupied, it was unsuccessful. I really think the other players tried their best to work with him, and then to vote him out leaving him with as much dignity as possible. Trump kept him in the mix because it was “good TV”.
    I knew Trump knew what was up when the girls team had the choice of firing Hatch or Busey. They chose to fire Hatch. After that Trump said something to the effect of “it was a strategic move, Hatch of all people has to realize that”- meaning that leaving Busey left the mens team weaker because of Busey.
    Trump, and the other producers, exploited Busey terribly. It was like a sick joke that Busey couldn’t get. He didn’t understand why the mens team tried to keep him corralled, and thought instead that there was a conspiracy against him.
    I lay this at the feet of Trump and the people running the show. You know that Trump was keeping track of the “dailies” and knew what was happening.
    Now Busey is out there stumping for Trump as president. He still doesn’t know how badly he was used and abused to keep that stupid show “interesting” for a few extra weeks.

    1. I agree Trumps ongoing “he’s a genius” riff was disingenuous, and therefore, cruel — but Gary was so eager to be loved and accepted, he took the abuse and made it into something meaningful.

      The fact that Gary is now making political videos for Trump is just sad.

      I don’t think Marlee thinking Gary should stay over Hatch was strategic on her part — I think she genuinely believed he had more talent and star power than Hatch.

      1. Absolutely. I didn’t mean to make that unclear. I think Marlee was completely
        That was the point at which I knew for sure that Trump/show was duplicitous in his constant showering of Busey with “genius, brilliant, yada” stuff.
        Sadly, I think if Trump let Busey go earlier, it could have been a positive experience for Gary. Really, how often does Gary Busey get to experience hanging out with a group of guys and having a good time? Each time he let him stay it exposed more and more of Gary’s problems as the men were unable to compensate, and stripped him of his dignity.

        If Trump is willing to exploit someone he claims is a friend (Busey), I shudder to think how he’d treat the needy of this country in his bid to build Trumpistan.

        -I just keep imagining a big, obnoxious, vertical TRUMP in gold letters, where Lady Liberty once stood….it’d be “hUGE!”.

        I’m really glad you posted this blog Mr. Boles. I worked with a lot of people with neurodeficits during University, and it’s been burning me up. I disagree with your take on the mens team being cruel to him- I actually think that Rich saying that Gary was “sly and cunning” was a way of trying to give Busey a bit of his dignity back. Seeing Rich with his disabled friend… 2 foot.. someone- I just don’t see Rich as the kind of guy who would take shots at the disabled. It’s also very possible that with Trump talking up Busey so much, that no one on the show realizes how bad off Gary really is. Although the people in the game obviously spend more time with Gary than the viewer, the viewer does get a bit more of a gestalt view of Gary. In any event, my disagreement with you is minor- and perhaps just different because of the prisms through which we view the world. The main thing is that Busey was used and abused.
        Thank you for granting me the opportunity to vent.
        You may see me again in one of your other blogs. You and I have many parallel interests.
        I wish you the best in your endeavors, sir. *tips hat*

  7. should read:
    “I think Marlee was completely sincere. She had a unique window into Gary’s world.”

  8. Great Article, I am business studies teacher in the UK and I often use the show to highlight management dos and don’ts and it was refreshing to see that my whole class were appalled at the treatment of Gary. The show has turned into celebrity big-brother, wheeling out the unfortunate to be sniggered at by millions [and millionaires]. Trump you have lost the respect of 36 young minds, good luck on that presidency you pompous prat!

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