This is the only personal letter I have ever written to Donald Trump (not hand-delivered but sent by email on April 8, 2013):
I just wanted to write you a quick thank you note. We just did our annual poker tournament for Opportunity Village (my charity on Celebrity Apprentice and one of the charities I’ve been closely involved with for years). My wife runs the tournament every year and it’s always a big fund raiser. This year it was through the roof and it was because of you having me on your show. We got support from the other celebrities and Omarosa showed up and played and that brought a lot of attention. A lot of people who need help will get it because of you inviting me onto your show.
There aren’t really that many surprises in TV:
I knew going on a popular show would bump up our Penn & Teller counts at the theater, that wasn’t a surprise, but the size of the bump was quite a surprise. It is huge.
I knew it would help Opportunity Village and get some attention for their ideas for helping people with mental disabilities, but the amount the show helped them has been beyond anything we could have hoped for. And the amount that it helped our other main charities (United Blood Services and AFAN for People with AIDS) was astonishing.
We knew your TV show would get Penn & Teller more attention, but when we recently got our Star on Hollywood Blvd and were named “Magicians of the Year” by the Magic Castle, it was certainly fitting that you were thanked in all the speeches. The turnouts were amazing.
The surprises have been mostly of degree, but such a degree it’s breathtaking.
The biggest surprise was not of degree and comes not from knowing too little about television but from knowing too much. I had been involved directly and peripherally with several “reality” TV shows and always took the manipulation, lying, and disingenuous editing as just the way the game was played. I try to always be optimistic but it was hard after seeing the sleaziness over and over throughout this part of our business. I came to my first season of Celebrity Apprentice with a chip on my shoulder. I want to be sunny, but I don’t want to get burned.
On my first season on your show, no one told me what to say. That was a first. On my first season no one had story lines laid out in advance. That was also a first. And, you were clearly making your own decisions in the boardroom based on your own POV. I didn’t expect that. Even with all that experience shooting my first season, when my first season started airing and viewers told me a version of the Celebrity Apprentice stories that was consistent with what I had experienced — well, it was as close to a miracle as this old atheist has ever seen. This was reality TV that was what people thought reality TV was. I know that there’s a lot of people that keep the integrity of the show, but I also know that integrity starts at the top and much credit must go to you.
I don’t imagine you follow my interviews very closely, you’ve heard me yap enough sitting across from you, but I just can’t seem to repeat enough how shocked I was at the honesty of “The Celebrity Apprentice” and how true you are to yourself. Many times on your show I quoted my jazz hero, Thelonious Monk — “The genius is the one who is most like himself.” I believe that’s the highest compliment I can give anyone, and it sure applies to you.
So thank you for the career boost, for helping my charities, for giving me some optimism for an art form that is so easily dismissed and mostly for your inspiration.
It’s all been so much more than expected or planned for.