Lee Bienstock did a good $%@#$% job
Lee Bienstock: First off, I would like to thank everyone for their amazing support from day one. It has been incredible how many people got behind me through this whole thing. I am grateful for everything.
OA: What were you and Mr. Trump chatting about after he fired you Monday evening?
It is remarkable how many people picked up on this. Right after the show, Mr. Trump asked me to come over, and he told me to give him a call this week so we can meet up and talk about "being hired" by the Trump Organization. It feels great for my work to be validated by Mr. Trump. I started this whole thing so that I could learn from Mr. Trump and further my career. Even though I was the runner up, my goal can still be accomplished.
If you could get one do-over throughout the 14-week job interview, what would you have done differently?
I know it sounds unbelievably cliche, but I wouldn't change one thing. It seems like so many of my castmates look back and say, "I should have done this, or that". I make sure I don't get caught up in that, for my mental health. Certainly I made made mistakes, everyone does. I think I approached the whole process pretty flawlessly, I must have, to be the youngest contestant a make it all the way to the finals. There were so many times where my actions were misinterpreted, and I can't control that. The "Apprentice" has given me an great deal of experience in such a short period of time. I learned from everything and everyone; I wish I could do it again.
You were living in a suite in Manhattan. You worked on tasks in Manhattan, and in Queens and Long Island, not far from your hometown. Did you run into anyone you know?
I don't know how it happened, but I never ran into anyone where it became an issue. There were a couple of close calls though, I'll tell you that. One time we where shopping in Bloomingdale's in the middle of the day, and one of my mother's friends saw me with all the cameras swirling. She asked my mom, "is your son in showbiz?" Of course she denied everything, but it was difficult. I didn't spend to much time at any of my hot spots, like the kosher restaurants, bars, pizza shops around the city. I didn't see my friends and family for a while. When we do a task in the bowels of New Jersey at a Wal-Mart, we don't leave for days.
How did you prepare your teammates for the Jewish holidays? How did you explain kashrut?
It was challenging, because we had to be sensitive to how it would come out to the rest of America. I have had this conversation many times before, so I was used to it. I had non-Jewish roommates in college, and non-Jewish co-workers before. There was a lot of conversation centered around what makes something kosher, and what the Jewish holidays are all about. There were plenty of misconceptions out there like, " a rabbi needs to bless something, and then it becomes kosher."
Did you know the Holidays could create conflicts when you were selected for the cast? Did you expect production to stop for Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur? Was there any consideration of deferring your participation to a future season?
I certainly had an idea the holidays might be an issue, especially around the time we were taping. It made for television gold when it did come up. The 18 of us are like a family, we fight all the time but we love each other. I would like to absolve Lenny from some of the bashing he has been getting for the public's "perceived" view that he was not accommodating around the holidays. I didn't see it like that when we were living in the suite, and in fact he came to shul with me on Yom Kippur. Lenny even went as far as telling Mr. Trump in the boardroom that, "you know...Lee he talks to the g-d, I saw it." We all have something to learn, and it was great for Lenny and I to experience that together.
From the start of the season, many Modern Orthodox young professionals viewed you and Dan as role models. Were you surprised by that reaction and the level of excitement in the Jewish community? Do you view yourself as a role model?
I never realized that we would become role models. The reaction in the Jewish community has been crazy, its fantastic. It makes the whole process so rewarding. I get emails from people of all religions including pastors and rabbis, that tell me they love what I am doing. They want me to come talk to their congregations and community youth about principles and my experiences. It is kind of hard NOT to view myself as a role model.
Who do you stay in touch with from the show?
I stay in touch with the majority of the cast. I am very close with Allie, Roxanne, Summer, Stacey, Michael, Pepi, and of course, Lenny. Now that would be a monster team!! I speak to Brent from time to time and I think he was misunderstood on TV; he is a very caring and energetic person. It is amazing how close we all get in such a short period of time.
You knew for seven months that you were a finalist. How did you deal with the suspense? Who else knew? Your parents? Girlfriend?
My mom can't keep a secret for the life of her, let alone one worth millions of dollars. Nobody knew!!! It was so hard keeping it in, but I know it was for the best.
Last Monday night's live boardroom was a letdown. Trump only asked a couple questions. How much time did you spend preparing for the final boardroom? Did you and Lenny prepare a cheatsheet?
I never prepare for the boardroom. I like to shoot from the hip, and I never want my answers to sound rehearsed. I attribute a lot of my success in the boardroom to this strategy. We had a really long boardroom, that they only showed briefly. They did manage to ask, Tarek, Charmaine and Tammy what they felt though.....
There was no discussion of the final tasks during the live finale. Do you know how much money your event raised for the firefighters?
I raised over $85,000 during our event, which is why Lys was so happy. I was auctioning off everything but the kitchen sink during the final task. I auctioned a chance to play in the game, called "play with the stars", I auctioned off thousands of dollars worth of sports memorabilia, as well as other items like sitting on the bench with the players, the shirts off of every player's back (Michael J. Fox's alone got $4,500), and of course the cars. All during a span of two hours. I auctioned both cars for more than they were worth. They showed my lowest bid for a car, and [Synergy's] highest. The best part of the final task was when Dennis Leary said, "You did a good $%@#$% job". I might have been shortchanged, but the Leary Firefighters Foundation definitely was not....
How does it feel to be a celebrity?
I am not a celebrity. I am more of a recognizable figure. I will be candid with you though, it feels nice to be recognized for my talents. It feels great to get an email from a 19 year old who says I have inspired him/her.
Before The Apprentice, did anyone ever call you a politician? Any interest in politics?
Mr. Trump is pretty perceptive. All throughout school I always held student government positions, and I did study Public Policy at Cornell. Who knows, maybe I'll run for Senate one day.
What's next for Lee Bienstock?
There is so much on my horizon. I will be going on the speaking circuit, and my calendar is filling up pretty quickly. So many people are interested in hearing about my experience and what I have learned. Maybe a job at the Trump Organization, and I have been offered a number of career opportunities from various sponsors of the tasks, as well as others. I update my website very frequently and it has everything I will be up to, and people can book me to speak at www.leebienstock.com.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with your fans?
Thank you all for sharing this ride with me!!!