If there’s a loose microphone around, Jaclyn Bernstein, DMCP, co-owner of Empire Force Events, New York, N.Y., will be the first one to grab it (and the first one to admit it). That’s why it came as no surprise to see the co-owners of the well-known Manhattan-based destination management company and special event producer, Bernstein and partner Rob Hulsmeyer, CSEP, DMCP, CMP, on an episode of the NBC hit show "The Apprentice," two weeks ago.
The New York-based reality show featured the two wannabe apprentice teams—Bill, Troy, and Kwame versus Nick and Amy—charged with renting out the 90th -floor penthouse of the Trump World Tower, the tallest residential building in the world, to the highest bidder for a one-time event. The penthouse is used only for Trump events and rented only on rare occasions.
That’s why the minimum bid for the outside bidders was set at $20,000 and the two wannabe apprentice teams had only 10 hours to show the venue and convince the planners that the place was worth it. At the top of the show, Troy was seen on the phone saying to someone, "I understand you do event planning?"
It was hardly a cold call, however. Bernstein says that someone from Mark Burnett Productions, the producer, "called us before the apprentices did. We kept asking how they found out about us and where they got their references for planners, and BizBash (a New York-based Web site and publisher in the special events industry) was the name that came up the most." The producers had done their homework before handing over a list to the two teams.
When Bill’s team called Empire (one day last fall, when the taping took place) and told them that they’d have to come over to see the venue immediately if they were seriously interested, Bernstein told him that’s just not the way they did business. "They told us we only had this one day to view it." So they dropped everything and went.
Bernstein and Hulsmeyer first toured the penthouse in the morning. "Trump sent a limo to pick us up. I thought the apartment would be furnished, and was surprised when it wasn’t," Bernstein says. "I nitpicked. I opened every door. I asked a million questions, many of which they couldn’t answer."
Troy told them he was shooting for something "in the $30,000 range." Did the duo have an event in mind when they made their final bid of $35,001, on a second visit that afternoon? "We have a lot of Fortune 100 clients, and we felt that the right client might want the bragging rights," for an event at such a unique venue. Still, Bernstein admits it was a risk, since there was a 90-day window in which the event had to be held.
If you watched the show, Bernstein and Hulsmeyer were the attractive couple (nicknamed "Team Oy Vey" by the Web site televisionwithoutpity.com, because she used the term in the show) who appeared mostly at a desk in a room negotiating with Troy. "They kept saying, ‘We think you’re the right people that Mr. Trump would want to rent to.’ As if it had nothing to do with the money," she says. "And it was kind of outrageous how Troy kept leaving the room." She surmised it was because he didn’t know the answers to many of her questions. "They kept telling me not to worry about it."
When Bernstein and Hulsmeyer left that day, they thought they had sealed the deal because they had signed aand given the apprentices a check for a deposit. But they hadn’t. (A wedding planner made the winning bid of $40,000 to the opposing team). So when did she and Hulsmeyer find out they’d lost?
It was a couple of weeks later when Trump’s executive assistant, Norma Forders (shown on last week’s episode as one of his four top execs), called to tell Bernstein she had lost out. But she left the door open, as did Trump in the end scene, so that if Empire still wanted to rent it, for the original offer, Trump would rent it to her as well. She has yet to take Trump up on that offer, and the check was never cashed.
How does Bernstein feel about her 15 minutes of fame? Since the show first aired two weeks ago, she has received about 1,400 e-mails, from friends, colleagues, and people she hasn’t seen since in years (like old boyfriends’ mothers). Hulsmeyer has even been stopped by total strangers on the street.
Bernstein, obviously, is pleased with the promotional mileage. "Now I tell my potential clients, if Donald Trump and his apprentices wanted me, so should you."