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He always wanted to be the best, even among the best. Like Trump, Burnett trusts his impulses. Burnett is an avid raconteur, and his anecdotes about his life tend to have a three-act structure. Act II is the rude awakening: the world bets against him. No such thing has ever been tried! Not long after arriving in California, he landed his first job—as a nanny. Eyebrows were raised: a commando turned nanny? Yet Burnett thrived, working for a family in Beverly Hills, then one in Malibu.

Burnett married a California woman, Kym Gold, who came from an affluent family. She would buy slightly imperfect T-shirts wholesale, at two dollars apiece, and Burnett would resell them, on the Venice boardwalk, for eighteen. The marriage lasted only a year, by which point Burnett had obtained a green card. Gold, who had also learned a thing or two about selling, went on to co-found the denim company True Religion, which was eventually sold for eight hundred million dollars.

One day in the early nineties, Burnett read an article about a new kind of athletic event: a long-distance endurance race, known as the Raid Gauloises, in which teams of athletes competed in a multiday trek over harsh terrain.


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In , Burnett organized a team and participated in a race in Oman. He also realized that if you filmed such a race it would make for exotic and gripping viewing. Burnett launched his own race, the Eco-Challenge, which was set in such scenic locations as Utah and British Columbia, and was televised on various outlets, including the Discovery Channel. By this time, Burnett had met an aspiring actress from Long Island named Dianne Minerva and married her.

They became consumed with making the show a success. In the small world of adventure racing, Mark developed a reputation as a slick and ambitious operator. As a young man, Burnett occasionally found himself on a flight for business, looking at the other passengers and daydreaming: If this plane were to crash on a desert island, where would I fit into our new society?

Who would lead and who would follow? It was undeniably compelling to watch contestants of different ages, body types, and dispositions negotiate the primordial challenges of making fire, securing shelter, and foraging for food. At the same time, the scenario was extravagantly contrived: the castaways were shadowed by camera crews, and helicopters thundered around the island, gathering aerial shots.

Moreover, the contestants had been selected for their charisma and their combustibility. The man, riled, threw the accusation back at Burnett, and was not cast that season. Emotional volatility makes for compelling television. But recruiting individuals for their instability and then subjecting them to the stress of a televised competition can be perilous.

Levak eventually stopped consulting on such programs, in part because he feared that a contestant might harm himself. When he made the rounds in L. Burnett devised a dizzying array of lucrative product-integration deals. In the first season, one of the teams won a care package that was attached to a parachute bearing the red-and-white logo of Target.

He was creating an immersive, cinematic entertainment—and he was known for lush production values, and for paying handsomely to retain top producers and editors—but he was anything but precious about his art. Long before he met Trump, Burnett had developed a Panglossian confidence in the power of branding.

Antiseptic performance

Seven weeks before the election, Burnett, in a smart tux with a shawl collar, arrived with his third wife, the actress and producer Roma Downey, at the Microsoft Theatre, in Los Angeles, for the Emmy Awards. But his triumphant evening was marred when the master of ceremonies, Jimmy Kimmel, took an unexpected turn during his opening monologue. That guy. The tribe has spoken. Burnett said that he had read it, and that it had changed his life; he thought, What a legend this guy Trump is!

Anyone else hearing this tale might have found it a bit calculated, if not implausible. But when Trump heard the story he was flattered. The real alchemy of reality television is the editing—sifting through a compost heap of clips and piecing together an absorbing story. But you accentuate things that you see as themes. Much of reality TV consists of reaction shots: one participant says something outrageous, and the camera cuts away to another participant rolling her eyes. Often, Braun said, editors lift an eye roll from an entirely different part of the conversation.


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  • Sometimes a candidate distinguished herself during the contest only to get fired, on a whim, by Trump. Such sleight of hand is the industry standard in reality television. When Trump and Burnett told the story of their partnership, both suggested that Trump was initially wary of committing to a TV show, because he was so busy running his flourishing real-estate empire. But we made him out to be the most important person in the world. It was like making the court jester the king.

    We saw a crumbling empire at every turn. Our job was to make it seem otherwise. Trump maximized his profits from the start. When producers were searching for office space in which to stage the show, he vetoed every suggestion, then mentioned that he had an empty floor available in Trump Tower, which he could lease at a reasonable price. After becoming President, he offered a similar arrangement to the Secret Service.

    When the production staff tried to furnish the space, they found that local venders, stiffed by Trump in the past, refused to do business with them. All the candidates paid lip service to the notion that Trump was a peerless businessman, but not all of them believed it. Somehow, this interpretation eluded the audience. When I watched several dozen episodes of the show recently, I saw no hint of deliberate irony.

    Admittedly, it is laughable to hear the candidates, at a fancy meal, talk about watching Trump for cues on which utensil they should use for each course, as if he were Emily Post. Did Burnett believe what he was selling? Or was Trump another two-dollar T-shirt that he pawned off for eighteen?

    He takes no prisoners. I was billions of dollars in debt. But I fought back, and I won, big league. Trump loomed over the viewer, his face in a jowly glower, his hair darker than it is now, the metallic auburn of a new penny. He blew up that balloon and he believed in it. On interview tours with Trump, Burnett exhibited the studied instincts of a veteran producer: anytime the spotlight strayed in his direction, he subtly redirected it at Trump. But you know something? Burnett grasped that the best way to keep Trump satisfied was to insure that he never felt upstaged. Burnett and Trump at a Inauguration party.

    Meaning Every Moment

    Burnett unsuccessfully tried to enlist musicians to perform. It was. The prize for the winning team was an opportunity to stay and gamble at the Taj, trailed by cameras. Burnett and Trump negotiated with NBC to retain the rights to income derived from product integration, and split the fees. On set, Trump often gloated about this easy money.

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    Originally, Burnett had planned to cast a different mogul in the role of host each season. But Trump took to his part more nimbly than anyone might have predicted. But off the cuff he delivered the kind of zesty banter that is the lifeblood of reality television. NBC executives were so enamored of their new star that they instructed Burnett and his producers to give Trump more screen time. Last night, we were No.

    The event took place the next month, at the State Department, in Washington, D. In , he had been getting his hair cut at a salon in Malibu when he noticed an attractive woman getting a pedicure. Downey, who grew up in a Catholic family in Northern Ireland, is deeply religious, and eventually Burnett, too, reoriented his life around Christianity. For people who had long known Burnett, it was an unexpected turn. This was a man who had ended his second marriage during a live interview with Howard Stern. When Burnett hesitated, Stern pounced. When Riggs got married, someone who attended the ceremony told me, Burnett was his best man, and gave a speech saying that his success would have been impossible without Riggs.

    The suit settled out of court. Riggs declined to comment. Burnett has spoken enthusiastically to colleagues about the role that prayer and religious devotion now play in his life. Kym Gold told me she thinks that Burnett tends to adapt to his current partner. Before he married Gold, who is Jewish, he took a six-week course in Judaism.

    I would say that none of those things are driving forces for him anymore. Others who know Burnett noted to me that the Christian community is itself a significant viewer demographic. But he was good at communicating with the masses, he went on. Burnett had remained close to the President. But Burnett has never been especially political.

    There were the same business challenges and boardroom eliminations, but the stakes felt conspicuously lower.

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    Still, everyone gamely pretended to take it seriously. Describing the show in one public appearance, Donald Trump, Jr. In the opening episode of Season 11, the theatrical tension of the boardroom was suddenly punctured by an electronic trill. It is strange to watch this kind of malarkey now and consider that only a few years later one of these men would be President. After Trump won the election, he turned to his old friend for advice on the inaugural festivities. Like a starlet who keeps returning to a favorite director, Trump had always loved the way that Burnett made him look.

    Burnett was summoned to New York for a consultation with the President-elect and another Trump confidant, the financier Tom Barrack. Before she eventually settled down with heiress Ann Walker, Lister won the hearts of numerous other women. Lister's era was one full of whalebone corsets and restrictive petticoats, yet her personal style emphasized function over form. Because she moved at a brisk pace and enjoyed long walks through the countryside she reportedly walked 25 miles in a single outing on at least one occasion , she tended to wear thick, leather boots, which were generally deemed unladylike.

    She further defied convention by sporting lots and lots of black. Even though it was seen as a masculine color at the time, Lister filled her wardrobe with black bodices and long coats. Growing up, Lister would frequently visit Shibden Hall , the brick-and-timber mansion that was the home of her aunt and uncle, who had no children of his own. Lister moved into the estate in , after the untimely deaths of all four of her brothers. When her uncle James passed away in , the job of managing Shibden Hall and its surrounding acres fell to Lister. She handled its finances, oversaw its coal deposits and quarries , profited off of the onsite canals and timber, and collected rent from its tenants right up until her death in On one of her extended trips to Paris, Lister was often seen attending scientific lectures, where she deepened her knowledge of everything from zoology to mineralogy.

    She preserved the bits in rectified spirits and kept them in a cabinet she obtained especially, which also contained a skeleton and several skulls. In , Lister earned the distinction of becoming the first woman to ascend Mount Perdu, the third highest mountain in the Pyrenees Range. Its peak is 11, feet above sea level. Eight years later, she became the first amateur climber to ever scale the Vignemale, an almost equally tall summit in the same range.

    On Easter Sunday, , Lister married Ann Walker in what is often cited as the first lesbian wedding in recorded British history. The women had been acquaintances for several years. Walker was 12 years younger than Lister and, by all accounts, a whole lot shyer. After selecting a pair of rings , they took communion together on Easter Sunday, , at the Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate in York. So far as Lister and Walker were concerned, the shared Easter service was their stand-in wedding ceremony.

    They never mentioned this to the church , and their marriage went unrecognized in the eyes of the law. Lister didn't make a lot of friends among her tenants. Her notoriety only increased after she began her new domestic life with Walker. Although residents of the broader community depended on that well, Lister considered it family property. So to assert her control over the situation, she had a barrel of tar dumped into the water—making it unfit for consumption.

    In retaliation, effigies of both Lister and Walker were burned. Throughout her life, Lister maintained a passion for traveling. In , Lister and Walker toured eastern Europe. That autumn, the couple was out exploring present-day Georgia the country when Lister came down with a horrible fever, possibly as the result of a tick bite. Walker brought Lister's remains back to England, where they were buried at Halifax Minster.