This has been tested on Debian lenny running on VMware server 2.0.
Install kernel headers and some tools used to install VMware tools:
apt-get install binutils cpp gcc make psmisc linux-headers-$(uname -r)
Mount the cdrom drive. Make sure you have mounted the VMware tools virtual cd from the host before moving on.
mount /dev/cdrom /mnt/
Extract VMware tools to the tmp directory:
tar -C /tmp -zxvf /mnt/VMwareTools-x.x.x.tar.gz