The editor at Playboy eyed McCarthy. "Usually you send in pictures," she said. "No one has come up to the office before."
"I talked to her for 15 minutes," McCarthy says, "and she said, 'Why don't you take a Polaroid?' Three days later, I'm Miss October 1993. "Turn-ons: guys on Harleys, daredevils, men who aren't afraid to cry or show their emotion Turnoffs: bullies, steroid monsters, guys who give you their business cards and say, "Call me, babe, I can make you a star."
McCarthy steeled herself for the reaction to her new career. First she had to inform the parents. "She was scared to death," says her mother, Linda McCarthy, a vivacious woman with a frequent laugh. "She wrote us each beautiful letters saying how happy she was with her childhood. That's a side of Jenny nobody sees. She's got this big ol' heart." Nonetheless, the news took some adjusting to. "But my husband and I said, 'We'll support her.' At least she wasn't in Penthouse. We knew she was using it as a steppingstone. As well she did."
When word of Jenny's achievement hit Chicago, the townsfolk were slightly less understanding. "To show you how prestigious my school was," McCarthy says, "when the city found out I was in Playboy, every 10 minutes there were special news reports. It was hell. I was O.J. Simpson in Chicago. There was a huge protest in the city." Anonymous callers informed McCarthy that she would burn in hell. News cameras surrounded the grounds of Mother McAuley. "I look at the news," says McCarthy, "and I see my principal and all the nuns screaming at the news cameras, pushing and hitting them to get out of the school. They would interview the young girls coming out of McAuley, and they'd say, 'She's a slut.' I have aunts and uncles that are priests and nuns that I don't talk to anymore because of it."
A furious McCarthy went on the air: "I said, 'The Catholic religion says never cast stones.' I'm like, 'All of you people, why don't you look in the mirror and judge yourself? I didn't hurt anyone. You watch, Chicago! This is a steppingstone! Because I will be back, and I will have made it.' "
My philosophy: Live it up but don't do anything you'll regret when you're 80. Ambition: to succeed in TV Land.
McCarthy's House (1 br, deck, fplce) sits right on the beach near Malibu. Parked at the end of its sun-dappled walkway is a shiny black Mercedes coupe. It is not McCarthy's, however. She has a red Mitsubishi 3000GT that she got for winning Playmate of the Year. It is Ray's. They recently moved in together. You see – and there is no easy way to put this – Jenny McCarthy has a boyfriend.
"Hi!" McCarthy calls. She stands in the doorway. She wears a giant blue sweatshirt emblazoned with the Pepsi logo – standard TV-celebrity graft – as well as black leggings, white sneakers and sunglasses, which are perched jauntily on her head. At her feet snuffles JoJo, a chubby, amiable bulldog named after McCarthy's sister Joanne. A television is always on, and the phone is constantly ringing. It is being answered by an unseen Ray. The muffled sound of wheeling and dealing comes from an office near the doorway. Ray is also McCarthy's manager.
Angels in different forms are scattered throughout the house. "I'm totally addicted to angels," McCarthy says, picking up a glass one. "My mom gave me this. Glass of water?" She opens the fridge, which contains only condiments (the freezer, only french fries, buffalo meat and vodka). McCarthy is open and friendly. Her favorite joke: Why did the monkey fall out of the tree? Because it was dead. Her favorite pickup line: "I was in this bar on spring break with my girlfriends, and I was drinking my beer with a straw. This guy with a Long Island accent comes over and says, 'Yo, why do you got a straw in your beeah?' " She danced with him all night.
Today, away from the cameras, McCarthy is calm – serene, even: "People don't see this side of me. They don't know I read, like, 800 million spiritual books. Lately I am just really getting into a lot of spirituality." She crosses the hall to the bedroom, which is surprisingly modest: a Lucite makeup table, a large bed with a tasteful earth-tones bedspread and a book, Journey Into Oneness: A Spiritual Odyssey, on the bedside table.
"I don't really go out much at all," McCarthy says. "But there are times when I'm like, 'I gotta get out.' Then we go to Vegas, and we'll gamble." She turns toward the office. "Vegas, honey, maybe next weekend?"
A 40ish man with a deep tan and a passing resemblance to Ted Danson zips into the room. Ray Manzella has managed Suzanne Somers, Vanna White, Pamela Anderson Lee and, as of two years ago, Jenny McCarthy. "The Hard Rock casino in Vegas is so cool," he says. "You have Led Zeppelin chips, Janis Joplin chips. In the room, they have rock & roll channels that are insane. At the opening we had a ball." McCarthy and Manzella live quietly – ordering pizza, watching movies. "I turned her on to Bond movies," he says. "And old Goldie Hawn films, because I think she's the Goldie Hawn of the future." He leaves to take a phone call.
"I've been going out with Ray for about a year," McCarthy says. He has the qualities she looks for in a man: "sense of humor, mature in thought, no game playing, a strong spirit. And Ray doesn't care what people think. People in this town go to restaurants and act really stuck up, where we'll be in a fancy restaurant and he'll start singing really loud. And ever since we got to know each other's souls and stuff, there's been no age gap."
Shockingly, McCarthy has basically had three boyfriends in her life – one of whom she was engaged to. "I'm the worst person to tell anybody how to date," she says. It seems that McCarthy leads a fairly simple life. "When I'm feeling fiesta-ish, I'll have a Long Island," she says. Otherwise, she goes to church, she reads Journey Into Oneness, she calls her mom.
McCarthy's mother clearly adores her daughter: "Jenny was always high-spirited, just a sweet little thing. She always made everybody laugh. And she always had a real pretty quality about her." Once she put her daughter in a "cutest baby" contest: "She didn't win, and I was, like, shocked. I was like, 'Where are their eyes?' " Turns out they picked "some little boy in a train engineer's outfit," she says disgustedly. "I should have put her in a costume. I mean, he was a year old, and he was bald."
McCarthy's mom remembers the day her daughter joined the MTV family. "I was happy, my gosh," she says. "Very, very happy. That meant that she wasn't in the Playboy anymore."
The day the October Playboy hit the stands, McCarthy packed up a U-Haul and drove straight for Los Angeles. Soon after she arrived, she was crowned Playmate of the Year. This may sound like champagne wishes and caviar dreams, but here is the reality: conventions, signings, store openings, nonstop traveling ("Fly coach to France for dinner with some stupid guy, then dinner in L.A. with some other stupid guy") and, finally, "learning how to deal with feminists." Still, she says, she owes Playboy: "They taught me the work ethic." McCarthy even briefly lived at the Playboy Mansion, but it is no longer the garish fun house peopled by the likes of James Caan and Barbi Benton. "Now it's very '90s, very calm," McCarthy says.
"Jenny is a very special lady, and we're proud of her," says Hugh Hefner, phoning from said mansion. "She has that special spark. She's very much into children. Yeah. Yeah. Oh, yeah. She did a series of library readings to children out here in Los Angeles in the weeks before the press thing." Hef adds that readers aid in determining the Playmate of the Year, "but the final choice is made by Mr. Hefner, not the readers. It's not the People's Choice, heh-heh. It's the Academy Awards."
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