After McCarthy finished her Playmate of the Year duties, she began a round of TV and film auditions, whereupon she learned a few more lessons. For example, the meaning of the term casting couch. "I thought it meant a big fluffy couch that you sit on," she says.
"I would get into auditions," McCarthy says, "and these assholes" – she whispers this – "would tell me to stand up and take my clothes off. These are high people in the industry that I will never name. They would say things like, 'You have to have dinner with me in order to make it in this town.' "
After three months of such meetings, McCarthy landed an audition for Singled Out. Not without a struggle. She's a Playmate, they said. We don't want her, they said. She persisted. "I go to the audition," McCarthy says, "and there were just hundreds of girls that were complete... duplicates... of me."
McCarthy has a day off today, so she'll do a bit of kick boxing on the back deck of her house and read through some scripts. Already, she has appeared in a film, this spring's Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead. "I played Christopher Walken's private nurse," she says. "He played a paraplegic strapped in this chair. He was strapped in the whole day for two weeks." Besides acting, McCarthy had other duties. "Sometimes he would say, 'I have an itch.' I'd have to scratch him off camera."
Manzella enters the room and reminds her about a future project. "What I've come up with," he says, "is Jenny McCarthy's Cool Summer Hits, which is going to be a two-CD compilation of bona fide summer hits from the '60s, '70s and '80s – two CDs, 12 songs each."
"Summer hits," McCarthy says. "'California Dreamin'.' Sorry, Ray."
"I like when you interject," he says. "It shows the passion and dedication. We're also going to have Jenny in a yellow polka-dot bikini poster with the two CDs for $19.95. The TV campaign is going to be her driving a car with a Priscilla Presley beehive – 1960s."
"I change the channel, then I go into a different era," McCarthy says. She is lounging on the floor. "That's what's making me pumped on it, because it's cool."
"So we're going to have a contest," says Manzella. "If you go to Music land and you're one of the first 25 people there or whatever, you get yellow polka-dot sunglasses. Coppertone may crosspro-mote. Whoever wins, Jenny will host a Labor Day party at your house.
"The reason I like this," he continues as McCarthy watches him, smiling, "is that I've sold through my business about $2 billion of product on television globally. I'm not trying to be obnoxious – I'm just saying I have experience."
McCarthy nods and says, "He's the czar."
"All generations will appreciate this music," Manzella says, turning toward McCarthy. "The whole family comes up to you. You're innocent, you're feel-good, you're approachable, you're campy." He grins. "We have much more ambitious plans. Right, Jenny?"
McCarthy's hair whips around the inside of Manzella's Mercedes as she heads down Highway 1. She's making her near-daily pilgrimage to her favorite spiritual bookshop in Venice to get a copy of Journey Into Oneness for a friend.
"I love L.A.," she sighs. She drives with her left foot up on the seat. "Every day when I drive around here, I completely envisioned this and being here."
Inside the store, there is the usual array of New Age tchotchkes: candles, dream catchers, crystals. The customers are of the frizzy-haired cat-lady variety.
McCarthy heads for a table piled with helpful books: your Deepak Chopras, your Marianne Williamsons. She picks up The Celestine Prophecy: "This just opened my heart and made me realize, 'Try to love a little bit more.' When I try to console people and tell them words of wisdom that I've learned, a lot of people feel so much better. Some people say, 'Shut the hell up.' I just send the love and think, 'Someday you'll see.'"
Of course, McCarthy has to keep focused on more earthly concerns – like her career. In August she'll appear as a "big-time actress, like a Pamela Anderson actress," in The Stupids, a comedy starring Tom Arnold, and she's shopping around for other roles. "And I'm talking about a sitcom," she adds, "but I can't go into it."
McCarthy, who wants to break into comedy, tries to avoid bikini roles. "I turned down The First Wives Club," she says. "My role was a dumb girl who was fucking this guy basically for a part. That's not the way I want to come across." She pauses, then raises an eyebrow. "And you know who got the part after I turned it down? Elizabeth Berkley." She nods. "That just goes to show you."
Clutching a scented candle, McCarthy walks up to the counter to order Journey Into Oneness from the Spicoli-like clerk. He eyeballs her as the fog around his head momentarily lifts.
"Hey," he says, "are you on Baywatch?"
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