For the September 2012 issue of Michigan Avenue magazine
By Paige Wiser
Known for her outrageous wit, blonde good looks, and plentiful paramours, Jenny McCarthy is a hometown girl who is serious about her career and her role as a mother. In many ways Jenny McCarthy is your typical Midwest suburban mom. While chatting in preparation for this story, she was hosting a play date for her 10-year-old son, Evan, and his horde of friends. “I don’t think the frogs are here yet, guys!” she shouts.
If McCarthy has learned one thing from a career in show business, it’s how to entertain a crowd. “I ordered all the frogs in the whole store,” explains McCarthy. “Unfortunately, there was only one fat bullfrog named Pac-Man, and we’re getting him. The rest are two-inch tadpoles.”
But McCarthy is different than the other neighborhood mothers. Let’s address the bullfrog in the room: Not many moms have just graced their sixth cover of Playboy magazine, months before turning 40, which she will do on November 1. Isn’t she bored with being a bombshell? “Hell no!” she says. “I hope I’m 60 and people are still saying it. I do want people to know there’s more, but, yes, I want the ‘honk-honk’ when you pass me.”
McCarthy is able to toot her own horn, freely. Finally out of the TV-development deals that went nowhere and hung around her neck like Jacob Marley’s chains, her career is unfettered and back in high gear. “A lot of people don’t understand why I haven’t been on TV,” she says. “It’s not because I don’t want to! I’ve been locked up since I was 23.”
Contracts with NBC and then Harpo kept her in limbo. “I love Oprah; I was held to Harpo for four or five years, but she wanted to develop OWN, and I wanted to be in syndication. So we shook hands and went our separate ways. I’m a free agent!”
McCarthy is hosting season two of the summer reality matchmaker series Love in the Wild on NBC, and she is throwing herself into her own VH1 talk show, set to debut this fall. The late-night weekly run has the potential to become a nightly series. “I kind of want to make it really boutique-y and small,” McCarthy says, her voice rising at the end of sentences, making her answers sound like questions. “I don’t like the idea of a big stage that separates you from the audience. I’m more, like, in-your-face?”
She’s envisioning “a bit of Mad TV meets Jon Stewart, but a little dirtier and sexier.” McCarthy went to the boards with the VH1 brass to keep production in Chicago. “We’re meeting about that,” she says. “I swear, people, there’s a reason why Oprah had her show here. It’s the heart of America! Don’t be stupid.”
McCarthy grew up on the South Side of Chicago, the second of four daughters to her hairdresser mom and steel-company foreman dad. “My mom knew I wanted to be on TV, and she’d say, ‘Oh, why don’t you just tell them that you want Vanna’s job? That would be great! She’s so classy!’” McCarthy did, in fact, follow in Vanna White’s footsteps: First to the pages ofPlayboy, then to a game show in the mid-’90s: MTV’s Singled Out.
Unlike White, though, McCarthy crafted an edgier, more vocal persona. “Starting from the get-go, I made sure I wasn’t perfect,” she says. “I just wanted to be real. You know, I burp, too, but don’t be offended.”
Despite her loyalty to home, McCarthy doesn’t attend her high school reunions. “I don’t think I’m invited,” she admits. “I think maybe posing for Playboy and going to an all-girls Catholic school might have been an issue.” She also doesn’t comment on her equally famous and funny cousin, Plainfield’s Melissa McCarthy. “It’s kind of important to let somebody have her stage and just shine,” she confides, “so that’s what I’m doing.”
McCarthy has moved back to Chicago for the year to be with her family, and she has enrolled Evan in a local school. She’s got a hometown honey at the moment, too: Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher. Given that our interview is taking place months before this issue will come out, McCarthy knows that the less she says, the better. “I’m hoping that by fall, things are still great,” she confesses. “I kind of made myself put a gag order on it. I’m happy, though.” After a long pause, she adds, “Go Bears!”
McCarthy confesses that her other obsession lately is clutch purses. Something symbolic could be made of this—that she has no need for the security of a strap, say, or that she’s now determined to be hands-on with her career, or that she’s minimizing her emotional baggage. More likely, she just likes to shop.
“I love Net-a-Porter,” says McCarthy. “When I go downtown, I’ll hit Barneys, I’ll hit Neiman’s. You know I worked at Bloomingdale’s while I lived in Chicago for a summer? So it kind of reminds me of being back in the day, walking down Michigan Avenue and working.”
Until now, working has mainly meant writing. Without a TV project, writing was McCarthy’s chosen mode of expression. “To write a book, you better have a lot of stuff happen to you,” she says. “I was blessed with a lot of drama and a lot of fun and a lot of controversy and a lot of curiosity. I pretend I’m on e-mail, telling my girlfriends my stories. I feel like a translator, breaking things down so people can understand.”
Her books shifted in tone and took on a more serious air when she opened up about the autism diagnosis of son Evan in 2007’s Louder Than Words, which spent 23 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. McCarthy says that Evan recovered with a gluten-free, casein-free diet, metal detox, vitamins, antifungals, and expensive therapy. “I’ll keep writing books until I can pay for Evan’s upbringing,” she says.
Also adding to the coffers is the buzzed-about NBC summer special titled Surprise with Jenny McCarthy. “This was a show that was in the UK for 20 years,” she says. “I get to help people who’ve done great things in their community by making their dreams come true.” She reunited one woman with her birth mother; she jumped out of an airplane with a soldier. One warning: Do not surprise McCarthy—in any way. “I hate surprises,” she offers.
She has enough challenges as it is. She’s divorced from Evan’s dad, actor/director John Mallory Asher, she’s collected some high-profile exes (Jim Carrey for one), and has a habit of speaking her mind.
Some challenges, though, are of her own making. When Evan woke up one day with an abscess in his mouth, his dentist told McCarthy to take a photo of it on her cell phone and send it to him. The elderly dentist instead received a nude shot meant for her boyfriend. “It’s horrific to remember,” she told Wendy Williams.
But such is the life of a single mom. Who hasn’t been there?
Read more at http://michiganavemag.com/personalities/articles/jenny-mccarthy-tv-authors#3yehJLlMRx0XYehZ.99