It Takes All Kinds

a Few Stories and Profiles by Erik Hedegaard
mainly from inside the pages of Rolling Stone
(with additional commentary and folderol provided by the author aka Charlie, sometimes)



Jenny McCarthy

Posted on | September 29, 2008 | No Comments

The other morning, Ray Manzella eased into a pair of shades, made his way out onto the deck of the Malibu bungalow that he shared with Jenny McCarthy, and called Jenny "the most diverse celebrity I’ve ever met." Because Jenny had made such a sensation out of herself on the MTV show Singled Out, about 50 million people knew who she was, and about 40 million of them would agree that she was indeed a most diverse celebrity. It was hard to pick up the newspaper or turn on the TV without hearing about a new project—TV, film, or audio—that she was involved in. In fact, she was on the verge of becoming a one-woman entertainment complex. But about Ray, most people didn’t know a thing.

Ray was Jenny’s boyfriend. He was a great-looking guy, with a strong jaw, a flat belly, and good teeth. At forty-eight, he was more than twice as old as Jenny and only three years younger than her dad. He was also something else: a Hollywood manager, a role he had once played for Pamela Anderson Lee, continued to play for Vanna White, and now also played for Jenny. And in his own way, he had a master plan all thought out for her.

Ray scratched his head and looked amused. "Well," he said, "when you’re blessed with talent the way Jenny is, the master plan is you don’t screw it up." One example of a screwup, he said, would be to put Jenny in an infomercial, which he wouldn’t do. Not that he couldn’t, of course—besides being a manager, he was also the king of infomercials, the man responsible for the grand successes of Tony Little’s Ab-Isolator and the Turbo Swing golf enhancer. Ray sighed happily. "Can you imagine?" he went on. "With my knowledge? I could make Jenny millions!"

All this was smart thinking on Ray’s part, of course, and no doubt it was one of the reasons Jenny had fallen for Ray. Ray was only the fifth man she’d ever dated, and only the third man she’d ever slept with, although it seems safe to say that he was probably the first man she’d ever dated and slept with who also had such a complete grasp of the immutable laws of supply and demand. This was a good thing. This could secure her a future. Sometimes, though, all the wheeling and dealing and living the life of a Singled Out cohost on the verge of turning into a one-woman entertainment complex began to get too much for her. And at such times, at night, Jenny tossed and turned and started to dream of her own death, with atomic bombs falling through the sky.

"HI!" SHE SAID, BRIGHTLY

Jenny McCarthy steamed into the bungalow, returning home from her daily early-A.M. trip to the hairdresser. No matter what her hair had been like before—stringy, limp, or flat—it was now pure, upbeat Jenny: bleached blonde and cascading to the side, as full of lightness and air as puffed summer wheat.

Jenny kissed Ray.

Ray said, "Here, I’m going to spank you now," which he did, fondly, as Jenny squealed with laughter.

"Okay," he said. "Do you have to do makeup and stuff? It’s going to be a Mad Toad Ride of a day."

"A Mad Toad Ride day!" Jenny shouted, and flung herself back into the bedroom to get ready.

Sitting in front of a mirror, she dipped her hand into a Plano tackle box full of makeup. She drew on her lips, craftily adding both plumpness and depth. She plucked at her brows, tweezing away errant growth. She turned her head to the side, leaned closer to the mirror, and began to shriek, "Wow! Look at this!" She had a very angry-looking pimple there. She studied it. And then she made a prediction: the arrival anytime now of a squadron of cold sores. "Once a month, I get these huge, hawking cold sores, so big where I can’t even talk!" she exclaimed. But she could talk now, and she began reciting memorable lines from her fan mail ("Yo, bitch, I want to marry you") and recalling the bitter days, post—Playmate of the Year but pre-MTV, when any number of movie auditions spun hideously out of control.

"At the Mallrats audition, there were fifteen people looking at me, and I could just see them analyzing me," she said. "I knew that they literally couldn’t wait to laugh at me. Like when I was shutting the door, I could already hear them starting to laugh. I called Ray, sobbing, ‘I’m not doing this anymore!"

She gave a rousing demonstration of that sob. It rattled around in her throat, then blew out into the room like a shock wave, full of anger and hurt. Finally, the noise faded, and she coughed a few times. It was a good piece of acting. She looked brittle, like she was still smarting.

Jenny turned to the mirror. She patted some makeup on the pimple, doing a very poor job of it. Basically, the thing ended up only half covered. Nonetheless, Jenny eyed it with satisfaction. "There," she said. "I look like lam. lam a real person."

BECAUSE OF SINGLED OUT SOME PEOPLE THOUGHT OF JENNY AS

nothing more than this daffy, wacky, happy-go-lucky babe. There she was, in the game pit, surrounded by fifty guys—fifty horny guys. She knew how to handle them. She made faces at them. She bopped them. She called them dorks. And when she wasn’t doing that, she was just in general acting like a daffy, wacky, happy-go-lucky babe. But that wasn’t all she was. As the biggest name at Jenny McCarthy Productions liked to say, "That’s just the goofiest side."

Because, of course, there were other sides. The side that was brought up a good Catholic girl and in her twenty-three years had limited her total number of bed partners to just three: That side wasn’t goofy; it was a miracle, worthy of prime-time infomercials. There was also the side that emerged when she was asleep and dreamt of Armageddon: That side was anything but goofy. And yet even the goofiness itself was anything but goofy. It seemed more like a reaction to the glamour, to the sex, to being at the center of the hip MTV swirl. It was Jenny being both the Thing and Not the Thing simultaneously, the miniskirted and thigh-high-booted temptress and also the clowning, mugging yob making fun of the temptress. One of them you wanted to ball, the other you wanted to take to the ball game. In this regard, she was perfect, the ultimate girl, and it had turned her into a rising star.

A WHILE LATER, JENNY TRAIPSED OUT OF THE BEDROOM, DRESSED

quite slinkily in what appeared to be a slip. You could see a good deal of her body: her legs, mostly, and the crest of her bosom.

"Oh, don’t you look lovely," Ray said. "I like that a lot." He went down his mental checklist, the one that kept him from screwups. "Okay. You got your dress. Do you need any backup makeup? And hey, do you have shoes to go with that dress?"

Jenny snapped her fingers and began rooting around for shoes, coming up with a pair of stylish slip-ons. On the to-do list today were a couple of business meetings. And a cocktail party. And a nighttime visit with famous Hollywood producer Dick Zanuck. Too many things, probably, since she was recovering from a nagging cold and had that pimple on her head. And now maybe cold sores were on the way. Could her period be far behind?

She was only one person, but the demands on her were large and getting larger. Magazines wanted to talk to her and photograph her. David Letterman, Jay Leno, and Rosie O’Donnell wanted her on their shows. Fans wanted her to sign their old Playboys and her new posters. Everyone wanted something: Victoria’s Secret, a beer company, a calendar company, MTV NBC, Fox, Paramount, maybe Steven Spielberg.

She was having a hard time keeping up. She was overextended, stressed-out, almost always ill or verging on illness or recovering from illness. And still she bore full steam ahead, even when it looked like she would be making three TV shows at once. There was Singled Out, and a new one for MTV (some sort of variety show in which she could be "Jim Carrey with boobs"), and another new one, for Paramount (most likely a sitcom). It looked nuts to attempt it, and maybe it was just plain impossible. To stave off calamity, MTV cut way back on her commitment to Singled Out, to a half season’s worth of shows.

Before leaving home, Jenny gave her new pup a kiss goodbye. It was an English bulldog named Bubba. Six months ago, Jenny had a different English bulldog, JoJo, named afterJoanne, one of her three sisters. She recalled that dog’s passing with considerable amazement, saying, "I brought her in for a bath and when I went to pick her up, they’re like, ‘Your dog had a heart attack and died!’ and I’m like, "What?!" A certain zaniness seems to follow Jenny wherever she goes. Even now, Bubba had sunk his teeth into one of her shoes.

"Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, shi—!" Jenny cried out. "Oh, Bubba, you got my feet all dirty!"

Then she scooted out the front door to her car, with the hem of her slip dancing saucily in the midmorning breeze.

"I’VE ALWAYS HAD A HUGE PHOBIA OF PUBLIC SPEAKING, TO

which a lot of people are like, "Whatever,’ but it’s so true," Jenny said. "My first day in college, I will never forget. I was sitting in my classroom and the teacher goes, ‘You! Would you get up in front of the room and tell us about yourself?’ I stand there and go, ‘My name’s J-J-J-.’ I started hyperventilating where I couldn’t breathe at all, and the teacher’s like, ‘Jesus, what’s wrong with you?’ and I’m like, ‘Uhhh, I have asthma!’ because I don’t want to seem like a goofball." Sometime after her first day in college, she developed a bleeding ulcer.

Most of the biographical facts of Jenny’s life, as she presented them, were sitcom zany, with a touch of pathos. In hometown Chicago, her working-class parents sent her to a snooty, all-girls’ Catholic school, where her classmates swiped her maxipads, wrote her name on them, and stuck them to the walls. While attending Southern Illinois University’s nursing program, she was so poor that she knocked on her neighbors’ door, asked to use the bathroom, then swiped frozen pizzas from the fridge. After dropping out of school, she returned home to labor in a Polish grocery store and dreamt of modeling, but the agencies thought she looked like a barmaid, which she in fact once was. Then, one day, quite serendipitously, she found herself in front of the Playboy building. Well, why not go inside? She did, and was told that no one had ever just shown up like this. Nervously, Jenny stood her ground. The next thing she knew, she was shedding her clothes for a few test shots and thinking, "My parents are going to kill me! But, well, something is dragging me here, or pulling me here. And yes, I should stay. Yes, I think that’s how life goes." Three days later Playboy crowned her Miss October 1993, and not long after, Playmate of the Year. Like many a Playmate before her, she moved to Hollywood. Lots of auditions followed, along with lots of dirty propositions, some rejections (The Phantom, Showgirls, Mallrats), and some success (Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, The Stupids).

And then came MTV MTV didn’t want anything to do with a Playmate. But once she squeaked in the door, MTV fell in love the same way Playboy had fallen in love: almost instantly. "The

minute she walked in, it wasn’t like she was timid and had to suddenly turn into the cohost," recalls Lisa Bergeç the executive producer of the show. "It was just so friendly and ‘hey, how ya guys doing’ natural. We knew pretty much right away."

And yet, though much had changed since college, Jenny’s problem with public speaking haunted her still. It didn’t fade. It bubbled under the surface, waiting for appropriate moments to announce itself. Indeed, in the days and months before her increasingly frequent talk-show appearances, it had a field day, giving her countless long nights of insomnia.

"You know what that fear’s about?" she asked while driving into L.A. "It’s—well, I don’t know what it’s about. I can’t explain it. I’ve tried to figure it out a million times and I just can’t. But isn’t it weird how my career choice is conquering that fear?"

ACCORDING TO JENNY, WHAT WAS REALLY UNFORTUNATE ABOUT

the Beverly Hills restaurant known as Maple Drive was that everyone in the joint was from Beverly Hills. Nonetheless, she loved its chili and fried chicken, both of which she ordered shortly after John and Jim sat down. John and Jim were from MTV. They were working with Jenny on concepts for her new show. Jenny had talked to Jim before, but she didn’t think she’d ever met John.

John said, "Yes, you have. I was there with Dennis Rodman in Vegas, only my hair was pulled back."

Jenny frowned. "Oh my God. Dennis." She rolled her eyes. "Now there are even rumors going around."

"You and Rodman?"

"Yah, yah," said Jenny, sounding like a character out of Fargo. "Huge ones. But, well, we won’t even get into that."

Jim and John quickly moved on to what ideas Jenny might have for the show. Jenny said, "You know, whether I’m sitting on the toilet or taking a bath, I’ve been thinking about it."

Jim and John laid their hands on the table. "So share with us."

"I love the parody idea we talked about. But I was also thinking of something different, like Lifestyles of the Rich and Snobby

—I look in on people like, say, Brad Pitt, in their tubs and begin to daydream. Suddenly, I’m jumping up and down on his bed."

The eyes of the MTV guys began to glow. They loved this idea. Their heads were bobbing.

Jim said, "So, you’d do this as Jenny and not as a character?"

"As Jenny," Jenny said. "The kids like to see Jenny. It’s a fantasy, with celebrities. But you could also go to an actual chess club where they’re all geeks and I go, ‘God, I wish these guys would loosen up!’ and then all of a sudden we have them in Speedos, ya know, dancing." Jenny paused and looked at the MTV guys. "I’m just totally pulling this out of my ass," she said. "But you know where I’m coming from?"

Jim said, "Oh, yeah!"

John said, "Absolutely!"

Jenny glanced at her chicken. "I love chicken," she said. "My sister and I were at the beach yesterday with a basket full of Kentucky Fried Chicken. We sit down and the next thing you know, no lie, there are forty of those bird things, I don’t know what they’re called out here—seagulls? pigeons?—all lined up in formation attacking us!"

Jim and John let loose with peals of laughter.

Jenny said, "It got a little scary, so we had to take off."

Jim and John stared at her. Who knows what they were thinking. Maybe they were thinking: On the one hand, that gull story is a real riot; but on the othei forty seagulls attacking all at once could probably actually kill a person, pecking and clawing and gouging. Stuff like that happens in this world. It could have happened to Jenny. And yet wasn’t it just like Jenny to escape without a scratch? How did she do it?!

Right now she began cutting her chicken up into her potatoes and gravy. "Look at how good this looks when it’s all mushed together!" she said, gaily.

Jim said, "More gravy?"

Jenny waved her hand and said no.

SOMETIMES, WHEN THE HOLLYWOOD WHEELING AND DEALING

and the gibber-jabber of voices in her head got too loud, Jenny would go see Wolf. The voices in her head were the voices of the people trying to pull her in a billion different directions, pecking and clawing at her like KFC-crazed seagulls: "Don’t do this, do this, that’s great, that’s not." She started to go crazy. At times like this, the only thing she could think was, "Shut up already!"

"I’m in this time line," Jenny liked to say, "where I have all these opportunities in my lap, and if I screw up, I’m done. Basically, this is my chance."

Wolf was a Native-American fellow who ran a sweat lodge in a tepee near L.A. Jenny tried to go see Wolf every Monday. She went for cleansings, to clear her head of the voices. At the sweat lodge, there would be the constant, hypnotic beating of drums. Wolf would be chanting. And the tepee would get so hot that to avoid the pain, Jenny’s mind would uproot itself like a plant. During these out-of-body experiences—OBE’s, as Jenny called them—various things would happen. One time Jenny saw herself running around the tepee naked. Another time, she felt herself drip into the ground and become mud, "just squishy and soft."

It was painful, but it seemed to work. The racing of her mind stopped. Afterward, Ray would say to her, "There’s just peace in your face." And Jenny would feel as unburdened as a child. But then the voices would start up again, yelling at her at night, growing louder as more time passed since her last visit to Wolf.

And then, after she fell asleep, she would dream.

Just two nights ago, she dreamt that she and her sister Joanne were looking Out a window at night when suddenly bombs began falling out of the sky. "This is so sad, this world," she said to her sister in the dream. Her sister said, "Yeah, it is."

"And then we look up and see it’s the atomic bomb falling, and it’s only a hundred feet from us. I’m watching it fall and hearing that sound"—Jenny imitated the slowly deepening whistle of a falling object—" and I look at my sister and grab her hand and say, ‘Listen, I’ll see you on the other side. This will only last a minute.’ Then I’m turning around and watching it hit, and seeing the light, and going through four seconds of melting."

Jenny woke up in tears.

She had dreams like this maybe once a month.

JENNY SMOKED A MARLBORO LIGHT AND

doubled over in pain. Not one to hold back from confession, she said, "Ohhhh, I have cramps. Sorry. So gross, I know."

This took place inside the Maple Drive building, which was also the building where Ray had his offices. She was sitting in one of Ray’s conference rooms, talking about how she had met Ray. She’d been signed to Ray’s company by a manager named Dennis Brody. Dennis was the one who fought to get her in the door at MTV. But once Jenny became a hit and needed someone to fend off the paparazzi, it was Ray who traveled with her, as protector and, eventually, manager. He’d been recently divorced. "And he was hot, in good shape, and he made me laugh," she said. "So, after a few months, we had a bottle of wine in New York, and he’s like, ‘I’m single,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m single,’ and we kissed."

She loved his world of infomercials, with its nutty inventions and gung-ho entrepreneurism ("Do you know what makes a fortune? Gourmet dog food!"). She loved his Calvin Klein boxer-briefs ("I made him buy millions! "). She loved that he was so much older ("Guys my age, ugh!"). She also loved thinking of Ray as "Ray, like the sun’s rays."

"Ray’s the man with the plan," she said, happily. "He’s great. We’re a good team. We go together like rama-lama-lama-ka-dingada-dinga-dong. Together forever like.. ."

Jenny giggled as a woman came in with some checks for her to sign. Then she began telling some of her favorite blonde jokes. "What’s yellow and black, yellow and black, yellow and black? A blonde doing cartwheels! Isn’t that great? Let me keep going. What has brown hair and bad breath? A blonde upside down!"

After she stopped laughing, Jenny touched her lower lip and winced. "Shit," she said, good-naturedly. "A cold sore. It’s starting to hurt. It’s going to get huge. Huge!"

Eventually, Ray wandered in. Next to him was ever-perky Wheel of Fortune personality Vanna White.

"I’m smoking," said Jenny. "I’m sorry. Hi, Vanna."

"Don’t apologize to me," Vanna said, laughing.

Jenny laughed too. She really liked Vanna. A Playboy veteran herself, albeit never in the buff, Vanna was once as huge as Jenny is now, though perhaps not in quite so many diverse ways. In spite of that, or maybe because of it, Vanna seemed so blissful and free of worry, with a smile always on her face.

"You’re so beautiful," Jenny said. "I like that dress."

"Thank you!" Vanna said.

Jenny touched her lower lip again. The cold sore wasn’t visible yet, but Jenny could feel it about to erupt. "It hurts!" she said to Ray and Vanna. Ray tried to comfort her but there was really nothing he could do. Cold sores just had to run their course. But why did Jenny get them in the first place?

"It hurts," she said again, mournfully. "It hurts so bad, you just want to talk about it. It’s just throbbing like a heartbeat."

JENNY SAT THROUGH TWO MORE MEETINGS.

One was with Barry and Mort, two sitcom writers trying to come up with something cutting-edge for Jenny at Paramount. Smoothly, Barry and Mort worked their previous credits—The Golden Girls, the TV show, and Kingpin, the movie—into the conversation. Jenny liked them anyway. Her other meeting took place at Guthy-Renker the giant infomercial production company. She went there as a favor to her hairdresser, to lend her clout to the pitch for a hair product which he had invented and which Ray was attempting to

bring to market. Ray wouldn’t be putting her in the infomercial, of course-that would be a mistake.

"This hair-curling device makes all others obsolete," Ray palavered during the meeting. "This is the next millennium! This is going to revolutionize the industry!"

Getting into the moment, Jenny said, "The only reason I’m here is, I want the damn thing now! It’s that good!"

Afterward, she and Ray hustled to their cars to drive to a party celebrating the initial public offering of the company that publishes Jenny’s best-selling Jenny McCarthy posters. The Entertainment Tonight people were going to show up. They wanted some words from Jenny.

Out in the parking lot, Jenny said, "Ray, maybe we should stop and get some Advil."

"If you’re hurting that bad, yes," said Ray. Jenny said, "Well, I’ve got some pretty wicked cramps."

Ray leaned forward, worrying about possible screwups. "And then let me see your face, because there was a pimple on the side of your face. Can you cover that up?"

Jenny took a step back. "I have makeup, but you know what? I like the zit."

"All right. All right. It looks like—"

"It’s me, right?"

Ray laughed and got in his black Mercedes. Jenny got in her red Mitsubishi. "God, am I really up for more schmoozing?" she asked. And she still had to go see Dick Zanuck, who thought she’d be great as the lead in the movie he was planning to make of the Carl Hiaasen book Stormy Weather. It promised to be a long night.

Even so, she drove into the evening light with gusto, at great speed, as if she were eager to get somewhere. "Am I scaring you yet?" she asked gleefully, then applied more gas. "Actually, I’ve changed my driving drastically. I stop at stop signs now. I look before I change lanes. I’ve changed completely."

She changed because a year ago, at a time when she drove "like an asshole, like a son of a bitch," she got into a little fender bender and the fender bender made her stop and think about some of the books she was reading. The only books Jenny read were books about spirituality: The Celestine Prophecy, Mutant Message Down Under, Embraced by the Light, etc. And the books taught her that bad things—or even just things—happen for a reason, if only you can figure out what the reason is. In the case of driving, Jenny saw it plain and clear: "Slow the hell down!"

Meanwhile, the rest of her life was still zooming along in high gear..

The other morning, Ray Manzella eased into a pair of shades, made his way out onto the deck of the Malibu bungalow that he shared with Jenny McCarthy, and called Jenny “the most diverse celebrity I’ve ever met

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