Jenny McCarthy’s in the bathtub at her Fulton River District apartment, circulating a mountain of bubbles with her hands.
It’s an appropriate setting for the longtime star: As she gears up for the launch of “The Jenny McCarthy Show” Friday at 9:30 p.m. on VH1, McCarthy, 40, is ready to come clean.
“The thing is, I couldn’t have done a talk show before now, because I needed to go through my own life experiences,” she says. “I can’t fake anything, nor does the audience want that. I’m going into the show saying, ‘Here’s me, here’s all of me.’ I am smart, I am dumb, I am secure, I am insecure. I’m all of those things, and hopefully people will see that.”
Splash readers who follow her daily blog have caught onto the fact that McCarthy is more complex than you’d expect from a six-time Playboy cover girl: She is street smart, self-aware, sincere. McCarthy is a guy’s girl who can tell a raunchy joke or talk football, but also your best girlfriend who is ready to dig into love, life and motherhood.
The show’s format is “a cocktail party with celebrities:” a DJ spins, a hunky bottle-boy named Ben serves drinks and go-go dancers perform in the background — until McCarthy and her guests join them on the dance floor as the credits roll. McCarthy says she’s hoping viewers want to join the party. “On Friday nights, before you go out you can throw it on, or stay home and drink with me,” she says.
She pulls out her laptop to play a test run of the show. It’s fast-paced. She’s snapping her fingers as she describes jumping between segments and party games — like one in which McCarthy and her guest chat with their heads pressed together as they nestle on the floor, making the show feel like a pajama party.
On other shows, “it’s like clap, clap, clap, a teleprompter read of a monologue, scripted bits for two segments,” she says. “My show is nonscripted and fun. I think we’re going to pull the audience we deserve: a pop-culture loving, US Weekly-reading, hip audience.”
VH1 has coined a term for this target: adultsters. To McCarthy, they are people like her “who have to be adults because they have to work and they have kids, but they still want to party and have fun. That’s so our generation: putting your kids to bed and crawling out the window and going to a club.”
Taping in New York was unavoidable — the show has been in preproduction for two years, and by the time McCarthy moved to Chicago last spring it was too late to shift things here. “The great thing about show business is in success, you can tell them anything you want,” she says. “So if my show is a real success, it’s coming here and they know it.”
Over the next couple of months, McCarthy will fly in and out of New York for tapings. It’s a setup that works perfectly for her 10-year-old son Evan, who lives with her in west-suburban Geneva. “The whole goal was to move out here so he could have friends — he didn’t have any in LA,” she says. “So now we live next door to my best friend Julie and her three boys, and my friend Colleen, and when I’m gone, he has his friends and that’s the way it should be.”
On weekends, McCarthy and Evan stay in a penthouse at Trio Apartments where they host football-viewing parties and she enjoys the occasional single girl’s night on the town. It’s the life she envisioned for herself when she decided to move here almost a year ago.
“One of the things I always say to people when they ask me about the move is that in Los Angeles, I felt like I was looking for my life,” she says. “In Chicago, I’m now living my life. Since I’ve moved here, I’ve realized this is the way it’s supposed to feel. There’s supposed to be joy in where you’re living.”
She’s enjoying all aspects of her life here: “I love the sports teams, I love the food, I love the people, I love the nightlife, I love the schools,” she says. “Everyone I meet here, I feel like we’re related. Chicago people have an essence about them.”
And that is what makes her more than willing to pick up where Oprah Winfrey left off as the city’s celebrity face. “If I can help spread word to America how great we are, I will gladly take that job,” she says.
To that end, McCarthy has no little plans: “By the end of the summer I’d love nothing more than to be shooting ‘The Jenny McCarthy Show’ downtown. And then I want my production company to create shows without me in them that highlight Chicago.” She’s pitching ideas right now such as “Sex and Our City” about the singles’ scene, and “Cupid’s Assassins,” where “a group of tough chicks gets back at girls’ boyfriends who cheated on them and hurt them.”
If McCarthy has her way, the spotlight will be on Chicago for a long time.
Story by Susanna Negovan | Photos by Anthony Tahlier
Makeup: Julie Ribordy, Stylist: Eric Himel, Hair: Anthony Cristiano for Anthony Cristiano-Chicago, Color: Todd Kempton for Anthony Cristiano-Chicago, Floral: A Vision, Shoot Coordinator: Katerina Bizios
Pajama set: Victoria’s Secret, $52; Necklace: Lana Jewelry, $985; Ring: Jenny’s own