BETTING ON JENNY
miss october's our favorite to win, place and show
"I don't like betting the favorite - there's no money there," says Jenny McCarthy, scanning the tout sheet like a railbird. "You may as well make it a challenge." There is one thing you must know right away about Miss October: The 20-year-old Chicago girl is "definitely the kind of person who likes to take a risk." Calling to set up our interview, I offered lunch; Jenny countered with skydiving, her latest love. "It's incredible, the scariest 30 seconds of your life," she said, ignoring the cowardly gulps coming over the phone. We settled on a day at the races, where only our bank accounts were in danger. Jenny has been going to the track since she was ten. "It's fun to gamble, and I usually do pretty well," she says. No kidding -- in the third race she picked the winner and the runner-up. The luck of the Irish is definitely going Jenny McCarthy's way. Early this year she decided to try her hand at modeling, and sent some photos to a Chicago agency. One week later she had an interview at Playboy. Two weeks later she was shooting her centerfold. "This is my first modeling job -- can you believe it?" she asks, shaking her head. "It's been boom, boom, boom."
When it comes to family, Jenny calls herself "one of the luckiest people in the world. My mom and dad brought us up in such a healthy way." The second of four sisters, she grew up in "a very Catholic neighborhood" on Chicago's South Side. "My dad worked three jobs to put us through Catholic school," she says. He also needed the money to keep Jenny in food. As a wee slip of a lass, her prodigious appetite earned her the nickname Truck Driver. She burned off the calories playing "every single sport there is." She was also head cheerleader. And if that weren't enough, for years she has worked at a neighborhood grocery store that carries Playboy. Jenny says: "Guys were always telling me, 'You should be on the cover of Playboy, not behind the cash register.' I'd be like, 'Yeah, right, that'll be the day.'" Not that she couldn't picture it. "When I was in seventh grade, I stood on the Oak Street beach and looked up on the sign on the Playboy building and thought, 'God, someday I'd love to be there.' And now here I am."
If poetic justice prevailed at the track, a horse named Gents Delight would have won the sixth race, and Jenny would have walked away with a pocketful of cash. Alas, Miss October's horse came in a distant third. "Doesn't that stink?" she says. It's not the money Jenny's worried about, though. "I am the least materialistic person you'll ever meet," she says. "All I really need is a home, enough money to get by and a good Beaver Cleaver family, like my family." She'll use her Playmate earnings to return to college, where she's put in two years toward a nursing degree. She also wants to pursue an acting career. "I could see myself as Sharon Stone in 'Basic Instinct,' playing a psychopath with an ice pick. Why not? It's nothing like the kind of person I am, but I would want to do it for the challenge." She laughs. "I have so many goals, and I want to try to reach them all." If anyone can, it's Jenny McCarthy. Bet on it.
-- Bob Daily
Photography by Pompeo Posar