The joke was on Neal Karlen when he went to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to play a prank on Jenny McCarthy and Donnie Wahlberg.

The celebrity couple were in the metro over the weekend for McCarthy’s appearance at Treasure Island. Karlen, who ghostwrote McCarthy’s bio “Jen-X,” was supposed to play the role of limo driver.

“She was expecting a guy with a sign, a limo driver, not me,” said Karlen. “I had my head down e-mailing and working on a book, a barely fictionalized scandal thing about Minneapolis in which Eleanor Mondale is the antihero. What happened was Jenny walked past me looking for a guy with a sign. By the time Jenny is past me, she’s getting mobbed. I am running down the terminal corridor screaming her name but she’s mobbed and we’re texting each other back and forth and her people are calling me and there’s major commotion and I’m all upset thinking she’s never going to speak to me again. Then Wahlberg called me. They got to the limo. Getting Jenny from the plane to the limo is like brain surgery, it’s complicated.”

Under the heading of “Something Else I Didn’t Know Rich People Do,” Karlen informed me, “A ticket had been bought for me by a mutual friend so I could get through security and meet them at the gate.

“I was at the gate, waiting for her. People buy limo drivers one-way tickets so they can meet celebrities at the gate, so there is not one second they are unescorted because they do get mobbed. It’s a Hollywood thing,” said Karlen. “If the limo driver only meets them at the luggage claim that’s a huge scene. They will get mobbed.”

It was a snafu worthy of a scene from a movie or book. And speaking of books, I asked Karlen to spill the tea on this scandalous book he is writing.

“I’m going to have to leave Minneapolis after this book. It’s called ‘Lake of the Isles,’ the working title, and it’s a ‘Peyton Place’ Minneapolis,” Karlen said. “I’m barely concealing identities. Eleanor [who died in 2011] gave me permission to make her the antiheroine. It’s about the real-life scandals of people in Kenwood and Lake of the Isles. I’ve been collecting stories. I learned there are a lot of secrets nobody knows. My entree to the world of Lake of the Isles was Eleanor. ”

Returning to the McCarthy connection, Karlen said, “The funny thing is that Eleanor really disliked Jenny. She is one of the few people Eleanor really disliked. So I think the huge mix-up at the airport was Eleanor’s ghost. I love Eleanor and I love Jenny. I stayed with Eleanor in L.A. when I was writing Jenny’s book. They are similar actresses — funny, voluble, larger than life, controversial, not afraid to be themselves. … You’re in that book, you know.”

Come again?

“You’re in the book as the columnist. People will recognize you and they will recognize Eleanor. … People in Cleveland won’t but people in Minnesota will. Remember when I wrote that article ‘Wild Child’ [for Mpls.St.Paul magazine], which is why she got fired by WCCO-TV? It goes back to that but is updated to the present.”

“Lake of the Isles” and another book Karlen is currently writing “about the rise and fall of Target” are both scheduled to be released in two years.

Balancing the bad news

Some members of the media are having trouble putting U coach Jerry Kill’s unexpected retirement into perspective, even in a week when Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders died.

I am not suggesting that this has not been a rough week in the Minnesota sports world. But Saunders’ death from complications of Hodgkin’s lymphoma is way more unsettling than Kill’s retirement. Get a grip on reality, colleagues.

Some thought Kill might retire after one of two public seizures. His revelations Wednesday that he has not been taking his epilepsy medicine because he wanted to feel 100 percent when working and that his wife, Rebecca, has been spending her nights watching him sleep mean it’s beyond time to retire for health reasons. Kill emotionally stated that he never stole from the U by not giving his all. I hope Kill finds some hobbies, and maybe a therapist, and has many years to repay his family for the sacrifices they made for him.


C.J. can be reached at and seen on Fox 9’s “Jason Show” and “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count. Attachments are not opened.