Perhaps it was the in-joke gone awry that cast the most ominous spell over the July 4, 1997, wedding of Playboy Playmate Nikki Schieler and Beverly Hills, 90210 star Ian Ziering. ''I had a temporary tattoo put on my butt painted with fireworks, but I spelled his name wrong on purpose. Like, 'AIN.' He wasn't laughing.''
Eight years, one conversion to Judaism (hers), and one conversion to punchline (his) later, Nikki, 33, is a living ad for the pitfalls of a prenup. A four-poster bed her one remaining possession from her five-year marriage to Ziering touches almost every corner of her small studio apartment in Brentwood. The kitchen cabinets double as hair-product storage.
Sitting on her small deck, Nikki chain-smokes while trying to set the record straight about her marriage. ''People think I took him for all this money, but I didn't get anything,'' says Nikki, who spent her married days living in ritzy Nichols Canyon and dropping $700 on Gucci shoes. ''I get no monthly checks. He didn't even help with my moving-out expenses. I had $40,000 to my name and I blew through it all.'' Counters Ian's spokeswoman: ''She was compensated above and beyond the prenup because she fought it.''
What she did keep other than the bed was the Ziering name, not that it's done much for her. ''Being a Ziering has crippled my career,'' she says, adding that she looked into reinstating her maiden name but her managers persuaded her not to.
Post-split misery got worse when Nikki was let go from her gig as a Barker Beauty on The Price Is Right. (Nikki's version: ''Bob Barker was jealous of the attention I was getting.'' Barker calls that statement ''completely inaccurate....Neither I nor Ms. Ziering's publicity figured in any way in the decision.'') More recently, Nikki has become a go-to K-lister for reality fare like I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! (''It made me appreciate things, like bottled water''). ''Those were the best experiences of my life,'' beams Nikki, just back from filming Celebrity Love Island, a British reality show set in Fiji.
But Nikki insists she's destined for more than bikini prancing. She'd like Goldie Hawn's career well, if it weren't for a certain someone. ''I feel like Cameron Diaz gets all my roles,'' she says, almost entirely seriously. ''People tell me we look alike.''
Now, if she could only get the hang of being back on the market. ''I wouldn't go after someone famous because it's really hard to have a normal experience when both of you are in the business,'' she says. ''I really just want a nice Jewish guy. I can cook brisket and I only burned gefilte fish once.'' She flashes her recently whitened smile and leans in: ''Hey, you're Jewish. Do you know any nice accountants?''