Published May 25, 2010
SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. - Over here is the bar where Snooki was decked by a sucker-punch to the face.
Around the corner is the house with the most famous garage door in America, painted in the colors of the Italian flag with a map of New Jersey superimposed over it. Up top is the deck where Ronnie and Sammi fought when he said she had a "Flintstones toe," and a few blocks away is the nightclub where Snooki did so many backflips that her underpants got nearly as much camera time as her face.
The Jersey shore has always been a top vacation destination. But this year, the "Jersey Shore" Jersey shore has become a destination in its own right as fans of the MTV reality series descend on the Garden State to experience the same sights, sounds and smells as "The Situation," ''Sammi Sweetheart," Pauly D and the rest of the cast.
Dawn Sitler drove from Fort Hood, Texas, to Seaside Heights to pose for a photo in front of the garage door featured in each episode of the show.
"It's where we want to come back to and party," said the 42-year-old former New Jersey resident. "I partied hard when I was younger. Watching them reminds me of the younger days 20 years ago. This is a good place to come to have fun."
Not everyone loves "Jersey Shore." Italian-American groups say it perpetuates negative stereotypes of Italians, and gives the region a bad image — even though only one of the cast members, Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola, is actually from New Jersey.
But love it or hate it, the show has created a buzz that put Seaside Heights on the worldwide map. With a name like Maria Maruca, the head of the borough's tourism office could be a cast member. She thought it was freakin' awesome when the show fist-pumped nearly $3 million into the local economy during its first season last year.
"I'm pumpin' my fist, got my pouf on and everything," she said. "This is national publicity you can't even put a dollar amount on. There's an even bigger buzz this year."
Some quick indications: beach badge sales are up significantly this year. Several new businesses opened on or near the boardwalk in the area of the "Jersey Shore" beach house explicitly to capitalize on the expected crush of show workers and gawkers.
So you wanna live the GTL (gym-tan-laundry) lifestyle yourself, huh? For the true experience (and a lot of dough), you can rent the actual house where the cast members stayed at 1209 Ocean Terrace, near Kearney Avenue. But it has to be during the week; weekends are booked through the end of the summer. It rents for $1,800 to $6,000 a night (duck phone included), depending on the date, said Michael Loundy, the real estate agent whose firm Seaside Realty brought MTV to the shore last summer. Visit http://seaside-realty.com for a virtual tour of the house, and to inquire about renting it.
Be prepared to have a bunch of mooks hanging around the garage door at all hours, though. On weekends, as many as 400 people a day have been known to pose for pictures there.
"We have to re-paint it four to five times a week because people come up and write so much graffiti on it," Loundy said. "It can get nuts."
Last year, while the show was being shot, the cast members were unknowns who largely stayed under the radar. This year, however, they're some of the best-known faces in America — and prime targets for anyone hoping to provoke a clash and maybe get him or herself on TV.
Seaside Heights Police Chief Tom Boyd said there will be 20 police officers each weekend on and near the set, with an additional 20 MTV security personnel — a tenfold increase from last year.
"I truly expect no problems this year," he said. "When people start drinking and want to be John Wayne, that's when you get concerned. All we need to do is take care of the John Waynes. And we will."
No "Jersey Shore" tour is complete without a stop at the Beachcomber Bar & Grill (boardwalk and Dupont Avenue). That's where Snooki was decked by a sucker-punch from a rowdy bar customer in season one. The scene, which aired in promos but was cut from the actual show, is immortalized inside the bar. It sells T-shirts featuring a chalk outline of a woman sprawled on the ground, surrounded by crime-scene tape and the words "Snooki Was Here!"
"One day I was talking to my brother-in-law (Boyd, the police chief), and a girl is lying on the floor of the bar and another girl is taking pictures of her," said the bar owner, Michael Carbone. "He said, 'What are they doing?' I said, 'They're imitating Snooki.' "
On the boardwalk directly behind the "Jersey Shore" house is "The Shore Store," the bawdy T-shirt shop where cast members were employed when they weren't exercising, tanning, doing laundry or having sex. Most of the T-shirt slogans can't be described here; some of the tamer ones include "I'll Take The Grenade" (a reference to the show's term for a difficult woman); "Fist-Pumpin' Like Champs," ''I Started The Friggin' Pouf," and "Good Girls Go To Heaven; Bad Girls Go To Jersey."
Bone-thumping nightclubs feature heavily in the show, and in the real-life nightlife of Seaside Heights. Karma (Hamilton Avenue and Boulevard) is where Snooki did her panties-baring backflips. The Bamboo Bar (Lincoln Avenue and Boulevard) is where J-Woww got into a catfight with another woman. Other nightspots featured on the show include The Headliner (1401 Rt. 35 south in Neptune) and the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City (Brighton Avenue and Boardwalk) which is offering a "Jersey Shore" package including a stay in the same suite the cast members stayed in, dinner at an Italian restaurant, tanning at a spa and laundry services on premises.
Hoping for an encounter with the many crew members (and the occasional cast member)? Try Capt. Hooks (Kearny Avenue and Boulevard); EJ's, (boardwalk and Sheridan Avenue); or Riggers (Sumner Avenue and Boulevard). The crew stays at the Sea Garden Motel (Porter Avenue and Boulevard), among other places.
The "gym" component of gym-tan-laundry happens at Anytime Fitness in the A&P Shopping center (Route 35 south in the Ortley beach section of Toms River). Tans come free, courtesy of the sun, and the laundry is done at The Scrub Board (220 Boulevard at Franklin Avenue, Seaside Heights).
And of course, no "Jersey Shore" tour would be complete without high-frequency hair maintenance at Jagged Edge Hair Design (638 Fischer Blvd. in Toms River) where Pedro Marte dishes up blowouts, faux hawks and razor cuts (styling gel included, natch.)