“Jersey Shore” may have found enemies with Italian American organizations everywhere, but to millions of viewers, the show is the train wreck we tune into every Thursday night.
As a southern California-raised beach bum, a summer at the shore sounds like every season of my life. After seeing the show, I figured the East Coast shore must have something different than the West Coast beaches.
So I set my sights on Seaside Heights to recreate all the memorable experiences on the show. “Jersey Shore” might portray it as a summer playground for boozehounds and desperate 20-somethings full of libido, but after one night I can assure you it is nothing like what’s on TV.
Myth No. 1: Seaside Heights is the hottest summer spot. Reality: Yeah, not so much.
“You really don’t want to go to Seaside Heights,” my co-worker Cathy, who hails from New Jersey said. “I’m getting shivers just thinking about it!”
She explained that Seaside Heights used to be the destination for high-school and college kids — a decade ago. Where there used to be clubs lining the boardwalk, now there’s Big Blue, a tackily lit blue building that is referred to as Karma on the show.
Myth No. 2: It’s a nice drive down to the Shore. Reality: It’s true — if you don’t mind traffic, bad public transportation and hitching a ride with your bartender.
The first episode of each season always features the cast driving down. Where’s the scene of them getting stuck in traffic? Or the fact if you don’t have a car, it’s nearly impossible to get there?
There was only one N.J. Transit bus on Saturday that would take me and my friends to the “Jersey Shore” location from New York City. It left at 9:30 a.m. and returned at 5:30 p.m. No train dared to go there. The scheduled two-hour bus ride turned into four.
On our return trip, we hitched a ride with a local bartender, who drove us 30 minutes to the next town over to catch a bus back to the city.
Myth No. 3: The beach houses are large and spacious enough for all your friends. Reality: ‘Closest friends’ should be the key word.
I found only one place that would have me for less than $200 for an under 24-hour stay. The motel proudly boasted that it was half a block from the boardwalk, yet it had no pictures of the shore. Reviews on Trip Advisor were not exactly glowing.
Our room had keyless entry (the door wasn’t locked) and featured an overpowering stench of lemon-scented Lysol and what smelled like a gallon of bleach. Forget the spacious beach house featured on the show: The room, which was supposed to house up to six people, barely fit two king-sized beds. I woke up with my friend Evan on top of me. While this might sound like the end to a “Jersey Shore” night, it wasn’t. It was a completely non-sexual experience due to lack of space in the bed.
Myth No. 4: It’s a party all day on the beach. Reality: You’ll feel guilty corrupting the children if you decide to drink on the sand.
The beach was even more pristine than expected for a popular tourist spot.
Unlike the crowded beach shown on the show, there was plenty of room to lay out a towel. People threw their trash away in receptacles and strictly adhered to the no-drinking policy. Children built sand castles while their parents looked on. Everyone at Seaside Heights looked like they came down for the day for a G-rated family vacation.
Myth No. 5: As long as you’re 21, you have a ticket to fun. Reality: Seaside Heights hates Canadians and all other foreigners without a passport.
On the first episode of the series, cast member Vinny proclaimed he’d been waiting until he was 21 because it meant he could finally go all out on the shore. The truth is, you can go “all out” only if you are American.
It didn’t matter that my boyfriend is partially balding or that my friend has a full grown beard (or the fact that they’re 26 years old). As soon as the bouncers saw that their driver’s licenses were from Namibia and Canada, they were denied entrance.
The bouncers wouldn’t even take a U.S. government-issued work identification photo ID. But who brings their passport with them wherever they go? Shouldn’t everyone with valid identification have the right to drink a fishbowl of liquor from Bamboo and “creep” (show’s vocab for looking for hotties at the clubs) like the cast of “Jersey Shore”? “Don’t even try going to Karma,” one bouncer threatened. “I’m going there in 10 minutes.”
Myth No. 6: The clubs are full of hot individuals to ‘creep’ on. Reality: Define ‘hot.’
When the sun went down, the shore got dirty. Swarms of testosterone-ridden men encroached upon the wooden boardwalk. Women who dressed like they were 14 but were clearly at least 40 donned smudged lipstick. Preteens strutted in outfits inspired by Miley Cyrus.
And without passports, we found refuge in Bar Riggers, home of the $2 pints. Gym, tanning, laundry gave way to pale, sagging skin, bad boob jobs and the stench of day old liquor. The bartender regaled us with tales of the locals. “You’re looking for Snooki?” he said. “The real Snooki was having sex in the bathroom earlier today.”
The “real Snooki” is apparently a woman who was “snookin’ for love,” just like Snooki on the show. Her face looked like it melted from some sort of acidic makeup.
We ended the night at Hemingway’s, a restaurant/bar/club recruited to be featured on “Jersey Shore” but politely declined. Everyone we saw there was at least in their mid-30s. It was older, desperate men and women — or as The Situation likes to call them, “grenades” — on the prowl.
In the morning, Seaside Heights was miraculously clean again, and the beaches inviting. Families rolled out of their vans, completely unaware of the horror show that happened at night. It almost made me want to stay one more evening.
Then I came to my senses and looked out on the open road heading toward my concrete jungle, glad that I was able to escape.