Despite casting call, Seaside Heights mayor says no going back to ‘Jersey Shore days’
SEASIDE HEIGHTS — In the winter of 2009, MTV's reality show "The Jersey Shore" brought the eyes of the world to this shore town.
Millions watched as a group of complete unknowns navigated through the summer, coining phrases like GTL (gym, tan, laundry), turning themselves into celebrities, and in many instances casting a negative light on the town through their drunken behavior.
When a posting was seen on the Facebook page of the popular Bamboo Bar for a casting call of a new show called "I Love Summer," many people worried it could be a second coming of the show, which went off the air more than four years ago.
Mayor Anthony Vaz said that while that may be what the company holding the casting call is looking for, the borough's governing body has other ideas. He also said there was no indication that another reality show might be filmed in the borough.
"We knew nothing about it until it appeared on Facebook," he said of the post, which calls for "single men and women" who "must be expressive and outgoing." Hearkening back to "old school VH1/MTV," the post adds, "If you are loud and fun, this is the role for you."
Vaz, who has been on the council for more than two decades and has been mayor for just under two years, said the governing body has worked hard to move the borough away from the image portrayed by the Jersey Shore, and intends to keep it that way for years to come.
"It's a very simple thing. Under the administration of Vaz, and the mayor and council, we are not going to support these kinds of activities," he said. "We want to rejuvenate Seaside as a family resort."
Thanks to a strategic plan that was put together, Vaz said they are already starting to see that work paying off.
"We've got development in our town, a lot of property owners improving properties, improving amusements, improving games of chance," he said. "We don't want to go back to a party town. We want to be a family resort. A destination where people feel safe, are entertained, feel good, and enjoy their vacations."
While the crowds that once flocked to see the Jersey Shore house may have diminished over the years, Vaz said the show has still "left a stigma on the community and the people that visit us."
Fielding calls and messages asking if the borough was going to allow the show to be done, Vaz said the message has been the same, that change is better than going back to what was done in the past. "We're going to change things. It's not going to happen overnight, but we see the changes already."
Vaz also said that while there are certain things the borough can do to impact the show, they cannot stop it entirely.
"We can't stop it from happening in private property, but we can stop it from happening in the borough ownership," he said. That means areas like the boardwalk, beaches, and streets would be off limits. "It can't be like MTV. They had the beach. They had the boardwalk. They had the streets. We're not going to do that anymore. Not this administration. We will not do that."
In an story in the Asbury Park Press, Bamboo owner John Saddy said the show is "not as crazy as 'Jersey Shore.'" He added that the show is not a done-deal yet as producers still have not finalized a contract with a studio.
With a little more than three months until Memorial Day weekend, Vaz said rumors of this show will not derail the optimism he feels about the upcoming summer season. "We haven't had this in years and this is a good vibe for our community," he said. "It's healthy for our residents, for our property owners, our taxpayers, our business community. It's a movement that's going to continue to grow from year to year."
While Vaz said he would not be in favor of a show similar to Jersey Shore filming in the borough again, he is not against the idea of other productions filming under the right circumstances.
"If a company called me up today and said we want to make a film on surfing and we want to come to Seaside Heights, I'd have a different flavor on it," he said. "We would support that 100 percent. This is different. This brings in a different type of clientele which we want to get away from."
Vaz said with questions still lingering about whether the show will actually happen, the governing body is ready to ensure that whatever happens goes with the plan they have put in place.
"If it does come to be official I will stand my ground," he said. "I'm sure the council will be very supportive because they feel the same way that we've changed. We like what we're doing. We like people coming down that are families. We like not having a lot of arrests. We like all these things."
They may not know whether this show will come to fruition, but one thing Vaz said they do know is that whatever it ends up being, it will not be the same thing that made people like Snooki, The Situation and DJ Pauly D household names.
"I think I've heard more compliments now than I've heard in 27 years combined," he said. "That's telling us that's what people want."
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com