Photo Credit: Scott Gries/MTV
Since 2009, the coastal town of Seaside Heights, N.J., has endured the indignity of being home to MTV's Jersey Shore. It's been a dubious fame, to be sure. But putting up with the high jinx of Snooki and company has turned out to be a major blessing.
On Oct. 29, when Superstorm Sandy created a path of destruction through the Eastern Seaboard, she didn't spare Seaside Heights. Homes, businesses and major portions of the boardwalk were destroyed. But Seaside Heights has celebrity connections: On Thursday night, Snooki, JWoww, Pauly D, Ronnie, Sammie, Vinny and Deena gathered at MTV studios and led an hour-long telethon, Restore the Shore to raise awareness and money to rebuild the devastated city. Stars of other MTV shows, like Teen Wolf, Awkward and Teen Mom, manned the phone bank, along with Melissa and Joe Gorga from The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Watch a portion of the special here:
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The special was full of heart, and the pleas for donations were interspersed with footage of various Shore cast members surveying the damage. Vinny interviewed several grief-stricken residents who cried. Producers juxtaposed "before" and "after" photos of the once-lively boardwalk, and the difference is breathtaking. The gang visited the Shore Store, the T-shirt shop where they had once held part time jobs, and comforted its crestfallen owner, Danny Merk. Most of his merchandise was ruined.
That said, it's clear that the producers had a conundrum on their hands when they were planning this special. How do you urge viewers to give money after such a sobering, serious tragedy when your hosts are…the Jersey Shore hooligans? The answer: You work with what you've got.
Filming Snooki's reactions to the devastation as she surveyed it from a helicopter, they got both tears ("There are so many memories here and everything is just destroyed") and comic relief ("I'm not scared of heights. I'm not scared of anything. Except spiders. And ghosts and aliens.")
Walking through their former haunts, now heavily damaged, Pauly D cried, "Look at the BAR sign!" Deena picked up the broken B. "Oh my gosh!" she cried, shocked by the damage done to the place where they once got sloshed and "smushed" with strangers. Vinny played his usual role of "responsible" castmate, noting that "thousands of people are jobless over this."
"Daaam, look at Beach Bar," declared Pauly D. And then, "Daaaam, that was a house there, wasn't it?" Ironically, their own party place, where the show was filmed, suffered very little damage. "If the Jersey Shore house survived us," explained Snooki, "it's gonna survive anything." True enough.
The most surreal moment came when the gang got a tour from Chief Boyd, of the Seaside Heights Police Department. Why did they appear to already know him? Oh, right! Over their tenure here, at least three cast members have been cuffed for drunk and disorderly conduct. Of course they know the police chief!
Now, as he talked about the needs of his city, the gang gathered around him and nodded soberly. (No, really. Like actually soberly.)
Back in the studio, Ronnie told MTV's Sway about the police chief's work. "Chief Boyd, during this devastation was really out there, helping people in houses, and…he's a hero," said Ronnie. "Well, you guys are heroes, too," replied Sway. Hmmm. Well…they are helping to raise awareness!
No one at the telethon mentioned whether the Jersey Shore cast members themselves have pledged any money. But with a combined salary of more than 10 million dollars last season, they could no doubt afford to help, too!
To donate to the American Red Cross response, visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.