Seaside Heights was the quintessential New Jersey beach town; a little down at its heels, featuring a boardwalk with old-fashioned rides, fried Oreos and tattooed people in bikinis. Then MTV came along and it became the vortex of the wild world of "Jersey Shore."
That all ends Thursday, Dec. 20, when MTV airs the final episode, then a live reunion show.
The show was shot long before Sandy devastated the town, shattering the boardwalk and leaving the roller coaster in the Atlantic Ocean.
MTV has held a "Restore the Shore" special, featuring the cast, that has raised over $1 million. Donations can still be made.
Before Sandy meant more to New Jersey than a Springsteen song, the breakout personalities and executive producer of "Jersey Shore" spoke separately with Zap2it, reflecting on the series.
From the beginning, producer SallyAnn Salsano was behind the camera and close to the roommates. She knew the life, having spent her summers at the Jersey Shore. Salsano recalls meeting with Seaside Heights officials before anyone knew what GTL (gym, tan, laundry) was.
"A lot of towns in Jersey wouldn't let us in and Seaside Heights allowed us with open arms," Salsano says. "At the time it was struggling. It was either really going to help them or hurt them. I can't promise the show will be a hit but my goal is to do a show that is kind of a dramedy with very lovable people and only highlight the town as a place where you want to come with your family and kids. It is such a pretty little place. That is my intention. What happens when I put the eight people in the house, I cannot tell you."
What happened, of course, were the pouf, the bacchanalian nights and the spawning of unlikely careers -- a result of audiences connecting with Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, DJ Pauly D DelVecchio, Jennifer "JWOWW" Farley and Vinny Guadagnino.
Zap2it: Why do you think the show became such a phenomenon?
Snooki: Because people weren't expecting us to do what we want and say what we want and saying things people would not normally say and is on our minds. The fact that we didn't really care is why. And we are so relatable. Even with doing something stupid and waking up and having been drunk. I think everybody goes through that.
Zap2it: What is it like living at the house?
The Situation: You have no phone, no Internet, no TV. You are almost concentrating on the human element.
Vinny: It was fun. It was crazy living with the same people 24 hours a day for two months straight. There was no escape, no TV, no cellphone, no radio, no music, no sounds. All you could do is talk to each other for two months straight. In a way that sucks but in another way it is a cool life experience where you have to go back to the stone age and find things to do to keep busy.
Zap2it: What are the biggest misconceptions people have about all of you?
Vinny: That I am not educated, that I can't speak on anything else that requires a brain, like the only thing I can speak on is "Jersey Shore"-related, and that is my whole world and nothing else -- no politics, philosophy and education. I am actually better at that stuff.
JWOWW: In general, that we are all very uneducated, very narcissistic and only believe in looking good and being fit, and [are] shallow human beings. And really I feel like we are all normal 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds and took an amazing opportunity anyone would. Though it was for the summer and in the public eye, people say, 'You shouldn't be taking off the summer and having a good time.' 'You must not care about work or college.' Four of us went back to college when it started.
Zap2it: What were some of your favorite times?
Pauly D: I really enjoyed the whole experience. It was an adventure for me living with strangers for the first time. I had never lived with anyone other than family. Now they are my lifelong friends. We went to Italy. That was amazing.
Zap2it: Any regrets?
JWOWW: No -- only in Season 1 I had god-awful hair. I did not have a keratin treatment. I did not know what a keratin treatment was. I had extensions that did not match up with my hair.
Zap2it: Are you embarrassed over anything from the show?
Snooki: Not really. Going into it we knew that cameras were going to follow us so we had to have that mentality that people are going to see us. We knew. We all wanted to be on TV and on reality, and we knew there would be drama and crazy situations.
Zap2it: What won't you miss?
JWOWW: How gross the house gets after a while. Typical shore house, party house, and nothing is so clean by the end.
Zap2it: Fondest memories?
Pauly D: It was something that I am going to take with me for the rest of my life and I hope the world does, too. You don't expect a reality show to make an impact on things. There were so many things. They have Halloween costumes, DVDs, T-shirts, and I hope people do remember that.
Photo/Video credit: MTV