Once upon a time, we learned what happened when seven strangers came to live together in a house, stopped being polite, and started getting real. After 23 iterations of that concept, we learned that we were bored, and an ever-savvy MTV flipped the concept, assembling a group of strangers to live together in a house and act like cartoon characters. As Jersey Shore’s first season debuted, eight sensory assaults masquerading as people—tanned, unquiet, self-proclaimed “guidos” and “guidettes,” some of them not actually Italian-American—assembled in a summer rental to live, laugh, love, malaprop, hump in hot tubs, get arrested, and wander around drunkenly, eating ham. The ratings were meager at first, but the show took off when Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, the show’s heroine, was punched in the nose by a high school teacher after a dispute involving a stolen drink. (This basically tells you everything you need to know about the show’s moral universe.) As Snooki was walloped in the face, so was America, and the whole country became Jersey Shore’s battered paramours—uncomfortable but unable to tear ourselves away.
The show gave a hopeless America exactly what we desperately sought—either something to aspire to or a reason to feel better about ourselves—and in the process became a smash, one of MTV’s biggest hits in years, and the kind of pop-culture phenomenon that spawned a zillion catchphrases and theme parties that cultural sophisticates are supposed to hate but secretly love. The second season begins shooting this month, and barring any cases of hair-gel toxicosis, it will air on MTV this summer. In the meantime, the four dudes of the show—Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, Ronnie Ortiz-Magro, Vinny Guadagnino, and “Pauly D” Delvecchio—talked to Interview about their hopes, dreams, and penis piercings.
Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino
MICHAEL MARTIN: What is the origin of your nickname The Situation?
MIKE “THE SITUATION” SORRENTINO: The origin of the nickname was a couple years back. I’ve always been in unbelievable shape. I was at a beach club. Girls had bikinis on, and guys had shorts on, and I was whaling over with a couple of my buddies. A girl was holding her boyfriend’s hand, and with her other hand pointed at me and said, “Oh my god, honey, look at his abs.” While she was holding her boyfriend’s hand! My buddies were there. They said, “Dude, that’s a situation there!” And I looked at my stomach and said, “Yeah, I guess that’s a situation.” It kind of stuck. It goes with my personality as well.
MARTIN: What catchphrase are you proudest of?
SORRENTINO: I did like “If hating’s your occupation, I’ve got a full-time job for you.” That one was pretty popular.
MARTIN: Do they just come to you? Do you sit up at night thinking of them?
SORRENTINO: They just come to me in conversation. It’s hard to have them planned. They come spontaneously.
MARTIN: How did your now-famous daily routine—GYM, TAN, LAUNDRY—evolve?
SORRENTINO: It was just my schedule, man, just what I do day to day. You have to take care of your body, so you go to the gym. You have to get a little color. The laundry is your outfit. You put it all together: You’ve got GTL—feeling good, looking good.
MARTIN: Why laundry? Ahead of, say, food?
SORRENTINO: You can’t walk around naked.
MARTIN: How’s fame treating you?
SORRENTINO: Oh, man, it’s just unbelievable. Everywhere I go, there’s just mass amounts of people. There’s people showing up at airports, wanting autographs, girls, it’s insane. It’s like The Beatles, man.
MARTIN: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you because of the show?
SORRENTINO: A number of times girls were hysterical. I had a guy faint at one of my appearances in St. Louis. I was taken aback but at the same time flattered. I guess he got a little too excited, which is understandable. When you see The Situation in person, it can startle some people.
MARTIN: What’s the best thing fame has brought you?
SORRENTINO: Probably just some money, man.
MARTIN: What’s the worst?
SORRENTINO: Right now, I really can’t think of any downsides. Maybe sleep. I don’t get too much sleep.
MARTIN: You guys are going around making paid appearances. What’s been the craziest?
SORRENTINO: They’re all crazy, man. It’s like The Beatles.
MARTIN: What won’t you do?
SORRENTINO: I don’t understand.
MARTIN: Will you accept any appearance offer?
SORRENTINO: Not any appearance. I have my management team take care of that. They usually make the right decision for the team: Team Situation.
MARTIN: What do you make of the criticism the show has received from Italian-American groups?
SORRENTINO: A lot of people like to point the finger. Once people saw the show and realized it was just a bunch of kids living, working, and doing a little partying, they realized it was harmless.
MARTIN: Did you always want to be famous?
SORRENTINO: Everybody when they’re little wants to be on billboards or on TV. I envisioned all this.
MARTIN: All this?
SORRENTINO: Yeah, man, I envisioned it. Well, not this show. I’m not a fortune-teller. I envisioned me breaking out some way or somehow.
MARTIN: Talk about your self-maintenance routine.
SORRENTINO: You really should go to the gym five days a week. You should get a little color. Besides GTL, I do my appearances. I’m just working on The Situation brand right now.
MARTIN: Where do you shop?
SORRENTINO: I like Armani Exchange, Guess, Rock & Republic. There’s a lot of places. I’m not too picky. I like to be trendy, and I like to look good.
MARTIN: What’s your favorite item in your wardrobe?
SORRENTINO: I can’t really pinpoint something. It’s the whole outfit. Between the accessories, chains, and the jeans, it’s all got to work together.
MARTIN: What was your finest moment on the show?
SORRENTINO: Probably the whole season. One big highlight reel. I get a lot of them. People like “You’re excluded from chicken cutlet night” or “You’re excluded from ravioli night.” I’m just flattered that America loves me.
MARTIN: What was your worst moment?
SORRENTINO: There really weren’t any from me.
MARTIN: There are rumors of a Snooki sex tape. Is there one?
SORRENTINO: That’s news to me. I have no clue.
MARTIN: Would you ever release a sex tape?
SORRENTINO: I don’t know. I don’t have one. When I get one, I’ll give you a call.
MARTIN: That’s okay. Where do you see yourself in five years?
SORRENTINO: I want to break into movies eventually. But for right now, I’ll just conquer reality. Whether it’s TV, movies, a clothing line, I see myself running my business: The Situation Inc.
MARTIN: How much more sex are you having since the show?
SORRENTINO: I’ve always gotten female attention. Now the only way I can describe it is that it’s like The Beatles. At a club appearance, it’s insane that people are chasing me and fighting bodyguards, and girls are crying and screaming. People are always asking for a picture. I never refuse a picture. I shake hands; I kiss every cheek. I love all my fans. I love every minute. I give everybody a chance.
MARTIN: Ronnie, the others auditioned for the show, but you were discovered.
RONNIE ORTIZ-MAGRO: They found me in Belmar, New Jersey. I was deejaying at a bar, and the scout came up to me and said, “We’re doing a TV show. Let me get your name and number; you fit the criteria. I really like you. I’m going to push you.” Within a week, they flew me out to L.A. Within three weeks, I was on the show. Everyone else on the show filled out applications. They found me. I felt a little special.
MARTIN: Did you enjoy the photo shoot?
ORTIZ-MAGRO: It was good. I’m comfortable in front of the camera. It’s uncomfortable not to be in front of the camera now. They had us posing with a weight bench; some of us were dancing with Bar Refaeli. I curled her, bench-pressed her. She liked it.
MARTIN: Why do you think the show hit big?
ORTIZ-MAGRO: I call it America’s show. It gives you everything. You’ve got drinking, fighting, hanging out. It’s like one big family. I think we touched a lot of things a lot of reality shows don’t. We went on there, and we were natural and just ourselves. I think a lot of people on reality shows try to be something that they’re not. We meshed very well.
MARTIN: Who are your celebrity fans?
ORTIZ-MAGRO: Kanye West’s girlfriend, Amber Rose, says I’m her favorite on the show. Did a Sweet Sixteen with Fat Joe. I met “E” from Entourage [Kevin Connolly]. So far my favorite was Fat Joe.
MARTIN: When people say you’re their favorite on the show, what do they like?
ORTIZ-MAGRO: I’m the realist. Down-to-earth. I say what’s on my mind, whether you like it or not.
MARTIN: What did you think about Italian–American groups protesting the show, celebrities like Alyssa Milano saying it should be canceled?
ORTIZ-MAGRO: Look at who you have: You have UNICO [the Italian-American service organization]. No one even knew who UNICO was until we came around. Alyssa Milano? What’s the last thing she’s done, Who’s the Boss? It’s like, who’s the boss, now, Alyssa? [laughs] Any publicity is good publicity. They gave us an opportunity; they put us on the news. It made people want to watch us. We got five million viewers.
MARTIN: How do you feel about these Jersey Shore theme parties?
ORTIZ-MAGRO: I feel honored people would do something like that. It’s like a toga party. Like a costume party. It’s based on us. You build something that nobody can really take from you.
MARTIN: What do you ultimately want to do?
ORTIZ-MAGRO: Maybe get into modeling, some acting. Something that’s going to keep me out there. I love the business. I got a few offers for workout videos. I think more will come from the second season. Workout stuff, protein shakes.
MARTIN: How has female attention changed for you?
ORTIZ-MAGRO: [sighs] It’s wild. I can’t even explain it to you. It’s unexplainable. You have to experience it yourself. Girls crying, shaking. On my Facebook page, I got letters from girls: “If this is the Ronnie from Jersey Shore, oh my god, I love you.” It’s like, why? Really, why? Girls hit on me, but you’ve got to realize they’re fans. They don’t know you. You have to know what’s real and what’s not.
MARTIN: Where do you see yourself in five years?
ORTIZ-MAGRO: I definitely don’t want to do the show for another five years. I’ll do another season or two. I don’t want to become a reality superstar. I don’t want to be Screech. He [Dustin Diamond] can only play Screech. I want to do different things. I’m just going with the flow. A year ago, if you’d asked me where I saw myself in five years, I definitely wouldn’t have said I want to be on a reality TV show. I didn’t even watch reality TV. The last reality TV show I watched was Real World: Cancún, and that was like, eight years ago. I’m just going with the flow.
MARTIN: Second season: What’s going to happen?
ORTIZ-MAGRO: We’re just starting. I’m just going along for the ride. I only have one request: that I can use my iPod at the gym.
MARTIN: That’s your only request?
ORTIZ-MAGRO: That’s my only request. Just let me use my iPod at the gym.
MARTIN: Vinny, what did you think of the shoot?
VINNY GUADAGNINO: It was pretty good. We posed with the most beautiful model in the world, Bar Refaeli. Got a little intense with her. Wearing some Italian designer clothes. We’re just, like, posing with her and getting very touchy. I liked it.
MARTIN: Is she a fan?
GUADAGNINO: She’s probably watched the show a few times. Didn’t seem too hung up on it. We meet people who are starstruck, will talk about this scene, that scene. But she didn’t seem to be hung up on it. Leo [DiCaprio] is more, actually.
MARTIN: What did he say about it?
GUADAGNINO: He said, “I can tell you’re a good Italian kid, from a good family.”
MARTIN: Did you think a year ago this was going to happen?
GUADAGNINO: No. Once I found out I was going to be on the show, I knew it was going to be a good show. I didn’t know I was going to be hanging out with
A-list celebrities. I didn’t know I was going to be a celebrity. Everyone says if you’re on reality TV, you’re not a celebrity. And that’s cool if that’s the truth.
MARTIN: What’s the best thing about fame?
GUADAGNINO: The little things you don’t realize. When you’re at an airport and someone knows who you are, they let you cut the line. Everything is very backdoor now. You go to nightclubs and someone walks you in. There’s none of that hustle and bustle you used to deal with, feeling like a sheep in the herd. Now it’s a little easier. When I go to a basketball game, I need that. Otherwise I’ll get bombarded.
MARTIN: Do you have groupies?
GUADAGNINO: I have girls who come to my house and knock on my door. I have girls who call me at four in the morning. I have girls who make pages for me on Facebook, VinnyG’sFutureWife on Twitter.
MARTIN: Any pickup lines that are successful?
GUADAGNINO: No. “Vinny G, teach me how to fist-pump!” Nah. I want nothing to do with it. I like the girls who don’t say anything and don’t care that I’m on the show.
MARTIN: What do you want to do with your life?
GUADAGNINO: I want to be an actor. Like, a serious actor. I can do comedy, too. But that’s what I’ve always wanted. I’m going to ride this wave out, and if it doesn’t come through, I have a political science degree, so I can work for the government. If I had the opportunity to be in the entertainment industry, whether it’s being a rapper or an actor, I’d choose that over being in a suit-and-tie ant farm. I’ve been in that world. I’ve interned before.
MARTIN: Whose career do you envy?
GUADAGNINO: Definitely Leonardo DiCaprio. I could see myself, not now because he plays crazy roles, but if I ever got to that level, I’d like to play the roles he plays. He handles everything with such poise. He’s very low-key, and I’m the same kind of way. When you see me in a club, you don’t see me going crazy; you see me with a hat and a hood on, laying back. What would Leo do? What would Leo do? I keep reciting that in my head.
MARTIN: Are offers coming your way?
GUADAGNINO: Everything. Movies. Not like crazy feature movies yet, but independent films. People want to do songs; people want us to model for their products, endorsements. It’s a whole whirlwind of crap. You learn to push it all aside and just siphon through the good ones. You’re in the limelight. You’re going to get a million things coming at you.
MARTIN: What’s your five-year plan?
GUADAGNINO: I like to rap. Right now, if I do a song, I want it to be more clubby and catchy. That’s where a lot of my demographic, my fans, are. So I hope one of them goes through on the club end. But I also have some things cooking in the serious rap poetry. Hopefully season two will go through, ride this a while longer, showcase our talents. Andif that happens, then I would have a couple good songs people can go crazy to in clubs, Sweet Sixteens, blah blah blah. And after doing that for a couple years, or even a year, start going into film. Not trying to say that I can be a star like Leonardo DiCaprio, but you build yourself up. And hopefully in five years, I can have a starring role. That’d be great.
“Pauly D” Delvecchio
MARTIN: Pauly D, think back to your audition for the show. What put you over the top?
“PAULY D” DELVECCHIO: I think it’s my look. Stereotypically, I look like a guido. I got the spiked hair. I got the tan. I got the muscles. I got the tattoos. You can just point me out and say, “That kid looks like the Italian guido.”
MARTIN: Are you rethinking the guido identity at all?
DELVECCHIO: Not at all. I was like this before the show; I’m going to be like this after the show. This is just how I am.
MARTIN: So who’s a real guido, and who’s faking it?
DELVECCHIO: A fake guido is a person who’s trying to be something they’re not. A real guido is like myself. I’m not trying to be anybody: I’m trying to be myself. Somebody who’s trying to be something they’re not—you can tell they are just right off the bat. Just because they’re trying to be somebody they’re not. You can tell in the club and stuff.
MARTIN: Do you have look-alikes?
DELVECCHIO: Oh my god, I have so many look-alikes now. My haircut alone, all the places I go to deejay, all the guys are doing their hair like me, are dressing like me. On Facebook and Twitter, they want to know what kind of gel I use, how long I spend on my hair. So there are a lot of look-alikes there.
MARTIN: How long do you spend on the hair?
DELVECCHIO: I take pride in it, so 25 minutes.
MARTIN: Same brand of gel, or are you switching it up?
DELVECCHIO: No, I use Spiker. That’s the only brand I use.
MARTIN: Did you always want to be famous?
DELVECCHIO: I think everybody always wants to be famous. I’m glad it happened how it happened.
MARTIN: Which celebrity fans do you have?
DELVECCHIO: Lindsay Lohan, Ashton Kutcher. Diddy’s a fan. I heard Denzel Washington’s a fan. Lindsay’s cool. When we went to the club, she pulled me aside and said, “Pauly D! I love your show.” We were hanging out with her mother.
MARTIN: What was your best moment on the show?
DELVECCHIO: Probably when I was deejaying in front of everyone. They’d heard I was a DJ, but when they saw me, they saw that I was a real DJ.
MARTIN: Your worst?
DELVECCHIO: Probably when J-Woww saw my [penis] piercing. I was like, “Shhh, no one knows.” And now everybody knows.
MARTIN: Now it has fan sites.
DELVECCHIO: Yeah. It’s all good. I don’t regret it at all, but it was a little embarrassing.
MARTIN: What didn’t they show that you wish they would have?
DELVECCHIO: I heard it was like 300 hours of filming to make one episode. They didn’t show a lot of things. We rented some Jet Skis, went to a theme park. That was pretty cool. They didn’t show that.
MARTIN: Are you rich?
DELVECCHIO: I charge more for deejaying now.
MARTIN: What’s the biggest thing you’ve bought since you got the check?
DELVECCHIO: I haven’t really had time to spend money. I’m never home to spend it.
MARTIN: Are you having more sex since the show?
DELVECCHIO: Yeah, I’ve always got ladies. That’s always been a thing of mine, always had ladies in high school. Now it’s crazy.
MARTIN: Do you have groupies?
DELVECCHIO: Oh my god. They’re like, “You’re my favorite guy on the show. I could be your guidette.”
MARTIN: What do you want to do with your life?
DELVECCHIO: I want to become a famous DJ. DJ AM passed away, so I want to become that—a huge DJ.
MARTIN: Do you have any role models?
DELVECCHIO: Not really.
Michael Martin is a contributing editor at Interview.