'Jersey Shore' Italy: Swearing, Sobbing, No Sleep, New Shockers (Exclusive)
The new Hollywood Reporter magazine exclusively visits producer SallyAnn Salsano and MTV’s Jersey Shore set in Florence as the mad genius behind the show bares her soul – and plays shrink, Mom and shoulder to cry on for her six figure per episode cast.
SallyAnn Salsano has one of the biggest hits on television with MTV's Jersey Shore, which, in its third season, the most recent to air, garnered an average audience of 7.9 million total viewers, up from 5.8 million in season two and 2.7 million in season one.
The new issue of The Hollywood Reporter on newsstands later this week in NYC and LA, has an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the cast and crew from Florence, Italy, where they taped season 4 (premiering Aug. 4).
Salsano, who got her start on talker Sally Jessy Raphael, defends the controversial show, which has generated about $580.2 million in operating profits for 2010, according to estimates by SNL Kagan.
"It's real," she says. "The worst thing you can tell a reality-show producer is that it’s fake. You can say it’s crass, you can say it’s vulgar — but in the end, that’s what it is.”
The story reveals Salsano’s close connection with her cast. She sleeps just three hours a day or less in a tiny apartment constructed above their disheveled bank-turned-apartment building so she can supervise taping around the clock. "I love her,” says cast member Ronnie Magro, a Bronx native who formerly worked in real estate. “She changed my life for the better. I had nothing; I came from the bottom. SallyAnn is an amazing person, and I know she loves me — I don’t know why, but I know she loves me to death and would do anything to make sure that I succeed.”
Some highlights from the piece:
THE CLUB GOES CRAZY OVER SNOOKI DRAMA
Salsano stays razor-focused on the drama. When Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino threatens to tell Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi's boyfriend, Jionni, who has just flown in from America, that she's been cheating on him, Salsano eggs him on, asking him of his plan during their daily, hour-long confessional taping. When he suggests he's going to beat the crap out of him, Salsano subtly steers him away from that while planting the notion that his finest quality is telling the truth, even if doing so could cost Snooki her boyfriend. Later, when no drama erupts between them, the 37-year-old executive producer lovingly groans of the cast after a drama-free night: "F--kin' retards!"
Eventually, things change at a club. Jionni tires of Snooki's antics and bolts out of the club and into the streets, followed by Snooki, JWoww, Sammi and Deena — all the guidettes — shouting and wailing as four cameramen struggle to keep up, with the Situation and his pals trailing them. Salsano screams at her crew, "Run bitches!" She also takes off outside after them in her sneakers, making sure every moment is captured on tape as the cast scatters. “We got it,” Salsano exults. “We got the whole f—in’ thing!”
THE SITUATION SOBS ON HER SHOULDER
Forget the swagger and the cockiness; there's gentleness to The Sitch. Salsano recalls how he wept on her shoulder, soaking her clothes with tears, when his dad posted critical videos on a website. (That conflict resulted in litigation that reportedly has since been settled.)
JERSEY SHORE ALMOST STARTED AS A COMPETITION SHOW
Brought in by VH1 executive Shelly Tatro when the project was being developed at MTV’s sister network, Salsano had counseled against making it an elimination contest. “One week it was fist-pumping, one week tanning — all kinds of craziness,” she says. The producer was convinced just getting the right cast and following their antics would be entertaining enough. So she searched the Tri-State area, boiling contenders down to a final dozen, reduced to eight the day before shooting commenced Aug. 1, 2009. (Deena Cortese, who later replaced Angelina Pivarnick, was in that first group but had to drop out because her grandmother was ill.)
THE CAST IS MAKING MILLIONS
Before joining the cast, Paul “Pauly D” DelVecchio never earned more than a few hundred dollars a week as a DJ, but now he's grappled on WrestleMania. Sitch went from an assistant manager at a fitness center to competing on Dancing With the Stars. They've become mini industries onto themselves; each generates between $20,000 to $50,000 per personal appearance alone. The Situation will earn between $2 million and $5 million this year; Pauly D recently signed a DJ'ing deal at Palms Las Vegas that could bring him as much as $50,000 a night. In the last go around of negotiations this year, MTV agreed to pay several of the cast more than $100,000 per episode, locking them in through season six.
THE “SMUSH ROOM” SHEETS RARELY GET CHANGED
Sitch shows us the room he shares with Ronnie in the bank-turned-apartment. (Vinny, Pauly D and Deena are in another bedroom; Snooki, Sammi and JWoww take the third.) To call it a mess would be kind. The bed is unmade; clothes are strewn all over the place. He leads me into the bathroom, where the sink is blocked, nothing has been cleaned and half-eaten food is tucked into corners. Is he going to fix the sink? He shrugs. “There’s always others I can use.” The sheets in the “Smush Room,” always open for sex, rarely get changed.
THE CAST IS ALLOWED ONE PRIVATE CALL A WEEK
The cast is allowed just one private phone call per week, so Salsano fields the concerned call from Snooki's father, whom she refers to as "Papa Snooks," about his daughter's recent arrest for a fender bender with an Italian police car. “Yeah, we had a bit of a problem,” Salsano admits. She glides over the fact that his daughter is presently a basket case over the Jionni matter. "She was kinda upset, but she’s getting over it.” Then they tease each other. “I just got her for two years,” she jokes. “You got her for life!” Later she gets defensive that Jionni borrows Snooki's credit card and uses it to freely dispense drinks at the club. “You think he’d be spending his own cash like that?” she queries, defiantly moral amid the seemingly amoral young men and women around her.
SALSANO DRUNK-DIALED TO GET HER FIRST JOB
Still, despite the success, Salsano, who was fired off two shows and was afraid her 495 Productions company (named after the Long Island Expressway) would go under shortly before Shore became a hit. She still constantly worries about failure. “I am always afraid of what’s next in a really odd way. I think that’s what drives me,” she says.
Read the full The Hollywood Reporter Jersey Shore Italy cover story now.
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