SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. - And the weather for the Jersey Shore this summer is sunny, with a high of . . . Snooki.
A situation that now requires a Snooki security detail.
"You gotta keep moving, OK?" said the burly officer, one of a half-dozen moonlighting Seaside Heights officers on folding chairs outside the beach house where MTV has decamped to film Season 3 of its breakout Jersey Shore (Season 2 from Miami starts Thursday night). "Sidewalks are for walking, not standing."
Yes, in their second summer in Seaside, Snooki, the Situation, Sammi Sweetheart, and friends will have to try extra hard to have a normal beach house summer - as normal as their new mega-celebrity and outsize personalities will allow.
Crowds follow them everywhere now, especially keen on the tiny Snooki (Nicole Polizzi), whose pouty, busty little-girl-just-wants-to-have-fun-in-the-hot-tub persona has ignited a mania (including a New York Times Style section profile that compared her to both Elizabeth Taylor and an upside-down turnip, and a feud with Gov. Christie, who Wednesday tried to unload the entire cast on Matt Lauer during a Today show appearance). All over town, people can level their hands against their midriffs to show just how short Snooki really is.
"She's like this big, and she thinks she's all that," said Gwen Hall, who works in a nearby novelty shop. "You walk on the boardwalk, and they're, like, with flashlights, keep it moving. The security, the cameras, they do nothing but yell and scream at people, like it was Elvis."
In order to go on the rides this week (Snooki rode in Car 16 on the Ferris wheel), the cast had to go at midnight, when the pier is shut down to regular people, but workers got $250 tips each from MTV for keeping the place open. "They don't like it here," confided George Rich, 20, one of the workers. "They can't walk around like before."
At the T-shirt shop where the cast quote-unquote works, employees are sworn to confidentiality. "I don't want to get in trouble," whispered one. "They're really intimidating, these people."
Fans and voyeurs can ride the Skyride chairlift that parallels the boardwalk along the beach to peer in and snap photos of the roof deck, with its famous hot tub, "no skinny dippin alone" sign, hammock, platform beds, and shabby chic furniture.
On Tuesday, you could also get a view of Vinny Guadagnino swinging in his hammock, and a new person - presumably his girlfriend - sulking over a huge cup of coffee and a cigarette.
"She looks prissy," said Amanda Riess, 16, of Berlin, watching from the boardwalk. "The way she's flipping her hair, smoking and drinking. I don't like her already."
Just don't try to get too close. Boardwalk security works for MTV.
"He said, do you know how to do cartwheels? Then do cartwheels on outta here," said Lily Neuman, 52, of Westchester, N.Y., who returned to the house to complain about her treatment the night before, when Pauly was inside the T-shirt shop. (Christie keeps complaining that the cast members are from New York, but so are many of Seaside's visitors.)
"It took me a few minutes to slow down and say, 'He told us to do what?' " she said.
Nearby merchants, who say customers run out of their stores when someone from the show walks by, are a little bitter. "Last year, they made us look horrible," said Hall. "This year, they walk with their heads in the air, won't talk to you. Now, you have to sign a paper to walk into the store when th ey're working."
Dennis Ozbay, owner of American Pie pizza next to the Shore Store T-shirt shop, says he gave permission to MTV to film last summer, but his shop never made it on TV. So this summer, he refused. "They asked me, I said no," he said. "I have my regular customers. But the nice families are gone."
Signs of the MTV show's influence abound. Much of the merchandise in the T-shirt shop where Pauly "DJ Pauly D" DelVecchio and the others work now is about the show ("GTL - gym, tan, laundry"). Snooki could go down the boardwalk and eat a Snooki sandwich if she wanted.
Whenever the cast leaves the house, fans gather on the Ocean Terrace sidewalk (across the street, not allowed closer), scream, and snap photos. But the cast, like Vinny, seen leaving with a bag - which people who insisted they had sources close to the set (i.e., a moonlighting Seaside officer who's a cousin) said contained his laundry - completely ignores them.
After all, they're just there to have another great summer at the Jersey Shore, like everyone else. Good luck with that. And if this cast made its reputation on a certain level of authentic fakeness (hair, tan, etc.), the artifice required to attempt to blend in with the Seaside crowd is impressive.
Kellie Murphy, 16, visiting from Somerset, N.J., sported a pouf in her raven hair that was at least as impressive as the one Snooki made famous. But Murphy said her pouf predates Snooki's. "I had it when I was in the sixth grade," she said. She noted that the garage door of the MTV house, which last year was painted green, red, and white in a guido-guidette salute, is now white.
Ryan Ackell and her mom Susan were feeding a meter outside the house when the cast returned from - true story - ringing the bell to open the stock market on Tuesday. They spotted Snooki with her new red hair. "My daughter screamed, it was like Beatlemania," Susan said.
Ryan, 14, an honors student from Cape Cod who agreed to the Jersey destination only after her mom promised a go at Snooki-stalking, also peered inside one of the cast's Escalade cars. She took note of cameras mounted on the windows, the vitamin water bottle, the scribbled address for a fitness store, and the open box of Trojans. What an educational vacation!
Outside the house, Morgayne and Kaylee Christy, 15 and 12, could not believe their good fortune to catch a glimpse of Vinny and his girlfriend as they left with the laundry and returned with sandwiches.
They looked at the Sand and Surf Motel right next door, whose sign promises that guests can "C Snookies Room" (though guests said the windows at the MTV house are blacked out) and sighed.
"Mom, next year we should stay at that motel," said Morgayne.
After all, when visiting the Jersey Shore, who wouldn't want a room with a view of . . . Snooki?
Contact staff writer Amy S. Rosenberg at 609-823-0453 or email@example.com. See photos of the cast in Seaside on the downashore blog at www.philly.com/philly/blogs/downashore.