“I'm like a combination of Snooki and The Situation,” Ya-Ya Delight said on the dance floor of the popular gay nightspot Club In Or Out in Hammonton, N.J., on Saturday night. “I smash it up in the club and get all the guys.”
The tall 25 year old – with shoulders broad enough for the NFL and a low-cut black evening gown with hot-pink trim worthy of “Project Runway” – was one of dozens of members of the LGBT community who flocked to this tiny farming community Saturday night for an open casting call for a prospective reality show.
The show, currently dubbed “Under the Boardwalk,” plans to focus on a group of LGBT people living in a beach house in Atlantic City for a summer.
“We're not looking to create a gay version of the ‘Jersey Shore’ or to find ‘the gay Snooki.’ And in no way will this be anything that has a negative effect on the LGBT community. We’re hoping for anything compelling, because you never know what’s going to walk through the door,” said Los Angeles resident Kate Siegel, the show’s creator and a straight 22-year-old English major at Princeton University.
“But if we do find ‘the gay Snooki,’ of course we’d be thrilled,” interjected her mother, co-producer and TV veteran Kim Friedman. “We want this to be a fun, crazy show. But these are people’s children. They could be your family or your neighbor’s family. We want to tell their stories.”
However, many of the people who answered the casting call had one thing on their mind – “Which Jersey Shore cast member am I?”
“I'm like a mix between Ronnie and JWoww,” said Jose Corrigan, a hulking gay 26-year-old from Deptford. “I've got Ronnie's body and JWoww's personality.”
Corrigan is an aspiring fashion designer who attended the casting call with Ya-Ya Delight, a part-time drag performer, because they work the same day job – waiting tables at Red Lobster.
“It's about time someone is doing a show like this, but I think a better name for it would be ‘Jersey Fruit,’” Corrigan joked.
Von Allena only needed to hear a one-sentence radio promo to know that he would be making the trip up from Washington, D.C., for the casting call.
“It asked: ‘Are you the gay Snooki?’ And I was like: ‘Hell yes I am!’” said Allena, a 22-year-old Bergen County native, while glaring into a full-length mirror he brought with him and spraying a cloud of hairspray on his already-quaffed hair. “I’m just going to be myself. But I’m going to take a shot of Bacardi before I go in. It was only $3.17, so it was a bargain. And we’re listening to Beyonce, because she’s really my inspiration.”
If Allena's parents ever see him on the show, it will be how they learn that he is gay.
“Oh, they don’t know yet,” he said while glancing briefly up from the mirror. “But I figure I’d be able to walk up to them and be like: ‘Here’s a check. Want to judge me now?’”
But not all of the reality hopefuls were eccentric.
Staten Island resident Victoria Bevilacqua quietly waited for her turn to audition on the dance floor, sipping from a bottle of Corona and conducting last-minute makeup checks.
“I heard about this on the Internet and wanted to be part of it because I wanted to support my community. So I went out and got a new outfit, put on some makeup and now I’m here,” said Bevilacqua, 24. “But I think I'd be good for it, because I’m pretty, I'm oozing with personality and I know how to have a good time.”
The Los Angeles and New York-based producers acknowledged that Hammonton – a close-knit, heavily Italian-American and Roman Catholic community – was a strange place to conduct the first of several planned auditions. The other planned locations included New York, Philadelphia and Atlantic City.
“We looked on the Internet and found out that Hammonton was home to one of the only gay nightclubs in all of South Jersey. It was very surprising,” Friedman said. “But we came here a few times to scout it out, and we fell in love with it.”
“In fact, this building used to be a church,” Siegel said of Club In Or Out. “It's definitely an unusual location.”
Mayor Steve DiDonato voiced no opposition to the planned show or the kind of attention it would bring to the sleepy town if it is featured in the show.
“Hammonton welcomes all without prejudice,” he said.
And, for many of Saturday’s hopefuls, that was a good thing.
“I couldn't live here. It’s not big enough for my ego,” Allena said. “But I'd definitely come back here, especially in the summer time. I hear they have great blueberries.”