Sammi Sweetheart Looks Better Than She Talks

This interview originally ran in The Groove Guide last week…

It’s a little disconcerting conversing with Sammi ‘Sweetheart’ Giancola, one of the now infamous cast of MTV’s reality series Jersey Shore. She’s not intimidating, or rude, or unpleasant in any way. She’s just somewhat robotic in her answers. Actually scratch the ‘somewhat’ and replace it with ‘completely’. And replace ‘robotic’ ‘an actual robot’. Now the sentence has lost what little grammatical integrity it possessed in the first instance. But it does convey what a bizarre, pitiless experience it is to attempt to gain anything of worth from Giancola on the telephone.

This is a shame, because she was a key participant in what was one of the most unexpected joys television threw up (occasionally literally) last year. Jersey Shore was that rarest of beasts – a reality tv show with humour, fascinating characters, a reasonable narrative, and often something rarer still – heart.

The heart was there in the way they closed ranks around Nicole ‘Snooki’ Pollizzi after the shocking attack on her, and it was equally present in the hulking homo-erotic camaraderie between Mike ‘the Situation’ Sorrentino and Paul ‘DJ Pauly D’ DelVecchio. Similarly the relationship between Giancola and her boyfriend Ronnie Ortiz-Magro was the Shore’s emotional core – through the trauma of Ortiz-Magro’s arrest and the constant, cuckolded goading of Sorrentino they clung to one another for succour. When asked to describe their relationship, though, Giancola is astoundingly vapid.

“On the Jersey Shore season one, I guess me and Ronnie just sorta had a liking for each other and we had really good fun.”

Sweetheart’s bizarre responses verged on the absurd at times, though it was never clear whether she was disinterested, reading from a script or had suffered some kind of frontal lobe damage through partying or brawling (she was up on assault charges earlier this year, though they were eventually dropped). Here are some sample opinions:

Giancola on whether the person she saw on screen on Jersey Shore tallied with her own self-image: “I’m very, very 100% true to myself, so I definitely feel like it was me portrayed as myself.”

Giancola on whether the predominantly New Yorker cast – she was the only native – knew what they were getting themselves in for on the Jersey Shore: “I feel like some knew what it was about. Other hadn’t really been to the Jersey Shore.prior to the show.”

Giancola (who was at university on a soccer scholarship prior to her appearing on the show) on Italy’s draw with New Zealand at the FIFA World Cup:
“Oh”

Giancola on her attraction to the juicehead/tanning culture which was such a huge part of the guido/guidette experience that fed the show’s popularity:
“I do enjoy being tanned. I don’t know why. I just feel like I love the beach.”

All these answers were delivered in the same blank, semi-buoyant monotone, all the more remarkable for the contrast to the way her on-screen persona was frequently so heated and confrontational.

But while the interview was crashingly dull, the show is anything but. Every character has some element to their persona which is spectacularly entertaining: The Situation’s rampant libido and extreme passive-aggressive posturing; J-Woww’s scarcely contained aggression and plunging necklines; Vinnie’s eyebrows.

Soon enough they’re returning to our screens. At first the prospect of the same cast reprising the formula after the deluge of fame and cult fandom the past year has provided seemed strange, if not downright ridiculous.

As the idea has settled though there seems to have been a consensus reached that the show must go on. It cannot die, and no others could step into their shoes. We miss them, too. We miss their crazy acronyms (GTL – Gym, Tanning, Laundry) and hyper-sexual dancing. We miss the hard house music, the duck phone, the ‘grenades’. We need them back in our lives.

And even if the cast can barely communicate outside of their own community, the prospect of being amongst the ‘family’ (a word Giancola mentions no less than 15 times during our ten minute interview – seriously, I counted) again fills me with an idiot joy. I guess it’s time to head back to the spa…

The Jersey Shore Night Out is happening over the next few nights around the Auckland region. I’m going, because it’s going to be amazing.

– Duncan

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