With his heavily gelled blowout, ever-present ear-to-ear grin, and creative lexicon, Jersey Shore's Rhode Island guido has become one of the record-breaking show's most likeable castmembers. On the eve of Thursday night's third-season finale, the DJ-cum-reality-TV star chats with Marlow Stern about his beef with The Situation, bonding with Justin Bieber, being oldest in the Jersey Shore cast, his MTV spinoff, and more!
MTV's reality series Jersey Shore has become a certified cultural phenomenon. The third-season premiere in January drew an astonishing 8.45 million viewers, setting the record as MTV's most-watched telecast ever—only to be eclipsed by the season's second episode, with 8.6 million, and then the third, with 8.9 million. Its season finale, which airs Thursday night, could see the show outdoing itself yet again.
The show follows the lives of eight self-described "guido/guidette" housemates summering together in Seaside Heights, New Jersey (with the second season set in Miami, and the soon-to-be shot fourth in Italy). Developed by SallyAnn Salsano, Jersey Shore initially drew criticism from several Italian-American groups, as well as NJ Gov. Chris Christie, for both reinforcing negative Italian-American stereotypes and giving New Jersey's beaches a bad name. But its ever-increasing popularity has silenced its naysayers.
With his hair gelled in spikes, Italian flag tattoos, and ever-present smile, DJ Pauly D has emerged as a fan favorite, leading him to become the first castmember with his own upcoming spinoff show on MTV. The Rhode Island native has been deejaying since the age of 16 and was recently ranked the No. 8 DJ in America. On the eve of the third-season finale of Jersey Shore, the man formally known as Paul Delvecchio opened up to The Daily Beast about all things GTL.
You're known for your signature spiked-up hairstyle. How old were you when you first got it?
I've had it for a long time; it was just never this long or this crazy. I had different stages of it. I used to work at a car dealership and wear a suit every day, so it wouldn't be this crazy. I used to call it "the gentleman's blowout" and it used to be a lot shorter, but it's progressed over the years. But I've had it for over 10 years now.
Did you have any other interesting hairstyles during your teenage years?
Yeah. I had a buzz cut. I had a "Caesar" that was pushed forward. And then, when I was really young, I had long hair that was parted in the middle—real smooth-looking. [Laughs]
“I look back at my elementary or high school pictures and I always had gel in my hair and a gold chain that I would wear outside my shirt. That’s how I was born and raised as an Italian male, and I always considered myself a guido.”
I guess no one's really born a "guido," right? So I'm curious when the transformation happened for you.
Um… It never really was a transformation. I look back at my elementary or high school pictures and I always had gel in my hair and a gold chain that I would wear outside my shirt. That's how I was born and raised as an Italian male, and I always considered myself a guido, anyway.
Several Jersey Shore cast members aren't even Italian, right?
[Pause] Yeah. Ronnie is half-Italian. JWoww I don't think is any. Snooki isn't. I know she's Chilean or something, I'm not really sure. Me, Sitch, Vinny, and Deena are. But it all goes back to like, "Oh, some of you guys aren't from Jersey Shore." We know that. The show isn't about Italians living on Jersey Shore; it's about kids renting a Jersey Shore house from the New England/Tri-State area. A lot of us aren't from Jersey, and a lot of us aren't Italian, but that's not what it's about.
I've heard that you're quite the "Belieber."
[Laughs] I'm a fan! I can't help it!
I watched a deleted scene from the show where it's revealed that your hairstyle actually looks a lot like Justin Bieber's patented comb-over when it's not gelled up.
[Laughs] Yeah. It's funny... I even played him for Halloween so I just didn't do my hair! It's the same haircut—that he used to have, anyway. He's cool. He's like a friend of mine now. He's a good kid and has a lot of talent. I play his music in the clubs. I see him at all the awards, and I did a commercial for his movie out in L.A. We just talk through Twitter and text and stuff like that since his management's friends with my management.
Besides Bieber, who else are you spinning at the clubs?
I like to play all the pop hits. I'm playing Britney, I'm playing Gaga, I'm playing Rihanna. Chris Brown has some new stuff out now. I'm playing Usher and Pitbull. I like dance-y tracks that really gets the crowd moving—high-energy stuff.
Is there any artist you absolutely will not play, under any circumstances?
[Laughs] I don't know. I like to play weird stuff. I have an unorthodox style so I'll play some rock or slow music, whatever it takes. Something that I definitely wouldn't play? I don't play any country or anything like that, that's for sure.
Speaking of the South, you guys are the "Kings of Seaside," but in the second season you headed to Miami, where you were sort of smaller fishes in a bigger celebrity pond. Was it a much different vibe?
Yeah, Miami was definitely a totally different vibe in terms of tourists, and we were really out of our element over there. But we just did us.
It seemed like there were more than a few instances in Miami where girls would come back to the house with you guys, but would only do it seemingly to reject you on camera.
In terms of girls trying to get on camera, that wasn't the case at all. We brought a lot of girls back, and just The Situation ruined it for me. That was it.
It seems like you and Situation really had a falling out in Miami.
I wouldn't say it was a "falling out." It was just the fact that he's not a good wingman. Me and Vinny know the deal, so him and I go out now and just get it done.
You two have very different approaches to picking up girls. The Situation is really aggressive—literally picking up girls and placing them on counters—and you're more of a smooth operator.
Yeah. I got the Pauly D swag. He doesn't have that, so that's the problem. But sometimes that works to my advantage because they'll see how aggressive he is with them, and they'll say, "Oh, I should have went with him [The Situation]" or "I'm glad I'm with Pauly."
So is that why you retired Situation as your wingman and recruited Vinny?
Yeah, exactly why. We're out to just have a good time—no drama—at the club, meet new people, and take advantage of everything the summer has to offer. So that's what me [and Vinny] did.
It seems like Situation's role as an instigator has steadily evolved from the first season to the present, and now he's just this crazy catalyst for fights.
It's weird because all I know how to do is be myself. I treat the guys in the house like my friends back home, and they treat me the same way—it's like that with Ronnie and Vinny... I just don't get it with Situation. He's always trying to instigate and stuff like that, and my friends back home don't do that. My friends back home will play the wingman game and he doesn't. I just see him for what he is. I'm not mad. It is what it is. I just block that out and I don't want to get involved in it.
Do you think Situation is almost trying to assume the "villain" role on the show?
I think so—a little bit. I think that's the only card that he has to play so maybe that's what he's doing. I'm not really sure. I don't hate the kid. I'm still friends with him… it's just if that's what he chooses to do, that's what he chooses to do. I just choose to have fun and be myself.
I know that, at 30, you're technically the most senior member of the Jersey Shore house, but it seems as though Mike is the de facto leader of the household. When you're out at the clubs, you all seem to be running on "Situation Time," i.e. when he wants to leave, he rounds you all up and you leave.
[Laughs] The only thing is, with the television show, we are filming so we have to leave in somewhat of a group—we can't leave alone—so he'll just nag and nag and nag until everybody leaves. We never want to leave. All we want to do is party, party, party. We don't actually listen to him until it is in fact time to leave, but they always show him going, "I want to leave!" But nobody really listens to him.
Regarding the show's editing, it seems to show you guys getting shut down a lot by girls—around half the time. Is that tricky editing and you guys are really scoring nine times out of 10, or if that's a reality?
They're very selective about what airs and what doesn't, and I guess they just decided to air that angle. But that stuff did happen, so it's all real and there's no script. But they film 400 hours for every one hour of TV time, so a lot of stuff is going to get cut out, you know?
What's your favorite memory from filming the third season that didn't make the final cut?
We used to go to the boardwalk to the stores and buy kites to fly them on the beach, and we'd have kite wars where we'd make our kites fight each other's. Me and Vinny would have a blast in that. The ladies in production got a kick out of it, too—they thought we were nuts because we'd be running around having our kites fight people, hitting people on the beach by accident.
One of your most interesting storylines this season has been the return of "Danielle the Stalker." What's her deal?
Man. She is crazy! Ever since Season 1, like, she is a stalker. She followed me to Rhode Island when I went home, and she was coming to the clubs that I used to spin at when I got back there, so I knew she was crazy. So I blocked her on all the social media—Twitter, Facebook—and we filmed Miami. [When] I heard we were going back to Jersey Shore, the only thing I was worried about was Danielle 'cause I heard she was still going to be at the Jersey Shore. I didn't know how she was going to act. I don't do anything bad to girls—wasn't going to hit her or anything—but I had this plan to clown on her a little bit and show that she's a stalker, so I brought the ["I Love Jewish Girls"] shirt with me, brought her to the house, and let people see how bad of a stalker she is. So me and Vinny made fun of her a bit.
I'm curious about your relationship with JWoww. You two seemed to have really magnetic chemistry in the first season, but it's really teetered off since. What happened there?
[Laughs] No, we were definitely attracted to each other and we did what we did the first time in Jersey. We became close friends and roommates, and I'm not really attracted to her in that way anymore. She's a good friend, and she's got a boyfriend right now. [She's] just a friend.
And what is the deal with Ronnie and Sam?
It's tough. It really is. I always say I'm so stressed out from their relationship that I don't need one. I'm good being single 'cause I don't want to be like that. I always try to put myself in other people's shoes, like, "Imagine what it would be like to have your relationship be put on camera," and I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I just don't think they're made for each other.
Do you guys want them off the show? They seem to detract from a lot of your partying and good times.
Nah. We wouldn't do that. But we definitely think they need to move on.
Let's talk about your spinoff show on MTV. I heard you've completed filming the pilot, so what is it about?
The concept is my life. Before Jersey Shore, I was a DJ struggling to promote, deejaying six nights a week and hustling to pack clubs. And then, all of a sudden, I got on this television show. [So it's] how my life's changed, and deejaying now [has changed]. Maybe [I'll] bring some of my friends along that have been with me since day one. It kind of reminds me of an Entourage-type thing, all the antics that I get myself into.
Are any of the Jersey Shore cast members going to join you on the spinoff? And when is it airing?
Maybe. I hope so. But I'm not really sure yet. And they never let us know times or anything like that. I know we're filming the next season [of Jersey Shore] in Italy, but I don't know when. And I don't even know exactly where. But I think it's better that we don't know, and I don't even question it anymore because of the ratings.
So are you excited for Season 4 in Italy?
I've never been to Italy, so when I heard we were going to Italy I was like, "This is perfect. I've always wanted to go." I look at it like it's a vacation, and I get to see where I came from. I have family in Italy that my mother keeps in contact with, but I don't because I don't speak Italian.
Are you worried about going over to Italy and striking out with girls because of language barriers, etc.?
Absolutely. We're really out of our element in Italy. I don't know where the spots are, and I don't know how the girls are, so they might be cold to us. You never know. Plus, big language barrier, you're right. I'm hoping it works out!
Is the entire cast from Season 3 going to return for Season 4?
I think so. I think everybody's coming.
I was flipping through the New York Post a few months back and they had you sitting courtside at the Knicks game next to Big Love star Chloë Sevigny and all the gossip blogs said you two were dating. Has it been difficult managing your newfound fame, and all that comes with it?
I guess just weird things like that. I just went to that game and happened to sit next to her, and they said that we're dating. If I tweet at Kim Kardashian, they say that we're dating. So if you just talk to somebody, they say that you're dating! That's new to me. But I get good perks. I mean, I got those seats!
I heard that you just landed a DJ residency at the Palms Hotel & Casino in Vegas, which is a big deal in the DJ game. Congratulations!
Thank you. I take it very seriously. It's always been a dream of mine to deejay in these venues, but you have to be legitimate. So Jersey Shore gave me the exposure, but I have to prove myself in these venues. I've been spending a year and a half touring all over the world doing that, and the fact that I got the residency in Vegas legitimizes me even more 'cause they only book the best DJs there, like DJ A.M. and Jazzy Jeff. I remember my first interview after I did Jersey Shore, they asked me what I wanted to do next, and I said, "I want to deejay all over the world, show them that I'm a good DJ, and I would love to deejay in Las Vegas and follow in DJ A.M.'s footsteps." And now, I did that and have his residency that he used to have.
So what's left for Pauly D to conquer?
I still want to continue my deejaying and do a tour, work on some music and maybe do an album. And I'd like to do a movie, but play myself like DJ A.M. did in Iron Man 2. I'd love to do that. Just take it day-by-day and hope that more good stuff comes my way.
The Season 3 finale of 'Jersey Shore' airs on MTV Thursday, March 24, at 10 p.m. EST.
Marlow Stern works for The Daily Beast and has a master's from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He has served in the editorial department of Blender magazine, as an editor at Amplifier magazine, and, since 2007, editor of Manhattan Movie Magazine.