Meet the Original JWoww and Snooki, Would-Be Stars of Bridge & Tunnel

Brianna and Gabriella almost escaped from Staten Island. But MTV pulled the plug on the original Jersey Shore

Meet the Original JWoww and Snooki, Would-Be Stars of <i>Bridge & Tunnel</i>
all photos by Chad Griffith
Getting ready for their close-up: Brianna and Gabriella DeBartoli. More photos of Brianna and Gabriella DeBartoli here.

The first time Brianna and Gabriella DeBartoli made plans to meet for this article, they canceled on account of a hangover. "Hey so my sister is, um ... detoxing?" Brianna wrote over Facebook that morning. "And can't leave the house." It was Mother's Day.

This is the sort of introduction you'd expect from two sisters first delivered to the world screaming, sobbing, slapping, carousing, clubbing, and cursing on Perez Hilton's trash-culture site last fall. On October 6, 2010, the Queen of All Media posted an "Exclusive!" video of Bridge & Tunnel, a reality series about Staten Island kids for which MTV filmed 12 episodes, but execs inexplicably canceled a month before its long-incubated premiere.

"We implore them to RECONSIDER," Perez pleaded. The accompanying trailer showed male cast members shaving their chests, swinging fists, and double-team sucking on a beer-funnel shaped like breasts. Their female counterparts said "youse" instead of "you," complimented one another's cleavage, and tossed drinks in peoples' faces. "Prepare to meet the classiest bitches along the New York Thruway!" Perez declared. "They make Angelina"—a widely despised twice-discarded Jersey Shore shrew who's parlayed her trashy Z-list fame into a TNA wrestling spot—"look like Michelle Obama!"

The leaked clip was deliberately sensational, a highlight reel of emotionally exaggerated explosions designed to distract MTV execs away from their hot-tub-and-hair-gel juggernaut Jersey Shore. But even in that minute-plus montage, Brianna and Gabriella DeBartoli were the undeniable stars. Gabriella, the endlessly preening elder sibling, enunciated like a sexy Fran Drescher, teetered around in heels and a tiara to Beyoncé's "Diva," and said amazingly quotable things like, "I can't really date Staten Island boys—I've dated all of them." Brianna, her street-smart little sister, smoked adorably and flipped people off. The trailer closed with the younger blonde bidding, "Have a good night! Fuck yooooooou!"

Fisticuffs, tans, the melodrama of youth—it certainly seems like MTV's bread and cocoa butter. And it was. Rough drafts of the show had been floating around the Viacom property since 2008. In fact, Bridge & Tunnel was presented, piloted, and sold to MTV before Jersey Shore ever aired. But while Bridge & Tunnel evolved real-time as the story of thickly accented working-class kids struggling to get off Staten Island and to make it in Manhattan—it was the anti-Hills, a blue-collar rebuttal to the grossly loaded California clan that begat plastic-surgery monster Heidi Montag—another show with similar accented archetypes rebooted under the MTV banner in 2009. Jersey Shore funneled eight self-identified guidos and guidettes to a "Nu Joisy" vacation house, where their sole ambition seemed to be disgracing Italian-Americans. The results were slapped on air by the year's close, and faster than one of Snooki's juicing gorillas, the original Bridge & Tunnel cast watched caricatures of themselves become White House–hold names.

In a sense, the DeBartoli sisters are the original JWoww and Snooki: sharper, prettier, kinder, more discriminating, less scatological, but no less entertaining. They, too, tease their hair and speak at high volume. They, too, vacation in Atlantic City. They, too, are owned by MTV, though you'd never know: While Bridge & Tunnel hangs in programming purgatory, the DeBartolis are hamstrung by Draconian network contracts that reportedly don't allow them to have agents or managers or even talk about any of this publicly for five years. So while JWoww shills her own black bronzer line and Snooki slams into Italian police cars for $100,000 an episode, Gabriella and Brianna have been working respectively as a secretary and a pizza-order girl in Staten Island.

The papers they signed as passports off Staten Island are effectively keeping them there.

"I want MTV to know that what they did was not right," says Brianna and Gabriella's mother, Linda Vitale, who lives in Las Vegas with her daughters' stepfather, Mario. "They can't say this, but I can: 'To hell with MTV!' "

You won't find the Bridge & Tunnel pilot that persuaded MTV to spend millions shooting an entire season anywhere. But such internal pitches circulate among industry back channels, and the Voice scavenged a copy. It is excellent and heartfelt, a verité testament to lower-middle-class insularity that conjures Saturday Night Fever's desperate ennui. Here are the first 10 seconds: "I'm from Staten Island a/k/a Drama Island," says Robby, a young man with a metal chain outside of his shirt. Another voice, belonging to a baseball-capped young man with steely eyes, adds soberly, "What we're all lookin' ta do is get out of heah."

Their biggest obstacle is inertia. Like with Timmy. As we learn in the next 28 minutes, Timmy once watched his friend J.D. get stabbed in the lung (it wasn't fatal), and the crisis made him want to be a paramedic. After telling everyone with ears that he's enrolled in EMT training, he procrastinates the application process so long that the fall deadline passes. Ambulance-technician training represented Timmy "getting his act together," so when he breaks the news to his Christian mother, reassuring her that he'll "just get a car, be a pizza dude" until the winter semester, she is indignant. "Why do you have to settle for that?" she protests. "Why can't you just get another job? Like, Wendy's?" Robby, whose father is a firemen, wants to be a millionaire. In the meantime, he's a party motivator—a PG-rated stripper—and one night cameras follow him to the Staten Island Hotel, where he strips down to black pants and a bowtie, and gyrates with feather-boa-festooned women who tuck singles into his waistline. It's all very 21st-century Tony Manero. In the longer term, Robby thinks that financial advisory is the path to Corvettes and Floridian property, so he seeks counsel from a professionally successful friend who tells Robby to read the Wall Street Journal. Instead, he sits on his bed and counts his cash.

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47 comments
VectoriaBac
VectoriaBac

I just paíd $20.87 for an íPad 2.64GB and my boyfriend loves his Panasoníc Lumíx GF 1 Cámera that we got for $38.79 there arriving tomorrow by UP S.I will never pay such expensive retail príces in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LCD T V to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from : BidsBit.com

Christopher12
Christopher12

The start-up cost for my entire brewing kit was just over $200, but I do believe I did get a couple of things I didn't necessarily need at the time. Essentially it comes down to ingredients and materials. The materials are the bulk of your costs up front. But the idea is that you can reuse most, if not all, of your materials for future batches. Google was my friend in helping me find a local home brew shop here in Fullerton, Ca. I found Addison Homebrew Provisions to be a very helpful in gathering the best materials for my first brew.

NYCPex
NYCPex

I'm frankly surprised MTV hasn't aired this yet. Barbaric baboons with no manners and less sense behaving badly? It's their M.O. I mean, the nation's appetite for drunk bimbos taking their hair extensions out and diving into a swimming pool in their dresses has not yet been sated. C'mon, MTV, you can't deprive of us this.

Seriously, if you want to see a documentary about misbehaving chimps, just see "Project Nim."

Ted Ball
Ted Ball

I moved to staten island from miami and could'nt move away fast enough, the people there are the biggest bunch of morons you'll ever have the displeasure of encountering,every italian kid thinks he's connected and the girls idea of a great guy is some gym rat that drives an olds 88with dark glass and 20 inch rims. who's a mamas boy.I actually had one of these guys come to my front door and ask me to shovel in front of my home so he could park his car there so he would'nt have to park in the lot of his condominium complex..

tre
tre

as much as i would love to see mtv put on a show that is tasteful, it isnt going to happen...look what they allow on now. these kids arent the first or last of disgraceful humans mtv will parade around for millions of dollars. they do look entertaining though smh

sal
sal

joe bonomo is meant to be on tv... "im not the situation, more like a solution"

jake b
jake b

I had some classes at NYU with Michelle and she's absolutely fabulous. Smart, gorgeous girl...YOU GO MICHELLE!

love,jake b

jt rockland
jt rockland

staten island has way too many characters, these people really exist? so funny, would love to meet the cast

laurie XOX
laurie XOX

is there still hope for this to air? HOPE SO!!!! looks amazing.

james g
james g

staten island like everywhere else in the world has all kinds of people...this show actually shows that. it isnt just guidos in a house worrying about partying. you have people in relationships, working, in school, trying to make it big in business or whatever and then yeah, you have some people you can make fun of....def has it all, 100%

Chriz
Chriz

dis show is guna be huge

Brooklyn123
Brooklyn123

this show looks so funny, i looked at the trailer and i can't wait for it to air

David Roldan
David Roldan

These 2 girl's are absolutely GROSS ! Two giraffes with big lips.

Joanne R. Pacicca
Joanne R. Pacicca

Honestly, this is a question for the straight men... are you really truly attracted to women like these Jersey girls? Do you find them likable? Please vent...

james g
james g

did you even real the article? the whole premise was showing who this people really are...a diverse group of kids with different goals and everything and most importantly they are from STATEN ISLAND not jersey

Brooklyn123
Brooklyn123

jersey isn't staten island, different states different girls

Thiet ke to gap
Thiet ke to gap

I find programming that many people hate so much is wrong

CaliInTexas
CaliInTexas

GARBAGE!!!!!! MTV is trash...they need to change the name to TTV (trash tv) they have NOTHING to do with MUSIC any longer.

james g
james g

you really took nothing away from the article, huh? saying people are trash is 1. terrible and 2. the whole premise of the story was showing that there is more to these people than the trailer...come on

Brooklyn123
Brooklyn123

this show stopped filming last year and it still makes front page! come one MTV wake up, this show obviously has something special

Guest
Guest

people are such haters, this show looks amazing

Guest
Guest

AIR THIS SHOW

rob k
rob k

real people, real life...THAT WOULD BE DIFFERENT FOR MTV. wow, instead of people in houses (real world, jersey shore) or stupid scripted shows (rj whoever)...get kids people can relate to or maybe make fun of, but believe me they will be watching

Brooklyn123
Brooklyn123

soooo funny, i was just thinking the same thing.

amir
amir

unintelligence is ready a 7-page article about people and still only judging them from a minute-long trailer

amir
amir

reading* (stupid iphone)

Sakara
Sakara

more trashy, sleazy, stoopid nonsense from the filthy suit and tie millionaires that create mtv shows.

and these skanks would have gotten upwards of $100,000 an episode if the show would have became a hit.

NY TIMES BEST SELLER NEXT FOR THESE TWO!

Gmimozo
Gmimozo

This is just sad. Why are you placating such utter nonsense? This isn't news and certainly doesn't deserve a COVER story. The real news is the story of each and every Staten Islander who is actually contributing to society and not just trying to get rich quick from media outlets like MTV who have turned our Island into a joke among the masses.

As an Islander who isn't trying to "get outta heah" but who is trying to make the place I live better and earn the respect of a city who treats my home like a bastard step child who only breeds guidos and has nothing to offer the great city of New York.

Do you understand how hard it is to fight a stereotype like this? You make it extremely difficult by making this crap news. Why not come here and do some real reporting? I implore you to do so. In fact, I dare you to. I'll be your tour guide and I'll show you what Staten Island is ACTUALLY about. Because that is news. We're the little borough that could, constantly fighting an uphill battle against media outlets everywhere to stop reporting on this small minority and start investigating what life and the people who live here are really like.

Are you up for the challenge? Because I'm ready when you are.

CantAbideLiars
CantAbideLiars

This story, for one thing, is waaaaay too long.

And no matter how seriously MTV initially agrees to treat subj matter (16 and Pregnant), it eventually goes to the lowest common denominator (Teen Moms) and just grinds out stereotypes and crap.

All these commenters here begging for this show to be aired are just the cast members and their buds.

james g
james g

i know a few of these people and you really must have read the article with your eyes closed. the show shows a whole range of what staten island offers...and there are the stereotypical people, yes...but there are also people that despite their tan, accent or whatever, are really smart, motivated people. don't generalize the people in the show like you claim people generalize staten island because then you are no better

amir
amir

YOU KNOW HOW YOU "CHANGE A STEREOTYPE"????????? THROUGH YOURSELF. funny you people complain about people judging you but you will judge a group of strangers through a two second clip of their life. terrible

never look back
never look back

You can't change the stereotype. I left State Island in 92' and haven't been back. I wasn't at all surprised when Jersey Shore aired and nothing had changed. You are more than welcome to stay in an area that, indeed, breeds quidos and offers nothing. I'll be watching the show from out of state.

Mike NYC
Mike NYC

cry me a river...just seems you weren't good enough to break the SI "stereotype"....i am from SI and trust me, i am far more successful than many people from other parts of the country

Chris
Chris

what a great article and would be great show. who knew these kids had ambition and were smart and going places? shows you can't judge someone from a minute long clip!

james g
james g

at least someone admits it!

BrentMiller
BrentMiller

I just paid $22.87 for an iPad2-64GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $675 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, GrabPenny.com

niaoren
niaoren

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Guest
Guest

Amy Winehouse is dead yet these bozo's live and MTV is paying them lot's of money. The world is truly absurd.

Linlili32
Linlili32

Hello,everyone,sorry take your time a min,show a good fashion stuff

website —— www (vipstores) net —— you can input on your web there,if you

do know how to do,you can click my username and you will come

our company website,maybe you will find something your like,thanks!

 
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