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

The psychic was right. On September 22, 2010, producers learned that Bridge & Tunnel was officially shelved. One week later, longtime MTV execs Tony DiSanto and Liz Gateley announced their departure from the network.

As the president of programming, DiSanto oversaw the zeitgeists of Jersey Shore and 16 and Pregnant. The former had just wrapped shooting its third season; and now the latter's second season would debut on Tuesday, October 26, 2010, filling Bridge & Tunnel's time slot.

"It was probably the best thing that it didn't air," says DJ Johnny Feva. "The show is pretty much what you would expect," wrote the blog Staten Island Dump. "Staten Islanders acting like assholes. Thank Jesus that your children don't have to grow up in a world where these people represent their hometown." (The Staten Island Borough President's Office would not respond to requests for comment.)

Reportedly, the reasoning behind dismissing Bridge & Tunnel at the eleventh hour was that the premise was now too similar to Jersey Shore's. The network supposedly didn't want to be the next Bravo, a business built on programming franchises like Real Housewives and Top Chef. Then, this past April, under a new regime, MTV would announce that it had greenlit two 12-episode Jersey Shore spin-offs, one starring Pauly D and one co-starring Snooki and JWoww. The following month, the Situation landed a separate development deal with the station. (MTV representatives could not be reached for comment.)

At first, the DeBartoli sisters bought a laptop and started a Bridge & Tunnel Facebook fan page. They gained 10 pounds. They didn’t realize they were still contractually forbidden from talking publicly about Bridge & Tunnel even though it didn't air, so they spoke about it on camera. “The trailer does look like all we do is hook up with a bunch of guys and punch people in the face,” Brianna told Chance TV. “I look like the bitch, it’s terrible,” Gabriella acknowledged grinning.

But they're innately stars. Brianna was recently approached for another reality show. "It was about this guido girl trying to not be a guido anymore," she recalls. "She had to stop drinking, stop smoking, start covering up her boobs—and I had to be the best friend that was like the bad influence on her." The idea was stupid, Brianna thought, but she couldn't consider it either way. Both Gabriella and Michelle have been approached to model, but had to refuse. Even though the show wasn't broadcast, contracted B&T cast members did get paid between $1,500 and $2,000 an episode. But the DeBartolis still had to find jobs. Brianna called and confirmed food orders at MyPizza.com until quitting this past Saturday. "That's pretty much what I'm doing with my life since the show has left. I just went downhill." (Within two days, she scored a new job as a restaurant bartender.)

"I just recently completely left the hair industry—I'm over it," Gabriella says. We’re back at E Squared. "Until I figure out my next move," she explains, "I'm an executive assistant ... CEO ... some administrative—some pretty word for a secretary."

"Administrative assistant?" offers Brianna helpfully.

"CEO is in it!" Gabriella insists. "Whatever it is, I like it—it sounds classy!"

Gabby and Michelle Ippolito are now famous friends. Michelle works in a Manhattan entertainment law office. She just got engaged to 27-year-old Adam, a Duke grad who once had a blowout and says he frustratingly gets mistaken for the Situation even though he's far better looking; so far two reality dating shows have solicited the couple, including the one that hatched Snooki. Joe Bonomo attends New York Law full-time, clerks for a Kings County judge, hits the gym twice a day, and recently bought a Harley. Jimmy Gambardella, whose Twitter handle is @LadykillerJMG, toils away in construction, earns $150 plus tips a night to dance at sweet-16 parties, and recently auditioned for an American Pie reunion, but didn't get the part.

Brianna still aspires to be a music producer. Her MTV persona would have made that easier. "Now I have no connections. I have no money. I'm working a dead-end job to get the money to live my dream. I'm back to before I got that phone call. Screaming at the mall. I should have kept my job." She's all too aware of her situation. "It was all a big tease."

Gabriella believes this is just a temporary setback. "We still have these dreams. We're still gonna get them. It's just a slower process."

Brianna is engaged, not to Timmy, but Billy Bonamo. They met last December 4, her birthday eve, at Staten Island's Lava Lounge. Billy was drunk, he hit on her, and she thought he was cute. Four months later, Billy proposed. They were arguing about a male buddy she'd kissed before they met. She tried to drive away in her Scion but had an anxiety attack. "I'm in the midst of breaking up with him," Brianna remembers. Standing by her headlight, Billy beckoned her over. "I'm like, 'Why do you need to see me right now? I'm yelling at you!' " Billy descended to one knee, pulled out a ring, and said, verbatim: "Shut. The Fuck. Up. And Marry Me." Brianna said yes.

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