Keeping It Real in Ocean Beach?

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ABC’s One Ocean View Invades Fire Island and leaves some locals with a bad taste on reality TV.

Reality TV has arrived at Fire Island beaches. The line has been drawn in the sand. On one side, the Fire Island community that vehemently opposes the show, believing it will ruin Fire Island’s privacy. On the other side, the Fire Island business owners and Fire Island real estate landlords, who enthusiastically support the show for its potential to lure tourists - and their dollars.

Everyone in between is playing volleyball, swimming in the ocean, and sunning themselves on beautiful Fire Island beaches - not giving the show a second thought. But the significance of this Fire Island Real World knockoff could have a huge impact on residents, renters, and visitors alike - leaving a lot less room to relax on Fire Island beaches.

One Ocean View, ABC’s Fire Island reality show, debuted on July 31st. For the past few months, One Ocean View has been filming in Ocean Beach, Fire Island. The show’s premise is a predictable reality TV formula: put 20-somethings in a house. Roll cameras. Wait for stuff to happen. Of course, the true reality of this Fire Island reality show is equally predictable.

"A lot of the events are staged," says Max, a Fire Island ferry dock worker. "I’ve seen the crew give the cast direction and tell them to repeat ‘lines’ over and over again."

"None of this is reality," agrees Adrienne, another Fire Island ferry dock worker. But Adrienne believes that the One Ocean View cast has been anything but bothersome. "They keep to themselves pretty much; they seem like nice people - they’re friendly."

"My friend played the cast at basketball and ping pong," Max chimes in. "For $100! My friend won."

Fun, friendliness, and malleable reality aside, the show’s presence in Ocean Beach might catalyze a flood of new Fire Island visitors who wish to see in person what they’ve watched on TV. Early indications suggest that the influx of reality TV junkie tourists may be massive - the first wave of reality TV sightseers has already begun - and One Ocean View hasn’t even made its television debut yet.

"People really want to be on the show or be around it," Adrienne observes. "I’ve noticed a lot of young people coming over asking ‘Is that show around? Are they filming here?’ I think the show has already boosted tourism."

Fire Island residents and renters alike cringe at the ramifications of this tourism surge. But to Fire Island businesses, the influx means more tourism dollars. Steve, who works at the Athletic Turtle, notes that One Ocean View will introduce Fire Island to a whole new "day tripper" crowd.

"Day trippers come to the beach, go to lunch, maybe do a little shopping," Steve comments. "It’s lovely; most of our business comes from day trippers.

The close-knit, insular nature of Ocean Beach’s residents and renters makes it easy to gauge popular public opinion. Ocean Beach has a powerful "buzz," and on the One Ocean View topic, that buzz is deafening - this is big Fire Island news. The inside scoop? Few, if any, of the residents or summer renters wanted the show to happen. Overwhelmingly, there is a feeling that locals wish to avoid notoriety; they wish to preserve Fire Island’s quiet privacy.

"Fire Island’s appeal is that it’s a little world that nobody knows about," comments another Fire Island rental tenant. "We want to keep it secretive and inaccessible to the masses."

An Ocean Beach policeman verified that local residents are "getting tired of cameras," cast, and crew. While no major incidents have surrounded the show’s filming, the Ocean Beach policeman did note that locals’ resentment culminated in a clash with the One Ocean View crew; reportedly, locals instigated the confrontation. Fortunately for cast and crew, one member of Ocean Beach’s small police force had been assigned to watch out for their safety.

Signs of TV nation colonization escalated around the One Ocean View house. Crew members lugging equipment were prevalent, commandeering the walkways in their quest to capture drama on film. Two attractive One Ocean View girls stood on the walkway that runs alongside the Ocean Beach ballfield. They had bags and large suitcases on wheels at their sides, indicating the shoot of their dramatic departure. Cameras and boom mics surrounded them as they stood and chatted.

The scene that unfolded spoke volumes, as the self-absorption of cast and crew reflected a microcosm of the show at large. To those involved with making a television show, Fire Island residents appear to be a mere afterthought; even an obstacle to getting a good shoot.

As the reality girls chatted in the walkway, locals and renters pulling wagons laden with groceries and luggage were forced to steer around the crew. One "reality girl" noticed she was in the way, and apologized for this inconvenience . . . but she didn’t move. Nor did the cameras, nor did crew. I asked one wagon-puller if he minded their presence. "It doesn’t really bother me, but I am a renter," he said. "If I were a Fire Island resident, I’d be ticked off."

The One Ocean View house is a beautiful waterfront Fire Island rental property. Cameras and crew are visible on its balconies, and one cast member is tying balloon bouquets outside, presumably for a going away party - the cast left Fire Island around July 5th. The scene is quiet, but the presence of several intimidating guards in blue shirts marked "SECURITY" feels out-of-place on this Fire Island beach, where relaxation and peace are primary pastimes. In a few short days the security guards, cast, and crew will be gone - leaving an uncertain future in their wake.

Only time will reveal One Ocean View’s impact. One savvy renter pointed out that the show’s impact will depend on what kind of people the show chooses to feature. The cast are actors, despite their "reality" label - the kind of people who project even the most private conversation so that all around them will hear.

As I stood near the girls of One Ocean View, checking on my camera, I overheard one Fire Island reality TV girl say, "It’s hot out here. I am so hot. I could take all my clothes off right now. I would be cool with that. That’s how hot I am."

Ocean Beach, meet your future inhabitants.

You can see more about this story and Fire Island on the web at http://www.fireisland.com/news.htm

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Brendan Smith

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