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N.J. Divided Over MTV Beach House

May 16, 1998

SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (AP) _ Nearly six years after an MTV-sponsored beach concert ended in violence and arrests, the music network is again setting up shop at the shore.

And the idea of television crews taking over a two-story vacation home on the Boardwalk for the summer isn’t playing well with people who live here.

For nearly a month, they’ve watched as the music video channel has been converting a beach block house into ``The MTV Summer Share,″ a television production studio that will serve as MTV’s remote location all summer.

Borough officials call it a coup that will bring millions of dollars worth of unpaid advertising to the town and its honky-tonk Boardwalk.

Residents are worried about curiosity seekers clogging traffic _ or worse.

They don’t want a repeat of what happened six years ago in Belmar, where fights broke out following an oceanfront rap concert. Shop windows were smashed and cars were vandalized. Twenty-eight people were arrested.

``The place is gridlocked as it is in summer,″ resident Darrell Salter said. ``With MTV in town, it’ll bring in that many more thousands of people.″

The 40-person production crew arrived here in late April and has leased two buildings on a beach block next to the Boardwalk.

One is being used as offices, and the other is being renovated to add a wraparound porch, above-ground pool and 15-by-25-foot ``Summer Share″ backdrop. The pool and a basketball court are being erected on the street itself.

``Summer Share,″ an MTV fixture since 1993, serves as the network’s studio for the summer. Last year, it was in Rancho Palos Verde, Calif.

``We’re trying to do what people do,″ said Bob Kusbit, senior vice president for production. ``Most of America gets a week or two of vacation and packs up and goes to the beach. We wanted a nice, warm vacation spot, someplace we could sit on the beach and walk the Boardwalk like the rest of America.″

Veejays will introduce videos from the site, celebrities will drop in for interviews or ``minor performances,″ and a dance party is scheduled to be filmed Thursday, but all the activity is for the cameras and the TV audience, not the passersby, Kusbit said.

``Hundreds to thousands″ of locals will be cast in roles on the set through the summer, either as dancers, members of the network’s ``12 Angry Viewers″ video review panel or other jobs, he said.

Security guards and a Seaside Heights police officer will maintain 24-hour security at the site, borough spokesman Michael Redpath said.

Visitors will be welcome to have a look at the site, but shouldn’t expect to see concerts.

``Don’t come thinking that because you saw Keith Richards on TV, that he’s here or that you can come and watch major performances,″ Redpath said.

The city is spending about $15,000 on the production, but Redpath said it will get millions of dollars’ worth of free advertising between the on-air Seaside Heights mentions and a ``Welcome to Seaside Heights _ Family Fun and Sun Resorts″ mural adjacent to the beach house.

George Tompkins, 69, co-owner of the Pleasure Island arcade next door, welcomes the attention.

``It’ll help everyone on the Boardwalk, not only me. It’ll bring people to the town who’ve never been here,″ he said.

Not everyone feels that way.

``What I’m concerned about is drugs,″ said Bruce Miller, 64, who lives down the street. ``We have drugs here now, but this will bring in more.″

MTV spokeswoman Marnie Malter said there is an important difference between the 1992 event in Belmar and the Summer Share event.

``The difference is that was a live, open to the public concert. This is a controlled studio environment not open to the public,″ she said.

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