On Collins Avenue, a gangly cement statue looks out from the front patio of South Beach's Lecca Lecca Gelato Caffé. In the last few weeks, the motley mashup of camel, dog and elephant has gotten more than the typical amount of attention. Tourists have always stopped for pictures with the strange sculpture, but now they pose more often.
Call it the Snooki Effect.
While the cast of Jersey Shore was stationed in Miami for the filming of season two, pouf princess Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi mounted the statue's long, lean back on one random evening. A boost from fellow cast member Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino was required to get the 4'9" Snooki atop the beast. The moment was featured in the season's trailer, which showed continuously on MTV during the month before the premiere, and has more than one million views on MTV.com and YouTube.
A short recap of what transpires:
Snooki, riding statue: Yeeeeeeeah! Oh, it hurts my vagina. (Laughs)
The Situation: Alright, c'mon, c'mon. (Motions to help her down)
Snooki: No, I like it!
The clip is just four seconds long, but cafe owner Enzo Biondi says people are already recognizing the statue, which has been the unofficial mascot for the store since its opening six years ago. "We have now named it Pleasure, since that's what it gave Snooki," says Biondo, a native Italian born in the village of Monte Urano. He had never seen Jersey Shore before producers approached him about hiring the cast to work at Lecca Lecca during season two. "I didn't know anything about the show," he says.
But he took a chance on the eight guidos and guidettes, hiring them for five weeks to work short shifts. They scooped gelato, tidied the patio, and worked to bring more customers to the store. "Pauly D would stand outside without his shirt on, trying to get more girls to come in," Biondo says.
Three or four cameras always accompanied the cast to work, and store customers were required to sign a release form to appear on television. MTV producers lined the cafe's front windows with shades to prevent gawking, but that didn't stop fans and local media from figuring out where the cast worked. It didn't help that paparazzi followed cast members to the store on most days. Biondi didn't allow paparazzi in, nor did he permit the cast to take pictures or sign autographs for fans. "They were here to work. It was a real, paid job," he says. The cash in the tip jar was real, too, but the cast members never took it. Instead, they doled it out to their fellow, non-famous staffers.
It's unclear when Snooki found the time in her shift to mount the statue out front--Biondi says no one is allowed on it. He's afraid a drunken beach-goer will fall off the six-foot statue and injure themselves on the sharp iron patio railing below. He's considering moving "Pleasure" to another, less prominent spot, as he expects more people to start climbing on.
"All the young girls will want to get on it," he says. "They want to feel what Snooki felt."
See and feel Pleasure at Lecca Lecca Gelato Caffé, 1501 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach. Jersey Shore airs Thursday night at 10 p.m. on MTV.