Alabama Town Says No Thanks to 'Redneck Riviera,' Passes Law to Block Filming

Faced with Southern version of "Jersey Shore," Gulf Shores passes filming law.

October 04, 2010, 10:58 AM

Oct. 5, 2010— -- A production company hoping to film what could be the South's answer to the "Jersey Shore" has had the door slammed in its face by one Alabama town that would rather be known for pristine beaches than Confederate flags.

Gulf Shores seemingly has no interest in being the representative for a gaggle of twentysomethings who are proud rednecks and wear their rebel flags on their sleeves.

The city council's response after finding out the beach town was being scouted for filming a new reality show titled "Redneck Riviera" was to unanimously pass an amended filming law that allows city officials to deny permits for productions deemed to imply inappropriate messaging.

"Anything like this has the potential to be very disruptive to our community," Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said, but insisted the newly updated ordinance wasn't intended solely for "Redneck Riviera." "We knew we needed to do something a little different here."

The show's title is a play on the long-held nickname for the region, one that many officials try not to advertise.

"I don't think it would be welcome," Linda Whitlock, president and CEO of the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce, said of the show. "This area, this community of Alabama, has worked very hard, for many, many years to erase the image of the Redneck Riviera."

But Jodi Redmond, creator and executive producer behind "Redneck Riviera" said Gulf Shores may have the wrong idea about her show.

"I think it's unfortunate because I think it could bring a credible amount of tourism back to that place," she said. "I love Gulf Shores."

Despite Gulf Shore's imposition of the new ordinance, casting for "Redneck Riviera" is ongoing. According to the show's Web site, producers are looking for native southerners whose idea of a perfect vacation includes "Miller beer by the case, partying and dancing the night away ... while spending the day on the beach with a cold one in your hand and watching bikini bull-riding contests."

"Do you drink sweet tea, talk endlessly about NASCAR, sport a rebel flag (on your bikini or jacked-up pickup truck), listen to loud country and/or Southern rock, or enjoy walking around shirtless or in daisy dukes?" the Web site asks. "Do you consider 'liberal' a dirty word?"

Redmond, however, said the casting call was "jazzed up" and that she hopes to focus the show on a single town and the people in it, rather than having a congregation of young adults living in a house a la the "Jersey Shore" gang.

"The show, I think, is going to change a bit," she said. "It's going to be done in a way ... that's based more on the towns and the people rather than choosing a bunch of kids to live together and having them act like crazy kids and being able to make fun of them."

"I prefer not to make junk," she said.

'Jersey Shore' Town Mayor Tells Gulf Shores to Try It

While Gulf Shore's law isn't aimed specifically at "Redneck Riviera," Craft said, it will give city officials a reason to take a hard look at it if Redmond files an application for a permit.

The amended version of the city's ordinance on commercial film, video and audio productions now calls for permits to be denied to any production that will "misrepresent or falsely depict city facilities, employees, programs, or property or the community as a whole" and "contain or imply inappropriate messaging."

For all the concerns Gulf Shores may have, one mayor who's been in the same situation said, "Tell them to try it."

P. Kenneth Hershey, the mayor of "Jersey Shore's" Seaside Heights, N.J., said the show that made Snooki, The Situation and fist pumping famous has helped fill the town's coffers.

"It gave us a couple millions worth of publicity -- at least," Hershey said. "It brought a lot of people into town. And they were orderly people."

The boardwalk house where the cast filmed has become its own tourist attraction, he said, drawing 50 to 100 people a day.

"It has given us quite a little boost," he said of the show. "A lot of people just come and stand across the street from their house."

The Redneck Riviera is loosely defined as the coastal area that stretches from Florida's Emerald Coast to the shores of Alabama.

The region even got several songs dedicated to it, including one by Country Music Hall of Fame star Tom T. Hall, who croons:

"Down here on the Redneck Riviera a drinkin' beer and singing country songs.

Chillin' with the motel door wide open hopin' somethin' good will come along.

Gulf Shores up through Apalachi-cola they got beaches of the whitest sand.

Nobody cares if gramma's got a tottoo or Bubba's got a hot wing in his hand."

Redneck Riviera Stereotype is "Hurtful,' Chamber CEO Says

"We've worked very hard, I think, to have an upscale image," Whitlock said. "To have the 'Redneck Riviera' stereotype thrown at us is almost like -- it's almost hurtful."

Redmond herself is familiar with the region, having grown up in Alabama. She came up with the concept well over a year ago, but then hesitated.

"My concern was, 'How comfortable am I doing this considering I'm from there and the fact that reality TV and TV in general is exploitative?" Redmond said.

In the end, it was the BP oil spill that ravaged the coastline that pushed her to move forward and begin casting.

"It killed me," she said. "I just couldn't believe what businesses and towns were going through."

Craft, however, said that portraying Gulf Shores as a redneck destination isn't going to help the town's image, which is decidedly not, a "honkey tonk, redneck type of world."

"We've had that nickname for some period of time," he said. ""We do not fit that general identity."

Though she has heard from some city mayors who aren't thrilled with the show's premise, others, Redmond said, have reached out to her saying they want the tourism dollars.

On the show's Facebook page, there seems to be more enthusiasm than disappointment.

"Just as soon as I get ahold of a video camera, you'll have my application," one Facebook poster wrote.

And another, "My husband & I own a little honky-tonk in Foley, Alabama ... We are rednecks & proud of it!"

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