Reality TV Hits Close to Home for Brooklynites

You don’t have to be a Jersey girl to party at the shore. Many New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians vacation there on the weekends.

On any given night at Karma, a club in Seaside, NJ, you might hear a guy ask his girlfriend, “Oh, this is where Snooki comes, right?”

Now, Brooklynites don’t have to travel very far to hit up clubs that those seen on TV frequent. Soon, patrons arriving at Cebu on 3rd Avenue in Bay Ridge, will say, “Christie parties here.”

“Brooklyn 11223,” an hour-long program that premieres March 26th at 11 pm, focuses on the lives of tight-knit kids in their 20s, who all live, work, and of course, party in Brooklyn. According to Oxygen’s website, the show will give viewers “a voyeuristic journey into the lives of two lifelong groups of friends who have been torn apart by jealousy, rivalry and a bitter betrayal that is clouded in mystery.”

Actually, it’s not much of a mystery.

Christie Livoti, 23, seems like the main attraction of the show; and her former best friend, Joey Lynn Tekulve, 24, is the other. The two girls were best friends since kindergarten until one drunken night ruined a sixteen-year friendship. It is a well-known rumor around the neighborhood that Joey Lynn seduced Christie’s ex-boyfriend three years ago, while they were still dating. Did she? Or, didn’t she? Even though Joey Lynn “swears on her dead father” that she’s innocent, Christie just “doesn’t know what to believe.”

When word swept across Bay Ridge that a reality show for the Oxygen network was shot around the Brooklyn neighborhood, residents sounded off.

“Brooklyn 11223? Are you f****** serious?” asks Brooklyn local Tommy Athena. “Why should the county of Kings do a spin-off to Jersey Shore?”

The show’s tagline is, “This ain’t Jersey. It’s Brooklyn.” Actually, it ain’t Bay Ridge, either. It’s Gravesend. But that doesn’t mean residents are just ‘gonna fuhgeddaboutit.’

“Seriously, “Brooklyn 11223” you’re from Bensonhurst,” says Katie Moran, 23, graduate from Fort Hamilton High School. “You all go to the shore and you’re a straight up disgrace to Brooklyn. Secondly, Bay Ridge girls don’t carry themselves in a trashy manner like [you do]. Straight up pathetic. Stop working in gyms and tanning salons and go get yourself a real job. These girls wish they were from Bay Ridge.”

Each cast member takes us to a different part of Brooklyn, Bensonhurst, Brighton Beach, Sheepshead Bay and Coney Island. Bay Ridge 11209 is where some of the cast works and where they all go barhopping and clubbing. About three neighborhoods away is Gravesend 11223, where the plot thickens. The two main stars live and grew up there.

Bay Ridge Councilman Vinnie Gentile held a press conference on February 24th asking “parents, TV studios, advertisers, journalists, policymakers and even teenagers” to take responsibility “for what is being watched by the younger generations.” Gentile says this new show has no “positive takeaway from the perpetuation of these trashy and classless stereotypes that serve only to degrade, denigrate and objectify women and Italian-Americans.”

The show, once called “Brooklyn Crew,” was originally supposed to be about rival gangs in big, bad, Brooklyn. Even though Executive Producer Michael Hirschorn had a “West Side Story” idea in mind, he realized that no New York City gang would promote themselves on national television. In a quick change of direction, Brooklyn 11223 was born and the ZIP code wars began.

Ish Entertainment hit the party-hard streets of the ‘Ridge’ to recruit a group of girls, and bam, another drama, err, “docu-series” was born.

The camera crew for “Brooklyn 11223” was sure to catch a brawl between the girls, hair pulling and all, at a Bay Ridge hot spot, when they “coincidently” ran into each other.

“It was definitely a situation that needed to be addressed that was long overdue,” said Livoti.

The once very large group of girls is now split into “crews” and it seems like Christie has a big group of intensely loyal friends.

With family support behind her, Angelina Favuzza, 25, from Bergen Beach views her participation in the series as a “good opportunity to open up new doors” in her life. A self-described “outgoing person,” comments she made on the show have already gone viral on the Internet, via the promos Oxygen is airing. But Favuzza ignores any negative responses she gets.

“I’m overweight but I own a mirror so I know what I look like,” said Favuzza. “I’ll never be a size zero because I have an Italian woman’s body, big thighs and butt and big boobs. Do I wanna be a zero? Never, [I’m] happy with myself.”

Kelly Linton, 25, is eager for the première and takes a more philosophical view of it’s potential: “I’ve always said Brooklyn should have a show, we all are crazy and have our own stories to tell that others could relate to and enjoy watching.”

As for Carla Cozzolino, 24, believes her friends accurately portray the lives of Brooklynites. “Me and my girls are the real deal,” she says, “born and raised in Brooklyn. How could we not be?”

She’s had Christie’s back for about 10 years now and her opinions on the importance of friendship are no secret. “If you last, you last,” said Cozzolino. “If you don’t, goodbye.”

Joey Lynn didn’t last. At least she’s got her crew of fun-loving girls, Valona Saka, 22, and Amanda Rae Gordon, 24.

Saka’s traditional Muslim family will find out about her hidden tattoo on the reality show, but she is not worried about it.

“I don’t think anyone should hide who they really are, whether you’re Muslim, gay, straight, bisexual, etc.,” said Saka. “If someone doesn’t accept you for who you are, they can take a [expletive] walk. Simply means they’re not welcomed nor meant to be in your life.”

Oxygen’s website describes Gordon as “the typical Bay Ridge girl; she holds true to being a good girl, but lets loose with a foul mouth and a heavy attitude.” However, her family knows the real her and how she acts, “so to see different would upset them,” said Gordon. “My family’s thought of the show consists of excitement, but yet apprehensive on how I will be portrayed.”

Social networking sites blew up with comments about the series. “Brooklyn 11223 is going to be my new show,” says Corilyn Lutgen, a viewer from Tampa, Florida. “Jersey Shore is getting old, sorry. I only watch it for Vinny anyways.”

Maybe there will be some new eye candy for the ladies.

From Nicky’s Auto Glass, we meet Nick Biancaniello, 26, and his brother and co-owner Chris, 24. Jen DiBitetto, 24, is engaged to Chris and they are all a part of Christie’s crew.

Fraternal twins, Matthew and John Guzzone, 25, of Bergen Beach, round out the male contingent. But watch out girls, Matthew has been dating Christie since September 2008. Besides not wanting to get on that “true Brooklyn” girl’s bad side, it’s rumored that Matthew “will not hesitate to stick up for himself, his friends, and most importantly – his girlfriend.”

“We always go to each other first and we never feed into the drama,” claims Livoti. “We love each other and nothing, and no one can change that.”

As soon as Ish Entertainment found and interviewed Christie and her friends, Joey Lynn’s name kept popping up.

“Valona called me and informed me as to what was going on,” Tekulve recalls. “Next thing I know these women show up in my bar with a video camera and interviewed me. I had no previous knowledge that a show was even being casted. I guess you could say I fed into all the names and s*** talking I was told about and just let them videotape my side of things.”

Whether you’re a supporter or a “hater,” in today’s economy, it’s doubtful anyone would turn down an opportunity to get paid to be themselves. Joey Lynn, who works at No Quarter in Bay Ridge, is trying to save enough money to put herself through nursing school. A bunch of New York-nightlife clichés? Or maybe the classic good-girl-acts-badly-to-make-a-buck?

“I’m not sure what to expect from this show being that I never had a desire to get into TV and never, even still today, liked to be the center of attention,” said Tekulve. “I didn’t even think the show would take off. I knew if it did happen, I would be portrayed as ‘the villain’ role. I am far from a villain, but hey, bad girls have more fun. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, I took it, and who knows what doors this can open for myself as well as everyone else. I hope it does lead to something bigger and better but only time will tell.”

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