Teetering on the Brink: NJ Embraces Bizarre Performers

From balancing atop sky-high flagpoles, to the outlandish antics of the Jersey Shore cast, New Jerseyans have always appreciated unusual sights and oddball characters.


Bettmann/Corbis.

THEN: New Jersey is no stranger to unusual sights and oddball characters. During the first half of the 20th century, traveling carnivals made their way to boardwalks and amusement parks, and acts like Atlantic City’s diving horses became the stuff of legend. But they could hardly compare with Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly, a supposed survivor of the Titanic and real-life daredevil who gained notoriety by sitting on flagpoles for weeks at a time. Pictured here in 1929 high above Union City, Kelly set a world record in Atlantic City a year later by perching on a flagpole for 49 days.

NOW: The outlandish cast of MTV’s reality television show The Jersey Shore continued New Jersey’s somewhat lamentable tradition of bizarre entertainers. The show lasted six headline-grabbing seasons, luring a new generation of tattooed, tanned and overly muscular summer tourists to Seaside Heights. Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi was the most bizarre character of all, shocking audiences with her binge drinking and brawling. Perhaps her ultimate stunt was getting pregnant in the show’s final season.

Splash News/Corbis.

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