It was just after 10:30 at the ULTRA nightclub in Providence last Thursday night and general manager Garry Williams was sitting in the office, watching one of the club's former bouncers, "Big Jerry" Gialanella, on television say, "You got the fog goin'. You got the music bumpin'. The lights are strobin'." And downstairs on the ULTRA dance floor, the fog was goin', the music was bumpin', and the lights were strobin'.
Williams was watching the world premiere of MTV's The Pauly D Project, the Jersey Shore spinoff that follows the Johnston native's stint as the Palms Casino's DJ-in-residence, in Las Vegas. Toting his trademark laptop adorned with a bejeweled Italian flag, Pauly was accompanied by Gialanella and a flock of managers and fellow DJs — all of whom met, he tells viewers, while working at ULTRA. In the show's final scene, the crew returns to Rhode Island and the Pine Street club, where Pauly takes the microphone and screams to a sea of adoring fans, "If it wasn't for you Providence, I wouldn't be where I'm at right now!"
Though the Pauly D Project producers spelled his first name with one "r" instead of two during a brief cameo, Williams was still excited for the show's prospects. "Pauly's doin' his thing as a DJ and goin' from a place like this to the biggest nightclubs in the world," he said, flipping the channel to a security camera feed showing the club's entrance during a commercial break. The show, he said, is "gonna hopefully show Rhode Island in a different light."
About halfway through the episode, Frank Capone — an ULTRA co-manager who calls himself the "Entertainment Director" in homage to Robert De Niro's character from Casino — pulled up an office chair and leaned toward the television. He, too, was struck by Pauly D's rapid ascent. "I used to walk into the place and I was like, 'Wow, who's fuckin DJing? That's pretty good!' And it was this kid Pauly," he said. "He used to sit there and make out with girls all the fuckin' time."
On TV, Pauly and his boys were fist-pumping and taking shots at a furious pace; shouting "Yeah, buddy!" as they ran around a hotel suite with a swimming pool and views of a glimmering Las Vegas.
At one point, a girl whispers to Pauly, "You're sexy. I'm sexy."
"I'm from Rhode Island," he responds.
"Well, then, it's all good," she says, and they embrace.
Back in the ULTRA office, there were no panoramic views — no windows at all, actually. There was a yellow sheet of paper with "EXTENDED HOURS PERMIT" taped to one brick wall. On a nearby desk, a bottle of neon blue HPNOTIQ sat next to a gold tube of Aleene's Original Tacky Glue. The floors buzzed from the bass of the speakers below.
After the show ended, the mood in the room grew contemplative. Williams and Capone agreed that The Pauly D Project was an improvement from the press the club had been receiving lately. ("Multiple Arrests in Providence's Ultra Nightclub Stabbing" reads one Providence Journal headline from last month.) "For one kid that gets shot outside, they want to ruin it for thousands of people that we entertain a week" Capone said. "It kinda hurts when they put us in the paper saying that we house criminals, gangsters."