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Murrells Inlet: Community group condemns reality TV project
By Jason Lesley
Warren Stedman got to know his new neighbors on the marsh at Murrells Inlet late Saturday night when he heard loud voices and vulgar language coming from their backyard.
When he could no longer sit still for the liquor-fueled “Party Down South” reality show being filmed at Kings Krest, a residence two doors away, he walked over and asked the “actors” to tone it down. He watched as one of the young men relieved himself in the shrubbery while the cameras were rolling. “He was so drunk,” Stedman said, “he didn’t know what he was doing. It’s supposed to be outrageous.”
Stedman called the sheriff’s office and reported a disturbance.
“This needs to stop,” he said. “It’s disgusting.”
Stedman came to the board of Murrells Inlet 2020 Wednesday, seeking support for his cause as he goes before Georgetown County Council during its public comment period Tuesday.
“My biggest fear is they’ll come back because it will be cheaper to film next year,” he told the community group. “I feel like I’m by myself. I want your support. I need it.”
Sue Sledz, executive director of Murrells Inlet 2020, assured Stedman he was not alone in his feelings about the show’s filming in the inlet.
“I’ve never seen this community so distraught and feeling so betrayed,” she said.
Sledz said Murrells Inlet 2020 has no legal authority in the matter, but it has a moral authority.
The board members approved a statement that Murrells Inlet 2020 “cannot and does not endorse the current filming in the inlet.”
Al Hitchcock, an owner of Drunken Jack’s Restaurant and Inlet Affairs, excused himself from the vote under the board’s newly approved “conflict of interest” clause because he is catering meals for the cast and crew.
The board stopped short of asking County Council for motion picture regulations in the inlet. A motion to proceed with a resolution for the council was defeated.
Stedman attempted to get on the agenda for this month’s meeting of the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals in order to protest the issuance of a permit for the production company’s support trailers and storage units in the residential neighborhood. He was told that it was too late for him to speak to the board this month. In addition to paying a $500 fee, people wanting to get on the board’s agenda must apply at least 15 days in advance so nearby property owners can be notified, he was told.
Boyd Johnson, the county planning director, said he offered Stedman his money back, but the inlet resident wants to speak to the board in September in hopes of stopping future reality shows from invading residential neighborhoods.
“It was wrong of the King family to rent to these people,” Stedman said. “I feel like the zoning laws are being violated.”
The house usually rents for $2,500 a week, but the producers may have paid a premium to get it for two months. They have contracted with caterers to provide at least 100 meals a day for the cast and crew and sought permission to film while the cast eats in restaurants or goes out to bars. One restaurateur said she was promised an hour’s warning before the cast arrived.
“Nothing good will come out of this,” Stedman said, “except some people will make money.”
“Party Down South” is being produced for Country Music Television by 495 Productions, the company responsible for “Jersey Shore” on MTV and others with titillating names like the Oxygen Channel’s “Dance Your Ass Off,” Spike TV’s “Tattoo Nightmares” and VH1’s “My Big Friggin Wedding.” The premise of the show being filmed at Murrells Inlet and Lawshe Plantation near Andrews is a display of warped Southern pride as eight or nine young men and women enjoy some summer fun on the South Carolina coast.
“In this eight-episode series, cameras will follow as this group of fun-loving, Southern belles and beaus live it up together,” the production company’s California publicist said in a statement. The show is scheduled to air in November.
“The cast members are encouraged to drink and drink to excess,” Stedman said. “They are baiting them into pretend fights. Each cast member has a stipend to buy alcohol.”
A clerk at the liquor store at Murrells Inlet Market next to a Food Lion grocery store near highways 17 and 707 wouldn’t talk about the production company members’ taste in booze. Rumors are everywhere that the “Party’s” first liquor bill was $1,000, and cast members had red Solo cups at their lawn chairs as they sat in the King’s Krest backyard Tuesday with the cameras rolling.
The crew has rigged stage lights on the house’s roof and hung lights around the edge of the yard. Strings of red plastic cups accent the rest of the yard, where a fire pit, hot tub and patio have been added so the show can use the inlet as backdrop. The interior of the house has also undergone some remodeling, inlet residents say.
Word that the reality show was coming to the inlet began leaking out in late July, Stedman said. “My wife and I walked into a local restaurant and heard that the reality show was coming to King’s Krest. We didn’t enjoy our meal.”
County building permits for the temporary trailers were issued to 495 Productions on July 19.
Stedman said he originally heard that the show was going to be a documentary but has had to double up on his blood pressure medication since learning the truth. “We have been consumed by this the last 10 days,” he said. “They shouldn’t be in this neighborhood.”
Murrells Inlet 2020 board member Charlie Campbell said cast members had staged a fight at the inlet’s Tiki Bar and were cut off at Uncle Tito’s. He called their behavior “terrible” but cautioned that nobody knows what will be televised.
Sledz said a new Facebook page lists inlet restaurants that have not signed a agreement with the producers for filming.