Screen: NBC/Photo: ClipArt.com

Cabana Boy-ing Is Not The Endless Volleyball Orgy Saved By The Bell Would Have You Believe

Comparing the Bayside Gang's summer at 'Malibu Sands' with this author's real-life adventures in seaside service.

Twenty-plus years ago, the seminal TV series Saved By The Bell decided for whatever reason to shoot a six-episode mini-season chronicling the Bayside gang's summer spent working at a posh beach resort. Those episodes aired in the fall of 1991, weirdly interspersed with non-summer episodes. A half-hour at Bayside became a half-hour on the beach, and back again. Remember, TV didn't give a shit back then whether its chronology made any goddamn sense!

But I write today not to gripe about completely unnecessary storylines. No, I write today to gripe about those "Malibu Sands" episodes' depiction of a beach resort -- specifically, their depiction of the cabana boy life. Three summers ago, I needed a job. I was hanging around the Jersey shore, biding time before a big L.A. move. Waiting tables felt like too much of a cliché; lifeguarding too much work. But something between them...? That's how, like Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) before me, I became a cabana boy at a swanky beach hotel.

It became immediately clear that Saved By The Bell had gotten just a few things wrong about the life...

Saved By The Bell Real Life
Locations "Malibu Sands," an all-inclusive beach resort conveniently located just north of the Santa Monica Pier. Also retrofitted Bayside High sets. Congress Hall, "America's oldest seaside resort" in Cape May, New Jersey.
Uniform Striped white and green polo, tennis whites, and matching white shorts (or pants, for more formal service). Solid white polo, tennis whites, and matching white shorts. They nailed it! But indoor pants? Please. There's no time for that.
Typical Clientele It's rare that Zack or anyone else in the Bayside gang actually interacts with hotel guests during their summer at Malibu Sands, but when they do it's usually zany old people Screech (Dustin Diamond) has roped in for a joke. Cougars. Giant Italian families. I mean, it's New Jersey. Occasionally, we'd get a nouveau riche couple who looked dangerously close to sexually engaged in the pool. I always felt weird bringing them more drinks.
Love Interests A pre-King Of Queens Leah Remini plays Stacey Carosi, daughter of the resort owner, who uses her East Coast urban flavor to win Zack's heart. There was Kaitlyn, beautiful girl, but she had that huge townie boyfriend with the moped. I'd definitely have considered hooking up with my boss if she sent out vibes.
Work To Volleyball Ratio 25/75 50/50
Job Satisfaction & Stability Zack's devil-may-care attitude doesn't always sit well with resort owner Leo Carosi (Ernie Sabella), who fires or threatens to fire his cabana boy at least five times in six episodes. I worked at Congress Hall for two months and told Yuri, our food expeditor, that I was going to quit about ten times. I probably could have left and no one would have noticed for days. Once I did receive a talking-to when I was caught swiping a burger from the grill.
Arguments Settled Via Highly Organized Competition Are you looking for just an endless array of activities at your resort? Malibu Sands has EVERYTHING: volleyball tournaments, obstacle courses, Miss Liberty competitions, ATV rallies. Of course, first you've got to fight the staff to nab a slot in any of these events, which really just exist to serve their personal drama. I wasn't there for it, personally, but fact is any cabana boy summer will feature some Olympic-inspired activity day. Usually, this is a chance for the put-upon Russian towel boys to make a name for themselves in an athletic context.
Greatest Work Challenge Deciding between the women in his life for the title of Miss Liberty, finally settling on the one he knows -- Kelly (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) -- and complicating things with Stacey. They patch their relationship up by the end of the episode, but things are pretty touch and go there for a while. After nearly an entire day spent attending to a family of ten, I was expecting at least a decent tip. Instead, they bolted from the pool area, and left behind...a dirty diaper. The challenge for me was not leaving my own dirty diaper outside their hotel room.
Coworkers It'd be weird if you didn't spend the summer working with the same five people who've constituted your only high-school friendships. I'll never forget the way Yuri called in orders from the beach. The thick Russian accent made everything sound more exotic. "Hokay, so I is need one cheek-un fing-ure e yays, two ham-boor-gors. Many condo-mints, all of them -- ketch-oop, moosetard..." Sean was a fellow cabana boy who came all the way from Jamaica, and apparently had a "bumping" rap career back home. Do I find it strange that he wouldn't give me a website, or any possible way to hear him short of retuning with him to Kingston and finding out for myself? No, Sean had to do him.
Managerial Oversight None. Zack's immediate boss is his girlfriend, Stacey, and Carosi Sr. only yells at him in that "Oh, Zack!" way that suggests that he really does like the guy. In one episode, Carosi actively roots for Zack to win the car he's bet in a volleyball match. Zack could kill one of the resort's elderly patrons and probably wind up with a raise. Overseeing pool and beach operations at the hotel was this guy Bill who had a real hard-on for tidiness. He'd sweep the deck, calling out the cabana boys for mis-folded towels and chairs that weren't facing precisely the right way. I hated him the same way Below Deck's crew couldn't stand their captain, which says a lot about my maturity level at the time. Could Bill really do anything to hurt me? Hell no -- I was invincible.