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Thursday, July 18, 2024

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In Defense of Doo Wop

By Sponsored by Dennis Pierce, Wildwood / Jersey City

To the Editor:
I read the article “Doo Wop Discussed” by Rachel Rogish in the October 16th issue, which reported on a city commissioners’ meeting where Wildwood’s Doo Wop theme was discussed. I was happy to see some support for continuing to use Doo Wop as a central theme in Wildwood’s marketing and future. I believe Wildwood is in a unique position to both preserve and use Doo Wop for a successful future.
Preservation can be used to move a community forward. Key West, Provincetown, Savannah, Charleston, St. Augustine, Williamsburg and Cape May all have preserved the character that allows them to market themselves as unique tourist destinations.
These towns have remained compatible with new development by specifying building and design codes that require new structures to fit in with existing architecture. This approach allows room for growth without sacrificing the uniqueness of the town.
Wildwood, by its nature, is a place where memories are made and it is rich with nostalgia. The Doo Wop era represents a high point in American culture. The conversations on Wildwood social media are about classic Wildwood memories like the Tram Car, Curly’s Fries, Castle Dracula, the Golden Nugget, Fascination, Doo Wop motels and neon signs. (Luckily some of these things still remain). The photos shared on social media are always of Wildwood’s unique Doo Wop character. No one is posting pictures of beige condos or McMansions.
As pointed out in the Herald article, any press the Wildwoods get always mentions the high concentration of Doo Wop in the town. If Wildwood abandons it, we are throwing away a powerful marketing message. Which approach brings in the most tourists: “Welcome to Stone Harbor-lite” or “The Best Collection of Doo Wop Design in the USA”?
Wildwood has a chance to be a leading destination for a specific feel rather than being lumped into an oversaturated market of upscale coastal towns. Since Wildwood has a unique feel that inspires people, why not keep working with that?
The article mentions that some believe Doo Wop is not appealing to the new generation. However, nostalgia is a huge business. What are the biggest movies right now? Comic book movies with characters created in the 50s/60s. Disney parks are one of the most successful tourist destinations, and they thrive on using nostalgia to attract people from all over the world.
Wildwood will be dismissed by millennials if it abandons its Doo Wop flavor for a generic coastal look.
Modern youth culture is looking for Instagram-worthy experiences rather than mass-produced items. Many chain restaurants are dying because millennials are seeking unique dining experiences. Pizza Hut sells lots of pizzas, but do people get passionate about Pizza Hut compared to the discussions you see about if Sam’s or Mack’s has a better slice?
Most importantly, saving Wildwood’s Doo Wop has the higher cause of preserving a notable part of American history. There are trends and then there are classics. It has become clear that Mid-Century Modern and Doo Wop designs are now viewed as American classics along the other established styles of Colonial, Victorian and Art Deco.
Avalon and Stone Harbor have abandoned all of their history, with very few buildings still standing from the old days. That’s why they are constantly tearing down structures built in the 2000s to put up new ones. None of those structures matter anymore; they’re disposable multi-million dollar second homes with no connection to local history, nostalgia, or America’s past. 
I don’t think Wildwood wants to turn into that. Does Wildwood want to be just another place or remain something special and unique?
Making changes to a community’s character to chase the latest trends is a gamble that is not reversible. Boston and Annapolis embrace their colonial heritage, because they recognize this was a significant time for the country that should be preserved for future generations. Wildwood has a treasure trove of design from an important period of American history, and it is wrong to replace it with something that will not be viewed as culturally important.
They aren’t making any more Doo Wop towns, so Wildwood should remain as the leading caretaker for this part of American history.

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