Arts Culture

Beach Badge, a zine, tells the real, diverse stories of the Jersey Shore in creative ways

“I’ve always been a fan of that sort of barstool storytelling, those very fleeting sort of moments where you have to be there in the moment to hear it.”

You’d be forgiven for thinking of the Jersey Shore as one place. When someone says they’re “going down the shore,” your brain probably fills in the image with the town at which your family always vacations, or with the town featured on a certain MTV show.

But anyone who’s spent time at more than a handful of spots between Sandy Hook and Cape May knows that within the Jersey Shore exist a myriad of unique towns, beaches and micro-cultures, easily differentiated from their neighbors. 

William Patrick Tandy, a Jersey Shore native, knows this, and he recently launched a zine, Beach Badge, to highlight the Shore’s diverse creative class through essays, poetry, photography, cultural reviews and more. 

“It’s easy to think of the Jersey Shore as this monolithic thing, but in reality it’s 127 miles of weird fiefdoms and each one appeals to a different demographic or mindset,” Tandy says.

Beach Badge represents a return, of sorts, to Tandy’s roots. Though he spent the first 25 years of his life in various locales along the Shore—Manahawkin, LBI, Ocean City and Cape May—Tandy has spent the last two decades or so in Baltimore. 

Courtesy Beach Badge

In the early 2000s, Tandy began producing a Baltimore-centric zine called Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore!, which he describes as ”a warts-and-all celebration that chronicled the ups and downs of city life through essays, anecdotes, poetry and other artwork.” 

He credits his wife, Davida Breier, for introducing him to the world of zines. “Her zine Leeking Ink opened up a new realm of possibilities in personal writing for me, while The Glovebox Chronicles effectively summoned the experiences and voices of many to the subject of cars.” He also cites Fred Argoff’s long-running Brooklyn! and The Hungover Gourmet, “from Jersey’s own Dan Taylor,” as inspirations.

“I started doing this zine that compiled my own stories and essays and misadventures around Baltimore,” Tandy says. “There were really no outlets in which one could publish the sort of content for which it became known.”

Starting with the third issue, the zine accepted submissions and focused on collecting the stories of many Baltimoreans. Tandy consistently published Smile, Hon for about 15 years, stopping in 2017 after 30 issues.

But with the long, successful run of Smile, Hon, behind him, Tandy turned his sights back to the Shore—he had long contemplated bringing a zine like Smile, Hon to his home region. 

“In all the years I was doing this zine about Baltimore, my transplanted home, I’d always had this lingering thing in the back of my mind saying, ‘You should do something like this for the Jersey Shore, where you’re really from,’” Tandy says. 

So in 2021, after a long-overdue weekend visit to the shore, Tandy “resolved to finally do this, spend the winter cobbling it together and have issue one out by Memorial Day 2022.”

Beach Badge follows the same format as Smile, Hon by compiling short essays, poetry, photography, and book and restaurant reviews. His experience running a zine for a decade and a half meant he was well-equipped to launch Beach Badge.

“I had all those years of experience producing Smile, Hon, so instead of having to start from ground zero, I took everything I had learned doing that,” he says of his process, which is essentially a one-man operation he calls Eight Stone Press. Tandy writes, solicits stories, edits, does the layout and design, gets the zine printed and figures out the distribution. 

Zine-making is “purely a labor of love. The best you can hope for is that you might break even.” Would it be easier to make a blog or newsletter? Sure. But Tandy says, “I still really favor print. I like the tangibility of it. I like the portability of it.”

There’s also something about the zine format, less polished and more homespun, that feels approachable to folks who might not call themselves writers or artists. Tandy encourages submitters to “write it like you tell it.” He says one of the most rewarding parts about producing zines is when someone tells him, “This is the first time since high school I’ve ever tried to write something.”

“I’ve always been a fan of that sort of barstool storytelling, those very fleeting sort of moments where you have to be there in the moment to hear it,” Tandy says. 

So far, Beach Badge has featured 10 contributors of different backgrounds and from different parts of the Jersey Shore.

Courtesy Beach Badge

The first issue of Beach Badge is currently available for order online, or at the following “eclectic array of outlets,” as Tandy puts it, in New Jersey: Asbury Book Cooperative in Asbury Park, Atomic Vintage in Belmar, Gemini Jewelry Designs in Surf City, and Pinelands Coffee Roasters at the New Egypt Flea Market Village. The issue is priced at $4.95. 

“I wanted to make something that was portable and accessible for people to pick up as an impulse buy and take to read on the beach,” Tandy says.

Another thing Tandy wanted to do was schedule readings and events. The first event, celebrating the issue’s launch, will be at Asbury Book Cooperative on the evening of August 13. Tandy says he had the bookstore in the back of his mind as an ideal outlet for Beach Badge when he first started working on the project and is excited to hold his first event at the store. The evening will feature “a handful of the contributors from issue one,” plus “Jersey Shore show and tell. Everybody—locals, Bennys, whoever—are encouraged to bring their favorite T-shirt, souvenir, scar, tattoo, whatever, stemming from or relating to the Jersey Shore and share the story behind it.”

Tandy describes having to prove his Jersey bonafides to potential retail outlets and zine libraries who were confused that he lived in Maryland but was making a Jersey-centric publication. But after issue one, there will be no doubt: Tandy might live two states away, but he’s Jersey through and through.

Tandy says he has several submissions ready to go for a second issue, and plans to keep making Beach Badge “as long as I keep getting interest.”

You’ll find Tandy, along with contributors Rahne Alexander, Davida Breier, Ed Kemp, Garnet Whitby, and Nemetz, reading from issue one of Beach Badge at Asbury Book Cooperative on Saturday, Aug. 13 at 7 p.m. Learn more about Beach Badge here, and about the event here.