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Posted: Tuesday April 17, 2012, 10:45 AM
By Bill Ervolino

WHO: "Jersey Shore's" Vinny Guadagnino

WHAT: Signing his book, "Control the Crazy"

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

WHERE: Barnes & Noble, 395 Route 3 east, Clifton, 973-779-5500

ALSO: 7 p.m. April 25 at Books & Greetings, 271 Livingston St., Northvale, 201-784-2665

Stretch. Breathe. Pray. Read. Find your inner power. Use it. Embrace it. Become mindful.

"Do whatever you can," he writes, "whenever you can."

Deepak Chopra?

Nah. Vinny Guadagnino.

Who knew?

At 24 – he'll turn 25 in November – the "Jersey Shore" star with the affable grin and the rascally eyebrows is a T-shirt, a Halloween costume, a bobble-head doll and, suddenly, an author.

At the beginning of his self-help opus "Control the Crazy," which he'll be promoting with bookstore appearances on Thursday in Clifton and next Wednesday in Northvale, Guadagnino whisks us back to the beginning of the show's fifth season. It was then that "Vinny G," the cast member who seemed the most calm, the most centered, the most – Dare we say it? – normal, also became the first cast member to crack up before our eyes.

Well, sort of.

As meltdowns go, Guadagnino's was a relatively low-key affair. Somber, even … which made it all the more unsettling.

It did provide him, though, with the opportunity to tell his fans – and his cast mates – something they didn't know about him: Since his early teens, he's suffered from generalized anxiety disorder, a condition that can cause panic attacks; difficulties breathing and swallowing; and a host of other symptoms similar to those of a heart attack.

"Your heart starts racing," he says. "Your head is spinning. It's surreal. Then you get scared and that just makes it worse."

At first, Guadagnino notes, the condition was his little secret. "I kept it to myself. When I came on the show, that was all people needed to hear." But, at the beginning of Season 5, which was filmed last summer, and ended its run last month, Guadagnino left the "Jersey Shore" house – and the series – for several dark days, retreating to his family's home on Staten Island.

It was a move that led to all sorts of gossipy speculation. ("Is he really sick?" "Has he left the show for good?") And, it raised at least one very large question: What is someone with anxiety issues doing on a reality show? Especially one as wacky as "Jersey Shore?"

"It's true," Guadagnino says now, with a laugh. "For someone who is anxious, who needs privacy, who needs to get away from things for a while, a reality show is probably the worst place to be. You're surrounded by people all the time. You're on camera all the time. You know that everything you do is going to be seen by millions of people. After a while, you realize that all you have to yourself is the bathroom. I don't think jail is worse."

'Season 5 was hard'

He then adds, with typical Vinny-esque diplomacy: "No offense to people in jail."

Guadagnino made it through the show's first four seasons unscathed. But then …

"Season 5 was hard," he says. "Believe me, there were parts of the first season when I wanted to go home, too. But, in Season 1, we were all bugged out, thinking 'What the hell is going on?' It was a new experience for all of us. For Season 5, we had just come back from Italy. I had been with these people for like 100 days, 20 hours a day. I didn't have my family and stuff. My stress levels were elevated. And that was that."

Yes, his cast mates can be a handful. They aren't exactly shrinking violets. Initially, they weren't friends, either.

"We were just eight strangers brought together in a house," Guadagnino says – a description that sounds like the beginning of an Agatha Christie murder mystery.

But, not even the plot-spinning Ms. Christie could have predicted what would happen to those eight strangers next: The sudden fame, mobs, photo shoots, and endless TV interviews, including one with Barbara Walters, after Guadagnino and his co-stars found themselves on Walters' list of The Most Fascinating People of 2010, alongside Kate Middleton and Gen. David Petraeus.

Guadagnino, who had always been a voracious reader, coped by gobbling up self-help books and looking into Buddhism, yoga, healthy eating – all that "Jersey Shore" chicken parm, notwithstanding – and creating what he describes as "a mechanism for living," which he passes along in "Control the Crazy."

Written for young people, it's filled with common sense approaches to dealing with stress, while giving fans just enough "Vinny" to make it all work. (Sure, he eats right and does yoga. But, he also likes to party, bro.) Guadagnino's eventual goal, he says, is an acting career. He appeared in several school productions as a kid and, thanks to his reality show notoriety, he's been building up a résumé with roles on the CW series "90210" and MTV's "The Hard Times of RJ Berger."

A onetime honors student, who graduated from CUNY Staten Island with a 3.9 GPA, he also considered a career in law. In fact, he took his LSAT exam the same day "Jersey Shore" premiered in 2009. "But, after that," he adds, "I was too busy to go to law school."

He's really not sure what's next for him, or even the TV show he's on. Will there be big changes this season? New cast members?

"Hey, I wish I knew," Guadagnino groans, "but I don't. I wish they would discuss it with me! They just call us up, put us back in the house and ... bam! You go with the flow. It's a reality show, man. Reality. We create it as we go."

Email: ervolino@northjersey.com

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