SIESTA KEY — Nestled along the No. 1 beach in America, between ramshackle beach huts and vacation cabins, is an imposing beige marble mansion.
It's shielded by towering green hedges, cut off from everyday patrons of Siesta Key. But for one day in June, several befuddled members of the press were invited to step inside the house, owned by Dr. Gary Kompothecras.
Yes, that Dr. Gary, the wealthy chiropractor of Physicians Group LLC and 1-800-Ask-Gary fame. Kompothecras, 57, is the mastermind behind a new MTV reality series, Siesta Key, debuting this month.
He even has executive producer credits, he said. His son, Alex Kompothecras, 22, is one of the tanned, privileged young stars of the show. And it was his dad, Alex said, who pitched turning his friends' lives into a watchable drama.
"My dad had some buddies come to town, and I took them out fishing," Alex said. "They thought our lifestyle was pretty unique. I kept hearing, 'You need to do a show.' Then my dad called a small production company to help do the pilot."
Sarasota County Film Commission director Jeanne Corcoran told the Times the agency helped with production more than a year and a half ago when the pilot was being shot. She called the reality series "unscripted or partially scripted, with lots of attractive, energetic young people enjoying the lifestyle and culture of Siesta Key."
She also said the series isn't supposed to show anything more risque than a PG-13 movie.
According to MTV and all eight cast members, the show is a mix of popular former MTV shows Laguna Beach and The Hills, but set on the west coast of Florida on the 3½-square-mile stretch of barrier island along Sarasota County.
"My son has such a nice lifestyle. I didn't, growing up," Gary Kompothecras said. "Seeing how much fun him and his friends were having, it felt like a good idea to show a positive image of growing up."
You've probably heard of the Sarasota chiropractor and businessman in the 1-800-Ask-Gary commercials on the radio. The MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre also used to bear the name of his lawyer and medical referral service.
The property where MTV held its press day is one of many Gary Kompothecras owns. Inside the home, everything is either marble, bronze or gilded. There's a floor-to-ceiling clear glass window overlooking the beach and the pristine infinity pool. The gilded couches and furnishings shine even on a cloudy summer day.
Gary Kompothecras, who said he is "in a few scenes," said he funded the pilot with his own money and sent it off to networks in Hollywood on a whim. He said it got rejected at first. Then, he said, about a year and a half later he got a call from MTV saying "it was something they were looking for."
Fast-forward to May, when MTV debuted a teaser trailer for Siesta Key during the MTV Movie and TV Awards. And last week, the network shared the show's premiere date of July 31 along with another teaser.
"From the Hills . . . to the Beach," the teaser showed alongside two members of the cast kissing.
Perhaps to ease worries of locals who fear their town getting a bad reputation, MTV and the entire cast have repeatedly said Siesta Key will be nothing like Jersey Shore. That show, which often featured drunken escapades and screaming in the street, took heat from New Jersey locals who thought it gave the Garden State a bad name.
"We don't all live in a big house together, and we aren't all drinking together every day," cast member Chloe Trautman, 21, said. "But we are on summer vacation, drinking and having a good time."
The series follows the eight young Floridians over the course of a Siesta Key summer. Some just graduated from college, some are on summer break, some are launching entertainment careers and some are just enjoying their youth.
"It's a group of us discovering what we want next in our lives," said Kelsey Owens, 20, the "new girl" in Siesta Key, having moved from St. Louis. Owens is a former model who left her catwalk career to move to Florida with her mom, who has multiple sclerosis. She's dating co-star Garrett Miller, 21, a personal trainer.
"I think it's going to really help Siesta Key," he said. "It shows people how nice it is here, and I'm grateful to have grown up with it."
Alex Kompothecras is the axis of the group. He graduated from the University of Tampa with a degree in entrepreneurship, which he hopes to turn into a law career or something to do with fishing.
"I think it's really going to put Siesta Key on the map," Alex said of the show.
Then there's Alex's cousin, Pauly Apostolides, 25, an aspiring rapper and "party monster" who called the series "a beautiful show with beautiful scenes." And there's another aspiring rapper, actor and model, Brandon Gomes, 22.
Rounding out the cast is Juliette Porter, the youngest at 19; and Madisson Hausburg, 23, who just graduated from Southern Methodist University in Dallas with a degree in engineering.
MTV released a full trailer for the series Tuesday, straight out of The Hills playbook.
It teases to "a summer like no other," in the "paradise" of Siesta Key, with shots of the picturesque seaside. And then, hordes of young people pour drinks, take selfies and jump in the infinity pool at Kompethecrases' mansion on the water.
Contact Chelsea Tatham at [email protected] Follow @chelseatatham.