Monday, June 24, 2013
Since I started this blog, almost 5 years ago, many celebrities have left this world for the next.
Oh, who am I kidding? There is no next world. When you die you're done. Lights out. Matter returns to energy. To believe otherwise is to put stock in the Tooth Fairy, The Seventh Imam of Medina or Diapernese, the Greek God of Poop.
But I digress.
As I said, many stars of the big screen, the little screen and pop culture in general have passed away. To the best of my recollection I have never indulged in any sappy RIP's.
I won't start now.
However the news of James Gandolfini's passing did hit me like a .45 caliber bullet to the side of the head. Fact is, I saw Gandolfini not more than 3 months ago. I was at my doctor's office at the Century City Medical Center to check on the condition of Hurty, the bone spur that has grown on my heel bone after 25 years of running. As I was waiting for my car to be brought around by the valet parker, I was joined by a large, hulking man on my left. He looked very familiar. He smiled at me and muttered, "Heyhowyoudoin?"
It was the cordial greeting one stranger passes with another.
He looked familiar. And for a second thought maybe I know this guy from high school or another ad agency. Then it dawned on me that I was standing next to Tony Soprano.
I was, and still am, a huge fan of the show. But Los Angeles Celebrity Ettiquette required me to respect his privacy and move on without any gushing. And so I did.
But the connection goes much deeper. You see I grew up in Suffern, NY, which as you can tell from the accompanying map is Mafia-adjacent to North Jersey, where the Soprano family ruled the roost.
The famed Bada Bing strip club is an actual strip club. And to the best of my uh, personal recollection, has been there for ages, under a variety of names like Satin Dolls, Candy Lane, Whispers, Velvet Room, and Jersey Whore. Don't take my word on the last one.
Some of the recent obituaries noted how Gandolfini was so remarkably believable as Tony Soprano. I believe this is somewhat attributable to geography.
He grew up in Northern Jersey. He knew the best booths at the best diners. He knew the surprisingly beautiful backroads of Upper Saddle River. He knew the gas stations on Route 17, where you are not allowed to pump your own gas and an attendant will still clean your windshield.
In fact, my buddy Bob remembers working with a very young James Gandolfini when he was a waiter at the T.G.I.F. in Hackensack, NJ.
His passing is very sad. But he left us a great body of work. And in case my wife is reading this, a complete boxed set of The Soprano's DVDs would make an excellent gift for next year's Father's Day.