Needless to say, I am a huge fan of The Sopranos. My friends and I would get together for every new episode, when it was on, religiously.
In college, a friend of mine found out where the Soprano house was (where they filmed). So, of course we went to check it out. It is/was on a private street with big signs stating not to drive down it. About when we got to the house, I noticed lights in the rearview. A police officer walked up and we babbled something about going to school nearby and being lost (scared to death he’d find the beer in the trunk, none of us were 21 yet). He assertively directed us out, and we had a good laugh about it later.
I worked on Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, NJ off and on (okay, mostly on) for about 13 years. The Frog Bog and surrounding games were my main section, but I helped manage the other games (we had 30-something) on the pier as well.
James Gandolfini would make pretty regular visits to the pier with his family, and they would play our games. Of course we were all star struck, but he was with his family so no one could ever get up the nerve to ask for a picture or autograph. He was a really pleasant, down to earth guy. He never asked for a hand out (if he did, he would have got it! Tony wants a prize, you get him one!), never took a free shot when it was offered. I once saw him scold his son for throwing a fit when he didn’t win at the Frog Bog (something like, “losing is a part of life, the sooner you learn that the better!”). I always respected him for that.
All of the managers would alert each other when he was around. Then we would all go around our respective areas and tell the employees. Employees were told not to take pictures, ask for autographs, or even mention The Sopranos (with the crowds up there it could have caused a mob scene! Pun may have been intended…). He was up there enjoying time with his family, and should be allowed to do so. I can even recall a couple of times that vacationers did notice who he was, and we were quick to run over and tell them exactly that.
I don’t know if he ever knew that we were doing that for him, but I do know the Gandolfinis would always come back to visit us a couple of times a summer (until we lost those locations due to a new pier owner and higher rent).
James, in your honor, I am having a “Jersey Mob Weekend”. Sopranos marathon, soundtracks, track suits, bling, water guns (with red food coloring), cigars, home made red sauce, maybe even find some fake ducks to float in the pool, the whole nine!
I am going to celebrate the life you had, whaddaya gonna do?
Jersey wouldn’t be the same without you Tony!
Survive Reality, Live the Dream