Thursday, June 20, 2013

RIP James Gandolfini aka Tony Soprano

I never heard of James Gandolfini before the HBO series, the Sopranos. We don’t even have HBO so I might never have watched the series. But, the reviews of the series were so great that we decided to rent season one and see if we would like it. I loved it. After that we patiently waited and bought every season at Christmas-time and watched a Sopranos marathon. The truth is I could not wait to watch all of it, so we went through a season in about four days, watching three episodes a day. I loved it so much that I didn’t fast forward through the opening theme song or the clips from the previous show, even though I had just watched it.

“I woke up this morning and got yourself a gun” is playing over and over in my head now as I am still in shock over the sudden passing of James Gandolfini, who will forever be known as Tony Soprano, to me. I never knew it was an Alabama 3 song, I just assumed it was written for the series. It was perfect. And, James Gandolfini was the perfect crime boss, Tony Soprano

I ended up watching the entire series several times. So much happens that you miss and the good thing about my bad memory is that a lot of it seem brand new. It was so easy to get sucked into the drama of the show and the characters. The writing was phenomenal as was the acting. If you loved the Godfather, you should love the series. Some might think that the show glorifies the mafia lifestyle, but in actuality, it doesn’t. Sure they make big money committing crimes and live lavishly, but there is a price to be paid. The “made men” always cheat on their wives. That is a given, and the wives have to live with that fact. Tony had several mistresses during the series. Carmela knew about some of them and hated it. But Tony would just answer, you knew who I was when you married me. And the mistresses (goomadas) were the ones taken to parties and lavished with gifts and apartments, while the wives stayed home taking care of the kids and the house.

The Mafia is made up of different crime “families,” headed by bosses like Tony Soprano, who compete with each other for money making operations. Agreements and deals often go wrong between them and people get “whacked.” Tony had his share of near death experiences and, like a faithful and loyal mafia wife, Carmela was right there worrying about him and nursing him back to health. Worrying is a way of life. You have to worry about getting killed, you have to worry about the Feds closing in on you, you have to worry about “rats” giving law enforcement evidence to save their own skin. Soon, as a viewer, you start to worry about all the mafia characters getting hurt. You have compassion for poor Tony because of the tremendous stress he is under every day. And we wind up rooting for the “bad” guys, even against law enforcement.

As I watched the show, I don’t know how many times I was concerned for Tony (and James Gandolfini) because of his excess weight. He seemed to put on more weight over the course of the series. His breathing was often labored. My husband and I would comment about it, worrying he might have a heart attack one day. If you ever watched the show you may have noticed it too, it was pretty obvious. I didn’t think it was “acting” on James Gandolfini’s part. I often wondered why he didn’t lose some weight so he could at least breathe comfortably. I wondered why it was obvious to me, but not to the cast, crew, family and friends of James Gandolfini? I don’t know if he was under a doctor’s care, but he should have been. Maybe this heart attack could have been avoided. We will never know. It’s so sad to lose someone so young, who impacted so many lives. I read that James just had a baby daughter in October with his second wife. A baby girl who will never really know her father except for what she will be told and from watching his work. Unfortunately, the Sopranos has scenes and language which are not fit for young eyes and ears. It will be a long time before she will be able to view the show that made her father a household name. The other thing that makes this an even sadder event is that James was in Italy with his teenage son, Michael. The were having a “guy” trip together. It was Michael who found his father in distress and called the medics, who were unable to revive his father.

The rest of us who knew James Gandolfini even just through his role on the Sopranos, are greatly sadden by his passing. Who would have thought that Tony Soprano would have survived a mafia family all out war, but poor James Gandolfini would succumb to a heart attack?

Rest in peace James Gandolfini. You will be greatly missed.
Sopranos Theme Song

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