New Jersey remembers native son James Gandolfini

The 'Sopranos' actor's impact was felt throughout the Garden State.

By Jonathan Berr Jun 21, 2013 4:50PM
A reserved sign sits on the booth where the last show of the HBO series Fans are still in shock over the sudden death of actor James Gandolfini earlier this week, perhaps nowhere more so than in his home state of New Jersey.

Fictional mobster Tony Soprano left his mark on the culture of the Garden State as much as poet Walt Whitman or actor-activist Paul Robeson. Though some didn't appreciate the fact that Soprano was a psychotic murderer, Gandolfini gave him a humanity that was hard to forget. 

New Jersey residents are paying tribute to the actor's artistry in ways large and small. Gov. Chris Christie has ordered all flags at state buildings to be flown at half-staff. According to The Newark Star-Ledger, Gandolfini may be laid to rest in Park Ridge, the New Jersey town where he grew up.

People are flocking to the Holsten's ice cream parlor in Bloomfield, the restaurant where Soprano may or may not have eaten his last onion ring, to snap pictures of the booth filmed in the show's finale. It's cordoned off with a black banner and features a small sign with the word "reserved" in white cursive letters. The restaurant also sells merchandise related to last episode of "The Sopranos."

"People are coming from all over," said owner Chris Carley in an interview with MSN Money. "It's the place where the screen went black. They all know of Holsten's now."

Another New Jersey business made famous by the show is the Satin Dolls strip club in Lodi, better known to fans of "The Sopranos" as the "Bada Bing." To drive the point home, the club calls itself "The Original Bada Bing Club" on its website, and brags that its ladies "will have you so excited that you will be singing soprano as they dance." According to the New York Daily News, the sign in front of the club says "Thank You Jimmy. Farewell Boss."

Someone answering the phone at the club said more fans were coming in the wake of Gandolfini's death. He declined to give his name. Gandolfini returned to the club a couple of times after "The Sopranos" wrapped in 2007, according to the Daily News.

In real life, Gandofini was quiet and kind of shy, according to media reports, and even had to learn the gangster's "fuggedaboutit" accent with the help of a dialect coach.

Tony Soprano's impact was even felt in South Jersey, which to him and many people from the northern part of the state might as well be Siberia. There are several "Tony Soprano's Pizza" restaurants in the area. Efforts to get a comment from someone in management were unsuccessful.

--Jonathan Berr lives in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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Jun 22, 2013 2:24PM
Dear Comcast ...thank your for your "Tribute to JG section" and props on charging us to view each movie ....

Whoever came up with the decision to show his works -- good call --- whoever decided to charge for it ....f'ckn moron !!
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