Suspension of Disbelief


This article was written on 27 Jun 2013, and is filled under Uncategorized.

James Gandolfini 1961-2013

It’s hard to think of another actor and role that embodied a place so well. James Gandolfini’s New Jersey roots shaped the actor he became — and enriched the role he played — to great effect.

Gandolfini, a real Jersey guy, inhabited the fictional mob-connected world of Tony Soprano, and put the place we call home on the map. Millions of people who have never been here were suddenly aware of the places (and routines) we took for granted. From the opening credits, when Tony Soprano yanks a ticket from a tollbooth and drives down the Turnpike with the Manhattan skyline receding in the background, the show placed the Garden State front and center in arguably the best television show, ever.

Whether hanging out in front of a pork store in Kearny or pulling into the parking lot of the Bada Bing (the strip joint Satin Dolls in Lodi), or sauntering down his North Caldwell driveway in his bathrobe to pick up his hometown newspaper, the actor’s memorable performance as a conflicted mob boss made viewers sit up and take notice, and immortalized places we once drove by quickly, without a second glance.

But Gandolfini, who wore the mantle of stardom uneasily, was one of us. Other celebrities had New Jersey roots, of course: From Frank Sinatra and Whitney Houston to John Travolta and Brooke Shields. But Gandolfini, like that other Boss, never left those roots behind, even after he was catapulted to stardom. He was born in Westwood and raised in Park Ridge, where he attended high school. Later, he boosted Rutgers, his alma mater, and attended a fundraiser for Paramus Catholic High School, where his father was director of facilities for 40 years. Gandolfini had a home in Tewksbury.


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