Don’t Stop Believin’

James Gandolfini died today–age 51 on vacation in Rome from an apparent heart attack/stroke. I am truly heartbroken. I think it’s fair to say Jim Gandolfini was my favorite actor, and The Sopranos was (and still is) a nightly sight on my TV set in my studio.

James Gandolfini. photo: Barry Wetcher

I can hands-down say with every fiber of my being, no television series/ story has meant as much to me (nor will any series be able to match)  The Sopranos. It’s brilliantly conceived, brilliantly written, brilliantly acted. And when I am feeling lonely, nothing lifts my spirits more than puttering around my studio listening to the banter between Tony and Carmela, or Tony cursing and shouting at his crew– dialogue that I have probably heard a hundred times already because I’ve re-watched every episode, over and over. And over. I know the musical selections from each and every episode, and if you said a random quote to me, I could probably tell you the scene and the episode title.

And if someone asked me who is the character who you related to the most, I would say Tony Soprano, mostly because of how James Gandolfini portrayed him.



He was an insightful actor, able to depict a character struggling with huge familial responsibility, with a humor-loving heart, coping with base desires, managing mood swings, inflicting hurt and violence (mostly reluctantly), yet such a caretaker, and in the end, somebody we could all relate to. James Gandolfini…he made every Sopranos fan realize there is a little of Tony Soprano in all of us. I know no other actor who could have portrayed the character of Tony Soprano as James Gandolfini did.

On my 40th birthday, I didn’t want any kind of party, rather opting for a solo trek on a train from Boston to New York, to go on The Sopranos bus tour in New Jersey to see all of the sights where the series was filmed. It was a pilgrimage of sorts, and when I got to New York and boarded the tour bus in the Fashion District and they rolled the tape of the opening Sopranos song as we submerged under the Hudson, traversing through the Lincoln tunnel to New Jersey, there was no happier person on that tour bus than me. I smiled a toothy, goofy grin, giggling at the hilarity of what I decided to do on my 40th, reveling in the lyrics of “Woke Up This Morning,” so, so happy to explore the locales of this series, and just laughing that this was a slightly insane, off-kilter thing for me to do. (For all you James Joyce fans out there, The Sopranos tours is the American version of the Ulysses tour in Dublin, which I’ve done. Not to be missed!)

I had always hoped to meet James Gandolfini in person, and tell him what a fine individual and actor he was, and not just for The Sopranos, I had seen him in a number of other productions. He was a top notch actor and person. And he died way too young. Selfishly, I am very sorry I will never meet him–something I had on my bucket list.


He inspired the cover of a company Christmas card I made a few years ago:


He inspired a woman’s 40th birthday solo trek:

PokeyBolton new jersey

He kept me company in my office (and still does):

Tony Soprano office

And he inspired a quilt I made:


I feel cliche´even closing with this but I have to.

Don’t stop believin’…focus on the good times.




20 responses

  1. We were watching the re-runs every week night the last couple of weeks, tragic that he died so young. New Jersey is my adopted State, albeit South Jersey. Visit the Pine Barens as Tony did Pokey, we will miss him.

  2. I didn’t know you were such a super-fan. Mr. Gandolfini was a brilliant actor and his bright light will be deeply missed. I’ll shed a little tear each time I hear “Woke Up This Morning” on my iPod…
    Thank you for the heartfelt tribute.
    –Toni in Milwaukee

  3. It is good to know there is someone else out there who can watch this series again and again! I too loved this show and all of the characters. The show will only mean that much more now.

    Jackie-Havel’s Sewing

  4. Hi Pokey, What a lovely sentiment. Most heartfelt and real. Sorry for your loss. It leaves a big hole in your heart. Hugs, Alice

  5. Thanks for the memories. It was my favorite show at the time, but I haven’t seen it since. Now I remember why I loved it so much, and will have to watch it all again. Although the whole cast was fantastic, James Gandolfini was the heart and soul of the show.

    Linda Teddlie Minton

  6. When I heard the news, I immediately thought of you. I really enjoyed the show as well, and he was a brilliant actor. For me, it’s about the ducks in the first season. That resonates with me to this day and is why I fell in love with the series. RIP

  7. Pokey, beautiful writing on a sad subject. If you get a chance, see True Romance, Quentin Tarantino’s screen writing debut. (He didn’t direct it.) Gandolfini was brilliantly ruthless … actually, this “sleeper” is star-studded, and I’d love to hear how you like it. Perhaps you’ve even seen it … It shows everything he eventually became, give or take a lumbering lug or two.

  8. I am in mourning with you Pokey. I hope you still have the little beaded piece I did for you. Now I think I need to make one for myself. Bonnie Ouellette

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