The death of actor James Gandolfini, aka Tony Soprano, at the age of 51 from a heart attack, came as a great shock.
Shocking because he was so relatively young.
And upsetting because I, like so many others, truly loved the Soprano series. In the days before Playback, we would rearrange our social lives so that we didn’t miss an episode. And what episodes they were!
The hulky, threatening gangster who saw a shrink; Tony hiding his huge armament of guns in the loft of an old people's home; and the Mafia don whose own mother plotted his assassination.
‘The Sopranos’ especially resonated for me because my very first photography assignments in New York were for exactly these same characters.
For a short while I worked for the United Teamsters Union, the union of disappearing Jimmy Hoffa fame. The vast majority of American the trade unions worked hard - and honestly - to make workers’ lives better. But the Teamsters were truly the hard boys of the union movement in New York.
The Teamster’s offices, just off Union Square, was filled with Soprano characters.
One time I rode up the lift with a group of Tony’s and as one of them scratched his bulging stomach, I saw the pistol strapped to his belt. I rushed breathlessly to the editor’s office, stumbling over my words to warn him that there was a man with a gun in the building. The editor looked at me with a look of ‘Stupid fuckin’ college kid’ and said, ‘That was the vice president, you idiot.’
The next day I was fired.
Good-bye James Gandolfini, Good-bye Big Tony.