A story in the online news list today caught my eye: "Jersey Ready for Life Without 'Sopranos'." It speaks to the HBO series wrapping up its eight-year run with some filming in New Jersey. Yes, that's NEW Jersey, people, not "Jersey".
The show is mostly filmed at a New York City soundstage, but many scenes are shot in the Garden State to provide a real [New] Jersey feel. Most towns and business owners welcome "The Sopranos" — they get to watch the filming, snap photos of the actors and even earn some money.I have never seen a single episode of that program, which I understand to be profoundly, monstrously evil. I don't find graphic murder entertaining, and will never watch any of the movies or TV series that glorify the Mob. I have never seen any of the Godfather films, and never will. I'd be very happy if they, and every episode of The Sopranos and every other filmic glorification of organized crime were destroyed in every copy, and everyone involved in creating such trash were barred from media for life. That does not include the little guys who are just caught up in the glamor of the entertainment industry.
My two friends Joe (Joe G in Belleville, whom I have mentioned here before, and Joe F from Queens) worked one day as extras in a scene of The Sopranos staged in a gay bar we all sometimes patronized, in Manhattan. Joe G is, I am told, recognizable in the finished scene, but only a tiny fraction of Joe F is visible. The connection of that scene to the series is that one major character was "outed" earlier that season. This brief advance for gay visibility — a gay mobster! wow! — was, I understand, later reversed when the 'Family' had him "whacked": murdered. I don't think that's the kind of thing that the people who wrote the song "That's Entertainment!" had in mind.
Early on, Italian-American organizations were concerned that The Sopranos perpetuated stereotypes of Italians as low-class mobsters. But as time passed, the criticism faded away, pretty much completely, with the excuse that it was such a 'well-made, compelling drama' that the stereotypes didn't matter. Indeed, many Italians, and New Jerseyans, came to embrace The Sopranos, almost as "Cosa Nostra", indeed "Our Thing", something to be proud of. It was one place in media where Italians weren't invisible, where they could hear Italian names and phrases, and see Italian hangouts in North Jersey. Viewers from this area took pride in spotting places they knew in the opening credits or in location shots. Now that The Sopranos is disappearing from first-run TV, might we not hope for something else based in New Jersey, and rich with Italian characters, but that doesn't play to stereotypes?
Despite this state's reputation elsewhere, mob influence in New Jersey is less than pervasive, but there was a time that my family was concerned that my father, then a mortgage broker, might have been approached by people close to the Mob to place (launder?) some money for them. I think he kept his distance.
The Sopranos has filmed all over North Jersey, so this seems an opportune time to show one of my fotos of Newark's environs rather than Newark proper. The article speaks especially of Kearny
, so let's show something highly unusual from that township of 40,000 people, which touches Newark in two disconnected places, separated by Harrison and East Newark.
This is the Piper's Cove
and Argyle Restaurant complex on Kearny Avenue, which has all kinds of things for the Scottish and Irish community, from Gaelic music CD's to teeshirts to kilt rentals and bagpipers you can hire to play at your event. That's an apt thing to mention in the week after St. Patrick's Day.
As you can see, the store and restaurant — I wonder if they have haggis. I've never had haggis, and tho it sounds awful, Scots seem to like it, and I may be part Scots myself — occupy the ground floor of four adjoining buildings, interrupted by a dental office in a fifth building. I chanced across this little commercial complex in driving north on Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard, which is what the same roadway is called farther south, in Harrison. Rodgers is, in turn, an extension of Jackson Street in the Ironbound, across the Jackson Street bridge. I think I had someplace to be in that vicinity, so didn't take the time to stop in and see what's available. All in good time.
I'm a little annoyed with the name "Kearny", in that one of the banks that my father placed mortgages with, Pulaski Savings, was bought up a couple of years ago by Kearny Federal Savings. The landmark building on 18th Avenue in Irvington, which I pass regularly on my way Downtown, still bore the Pulaski name when I moved to Vailsburg. I found that a comforting reminder of my father, who died a decade before I returned to NJ after living in Manhattan for decades. Then Kearny Savings put its name, in brite colors, on the old Pulaski building, in place of the dignified, monochrome, metal lettering that had been there for decades, to my mind defacing it. Ah well, nothing lasts forever.
[P.S., August 15, 2011: Kearny Federal Savings closed the former Pulaski location after only a couple of years, and that building is now vacant. Sad. Also, the headline of the story about the Sopranos
has changed, along with its online location. The new webhost has, thankfully, replaced "Jersey" with "N.J." Good. And yes, the Argyle Restaurant does serve haggis, at least on special occasions.]