By JERRY BARMASH
He was a Tony Award nominee, had numerous roles, mostly supporting, in films, but James Gandolfini will forever be Tony Soprano. He died yesterday of a massive heart attack in Italy. Gandolfini was just 51.
As the Don in HBO’s groundbreaking mafia drama The Sopranos, Gandolfini won three Emmy Awards as Tony Soprano. Gandolfini’s portrayal didn’t only earn him trophies, it won him praise from viewers and colleagues worldwide.
His legacy is cemented with the tortured role, where he battled with his family and the family business.
And yet, Gandolfini’s Soprano is recognized as one of the most endearing characters in television history.
He touched millions of people each Sunday night, but there are many others who were fortunate enough to have a personal connection with the TV giant. One of those is WCBS-FM’s Joe Causi (above with Gandolfini).
“I met him at various fundraisers. [He was] always doing good for so many charities,” Causi tells Tuned In.
But his large frame came in handy, giving the radio personality a unique perspective.
“I also was used by HBO as his body double in various episodes,” Causi says.
WCBS 880 anchor Steve Scott had the pleasure of meeting Gandolfini just after 9/11. His impromptu meet and greet became a brief Q and A with the towering presence.
Scott was working for WLS Radio in Chicago, and was brought to Ground Zero by ABC News Radio. While filing reports a buzz filled the air that Gandolfini was saying hello to recovery workers. Scott almost missed the opportunity, as Gandolfini walked right past the intrepid reporter.
Scott tried to speak to him for a moment, but the superstar didn’t want to stop. Instead, he agreed to walk and talk with Scott.
“It was very apparent that he did not want to be the story,” Scott tells Tuned In. “He simply wanted to thank the recovery crews and lend his encouragement.”
Scott, the afternoon WCBS anchor, saw a rare side of the powerhouse performance.
“He shook my hand, but never really looked me in the eye. He seemed very shy. He didn’t smile,” Scott recalls. “He was pleasant enough, and allowed me to walk with him. But, he looked like he wished he was invisible.”
The death of Gandolfini, a New Jersey native, stunned friends and fans alike, when the news was reported last night.
Causi says, “[It] was very hard announcing this on the air.”