I don't think I have ever written about an actor. I can't remember the last time a towering Hollywood figure passed away that mad me so sad. The passing of the GREAT James Gandolfini is an exception. I almost feel like I lost a friend.

Gandolfini succumbed to a heart attack on Wednesday while on vacation in Italy, where his father was from. The loss has dominated the news and many a facebook pages and social media.

I have been reading the tributes from directors who worked with him and friends of his as well as fellow actors and actresses that worked with  or knew the man. You usually get all plaudits when someone passes away. You wonder if all the tributes are real, or just speaking nicely of the dead. I want to believe that all I am reading is real. I obviously never met Gandolfini or talked to him but I think all the kind words are real because I want to believe them.

The praise for Gandolfini all seems real cause he seemed real. I can say for myself, not a big TV viewer at all, the Sopranos was MUST watch TV and I never missed an episode. EVER. It is the only TV show I can ever remember setting my day to. Everything else waited if the Sopranos was on. I could have watched that weeks episode on Monday replays or even Tuesday replays but had to see it live on Sundays. I NEVER missed an episode.

I was a little late to the Sopranos rage. Not being a big TV guy I didn't want to get invested in watching a show and enjoying it so much that I couldn't miss it. 1 episode on DVD had me hooked. It was after the DVD collection came out from season 1. I later watched every episode at the urging of my Aunt as she knew I love mobster movies. After watching 1 or 2 episodes I was hooked.

That the show lasted only 6 years was a disappointment at the time but my rational was it would be back, either in the movies or revitalized on HBO. In fact I LOVED the final episode because it told me the program would return in some form. Now I don't like the final diner episode cause it is final and it is over. No need for HBO to try and bring it back with out Tony Soprano or a new Tony Soprano. It would only hurt the legacy of the program. James Gandolfini was Tony Soprano and nobody should ever try and replace that.

The cast put together for the Sopranos was genius, but it was Gandolfini that was the show.

I remember hearing from some corners how the program was too violent, the cursing unbecoming, and that the stereo types of Italians offensive. Nonsense to all. I don't think real mafiaoso was far from the portrayal  put on by Gandolfini and his cast.

Reading about Gandolfini and watching him on limited TV appearances I felt like he was an every man. From his frequent trips to see the troops over seas, to his rooting for his beloved Rutgers University, I get the feeling James Gandolfini could just have easily have been James Smith the post man or fireman or salesman we all know. Gandolfini often talked about his love and respect for our armed services. He was a big sports fan. I loved when he had Jets coach Eric Mangini on the Sopranos in a cameo appearance. He was babbling in that scene like any " Joe" fan would.

Now all of us Soprano fans will be left to wonder if the Soprano family finished their meal at the diner or if 1 of the ominous characters in that diner that night rubbed them all out. I hope we never find out. I now hope that will be the final episode that will ever be filmed. That would be a fitting tribute to Tony Soprano and the towering figure James Gandolfini was. Rest in Peace Mr Soprano and may God bless your family and your soul!

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