SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Anthony Soprano, a waste-management consultant; of Essex, N.J.; died this week. Mr. Soprano was, according to reports that aired for six years on HBO, head of the DiMeo crime family, which allegedly ran illicit drugs, untaxed alcohol, illegal sports betting and other criminal enterprises from the back of an adult-entertainment venue called the Bada Bing Club, on Route 17 in Lodi. Tony Soprano denied his involvement in organized crime. He said it was a vicious stereotype that slurs waste-removal professionals who promote a green, healthy environment.
Mr. Soprano's survivors include his wife, Carmela, who loved him but was often exasperated by his frequent absences from family life; a daughter, Meadow, who cherished him but could be embarrassed by her family; and a son, Anthony Jr., who was diffident and rebellious, but still relied on his family for support. Mr. Soprano also left several grieving mistresses and their jewelry. He loved animals, including ducks that waddled into his swimming pool.
Mr. Soprano's mother once tried to have him killed. That made family gatherings awkward. He also became a public symbol for mental health by seeking professional counseling for his feelings of anxiety and ennui. This isn't painful, he told his psychiatrist. Getting shot is painful. Getting stabbed in the ribs is painful. This isn't painful. It's empty. Dead.
Mr. Soprano was suspected, but never convicted, of several murders, including the killing of Sal "Big Pussy" Bonspensiero, who had become an FBI informant; Ralphie Cifaretto, whom Mr. Soprano held responsible for killing his racehorse for insurance money; and Christopher Moltisanti, Mr. Soprano's own nephew, who was addicted to drugs and therefore considered vulnerable to turning state's evidence for the feds - excuse me, federal investigators.
Mr. Soprano also allegedly ordered the execution of Adriana La Cerva, Mr. Moltisanti's girlfriend, because she wanted "Christapha" to join her in the Witness Protection Program. But Mr. Soprano defended Vito Spatafore from other mobsters who wanted him murdered when his homosexuality was revealed.
Tony Soprano was a brutal, loyal, sentimental, cruel and enthralling character who danced on a high wire between humanity and absurdity. He died this week when James Gandolfini, the actor who portrayed him so deftly and indelibly on "The Sopranos," died at the age of 51.
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