The Chicago Syndicate: New Jersey Landscape Altered by The Sopranos
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

New Jersey Landscape Altered by The Sopranos

Friends of ours: Soprano Crime Family

The guy who runs the real-life Bada Bing is going to miss "The Sopranos," even if he thinks the show may have lowered his club's image a naughty notch or two.

The North Caldwell woman who cooked meals for the cast and crew while her home was used for "Sopranos" location shots is going to miss making baked ziti and chicken soup for her favorite performers.

Meanwhile, one of the mob show's most vocal critics is happy "The Sopranos," which filmed its last episode this week, will soon be history. "Am I glad they're gone? Yes," said Manny Alfano, director of the Italian-American One Voice Coalition. But, Alfano is resigned to the show's A&E re-runs -- and more TV shows and movies that he says unfairly portray Italian-Americans. "There will always be something to take its place."

"The Sopranos" may die off in several months, as may some of its main characters, but whether there will ever be another phenomenon to take its place is debatable.

"I don't know if we'll ever see something like this again," said David W. Schoner Jr., production coordinator for the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission.

New Jersey, the nation's most mocked, maligned and misunderstood state, received an image boost from "The Sopranos," said Schoner, even if the show did center around a Jersey mob family who often did business with brute force. "The great thing about the show was that it was New Jersey," Schoner added. "There was this unabashed shouting from the mountain: 'This is New Jersey!'"

The other great thing about the show is the $60 million-plus it pumped into the state's economy for things like filming fees, meals, food, lumber and local hiring, according to Schoner. "'The Sopranos' increased the film industry's awareness of the state," Schoner said. "We have been considered for and have gotten projects because of 'The Sopranos.' They've raised our profile as a location for filming."

Those whose have lent their businesses and homes for location filming are sorry to see "The Sopranos" wrap up.

Satin Dolls in Lodi, the stand-in for the Bada Bing strip club, became "the most popular club in the country" due to the HBO series, according to general manager Nick D'Urso. "It certainly made us a lot more popular," D'Urso said. "It really gave us an image. We were a high-line club. Now we were the Bada Bing."

Hanging out at the "Bing" was not always a wise career move on "The Sopranos." One dancer in the show, Tracee, was killed outside the club and various "beatin's" were administered inside. The real-life Satin Dolls is a much serene, says D'Urso, who noted that the Bada Bing will continue to be in the spotlight during the final season. "They filmed more in the club this season than any other," he said.

One business that may continue to profit, even after "The Sopranos" is gone, is On Location Tours, which has conducted tours of "Soprano" locations sites since 2001.

"When 'Sex and the City' ended, the numbers for our 'Sex and the City' tours tripled," said Cathy Wilke, director of marketing for On Location Tours. "People go into withdrawal when a show ends. (With) 'The Sopranos'... on A&E, we'll get a whole new audience." (Reruns of the series, with the language and other content toned down, started airing on the basic cable channel in January.)

More than 15,000 people from 40 countries have taken the bus tours, described as a "four-hour tour through Sopranoland."

Towns across New Jersey have reaped the benefits of "Sopranos" location filming. Scenes have been shot in 40-plus communities, "from Ramsey to Asbury Park," according to Regina Heyman, the show's location manager.

Add Atlantic City to the list; the Borgata will appear in an episode this season.

Filming fees can add up. Kearny has been a popular "Sopranos" backdrop. Scenes have been shot inside and outside the Irish-American Association, which takes down its Irish flag and puts up an Italian flag during filming. The association is next door to the building standing in for the fictional Satriale's Pork Store, a hangout for Tony and his crew.

The association has earned $20,000 in rental fees over the years, according to past vice president Richard Dunleavy. The town itself has collected permit fees of $76,650.

Businesses have been paid for shutting down to accommodate a "Sopranos" shoot. Clear Eyes RX in Wayne, for example, was compensated $6,000 for filming. And then there are those who have invited the show into their homes.

Deborah Del Vecchio, for one, is going to miss cooking for everyone's favorite Jersey mob family. Over the years, her three-level North Caldwell home has served as the "home" of several "Sopranos" characters -- Janice Soprano, Johnny Sack, Silvio Dante and Patsy Parisi. "I always cook for the cast and crew," Del Vecchio said. "Antipasto, baked ziti -- they all love my homemade chicken soup," especially Aida Turturro, who plays Janice.

Filming was last done in her home a week ago, and Del Vecchio reported no gunshots were fired.

Initially, her home was in the running to be Tony Soprano's house, but the ducks ruined it -- or the lack of ducks. Tony liked the ducks in his swimming pool, and though there were ducks in the Del Vecchios' pool, construction on the house next door drove them away. So another house was chosen for the mob don's dwelling.

Del Vecchio's husband, Richard, has his own fond memories of "The Sopranos." He appeared in one episode as a Bada Bing patron. "All I know is that he was smiling for three days," Del Vecchio said, laughing."

Thanks to Peter Genovese

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