I was in Sanibel Island, Florida outside of Fort Myers. It was March of 2000. I had a day off covering MLB Spring Training and decided to lay out by the hotel pool and enjoy a nice cigar.
As I finished lighting my Montecristo #2 I noticed him.. How can you not! The Sopranos was still relatively new to viewers but I was already hooked on the show. He had a t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops. A towel wrapped around his neck and an unlit cigar in one hand.
Maybe it was the smoke from my cigar, but he quickly shuffled over to my area by the pool. There was an empty seat not quite next to me, but near enough to me. As he approached, I found my self rehearsing what, if anything, I would say to my new favorite TV star! It was Tony Soprano himself. I had read he was painfully shy and I certainly didn’t want to disrupt his quiet time in the sun.
Thankfully he spoke first. “Is this seat taken?” he said. “No… enjoy” I said. He nodded and sat down. What was I going to say.. if anything?! He then took off his shirt. and it hit me… A couple of big fellas sitting by the pool, both in bad need of as much sunscreen as humanly possible.
After he lit his cigar, I looked at him and said… “between you and me.. aint nobody gonna get any sun today at this pool”. He laughed.. shook his head yes.. and reached out to shake my hand. “James” he said. “Jim” I said. Nothing more was said and at least for me.. that was plenty.
Vaya con Dios James Gandolfini.
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