Can You Smuggle Sperm out of Federal Prison?

Mob Experts on The Sopranos, Week 4

Can You Smuggle Sperm out of Federal Prison?

Mob Experts on The Sopranos, Week 4

Can You Smuggle Sperm out of Federal Prison?
Talking television.
March 29 2004 1:36 PM

Mob Experts on The Sopranos, Week 4

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Jeff, Leon,

I absolutely loved Leon's performance last night in the Jewish-wedding German-cars-heist scene. Truly an, ahem, marvelous bit of acting, from his first line, "Asa, they got the SL," to his staggering pronouncement that it had taken him "a motherfucking year" to buy the car. Now I know why the casting directors gave me the boot when I read for a part on the show. No way could I have matched Leon's flair, his, er, savoir-faire, his acting panache. And if Leon's 6-feet-2 Jewish frame translates to 6-feet-8 in real height, my 5 feet 8 Italian-American stature shakes out at maybe 5 feet 2 in real measure.

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With all due respect for Leon's acting abilities and his excellent description of how he arrived at his hard "g" in motherfucking—I'd love to get Leon's analysis of the correct pronunciation of the "g" in Long Island—he does come off as a bit of a suck-up, much like all of Tony Sopranos' "laugh-at-my-jokes" wiseguys on display in last night's episode. I mean, Jeezus fuckinggg Christ, Leon, didn't you meet anybody on the set you didn't like? Talking about the actors, you sound  as transparently sycophantic as Paulie Walnuts and Silvio and Christopher and all the rest looked last night as they laughed at Tony's jokes and helped get my favorite gangster (in the show) shipped back to prison for a parole violation.

Regarding Jeff's efforts to provoke me into criticizing The Sopranos portrayal of Italian-Americans, I repeat: The show is about a very small segment of the Italian-American community, the same very small percentage that I often write about—Italian-American criminals. I think all the negative stereotypical characteristics attributed to Italian-American gangsters in movies and on television shows like The Sopranos no more reflect on Italian-Americans than the negative stereotypical portrayals of Jews and blacks and other ethnicities reflect on them. And I do believe that people in the heartland are smart enough to realize that. After all, I don't think Timothy McVeigh is a true representative of all non-Italians or people who don't come from New York. However, I think the writers of The Sopranos could have done themselves a favor with their Italian-American critics without hurting the show by creating a wholesome Soprano relative to inject more reality into the show. But that's their decision and I'm not going to quibble with it. As you both agree, the show is an equal-opportunity ethnic basher.

I do take issue, however, with the way the writers dispatched Feech off to prison. (Tony's  crew tipped off authorities to a hijacked trailer-load of 50-inch flat-screen televisions in Feech's garage.)  It would never happen like that in real life, no matter how many of Tony's suck-ups were made to agree with his decision in the show. In the first place, the boss and his crew acted like the "rats" they claim to hate and despise. Second, they disrespected Feech; they would have known he would have preferred to have been blown away. Third, and most important, no gangsters on the face of the earth would give up a trailer-load worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in a sophisticated scam for any reason, except perhaps as a bribe, or as part of a larger scheme that would reap more profits in the long run.

But it is nice to know that the writers read Gang Land. The opening scene, in which Tony lounges around his pool with cousin Tony B and his two kids, set the context  for Carmela's later explanation that Tony B's comare (girlfriend) had conceived the kids with sperm smuggled out of federal prison. This was a composite of real-life happenings featured in several of my columns about Luchese capo Georgie Neck Zappola and Colombo associate Kevin Granato. A plan by Zappola to impregnate his girlfriend failed, but a similar one by Granato and his wife was a smashing success, producing a baby girl. In the end, however, not only did it cost Granato more time in prison—his release date was pushed back a year to 2013—but his wife and his baby girl, who will be 5 in August, received an inordinate amount of grief at the hands of, in my humble opinion, a thin-skinned, supervindictive federal-prison warden whose Pennsylvania institution was a cesspool of corrupt activities by correction officers. Mother and daughter were banned from visiting the man in their life during a lengthy investigation into the "crime," and ultimately, after husband and wife both pled guilty, Granato was transferred to a prison in Oregon, as far from Staten Island as seems possible. (In a show of compassion, neither the mother nor daughter were jailed.)

Once again, nice to have you aboard, Leon.