Is There Such a Thing as a "Legitimate Massage Parlor"?

Mob Experts on The Sopranos, Week 6

Is There Such a Thing as a "Legitimate Massage Parlor"?

Mob Experts on The Sopranos, Week 6

Is There Such a Thing as a "Legitimate Massage Parlor"?
Talking television.
April 12 2004 11:50 AM

Mob Experts on The Sopranos, Week 6

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Dear George,

Don't get me wrong; I'd love to find $12,000 in the bushes somewhere. One million dollars would be even better. (It sounds like Joey Coyle had an Austin Powers moment.)

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Yes, tribalism was the order of the day. Carmela, we learned, can't date outside the fold; the norms of law-abiding society are entirely alien to her. Tony B. was forced to absorb a lecture from Tony S. about the difficulty of doing business with strangers. And I thought one of the most telling moments of last night's episode came after A.J. threatened to take his pathetic self to child welfare services. His father's reaction: How could a son of mine even think of going to the authorities?

By the way, when do you think A.J. commits his first actual crime? I'm assuming that the temptation of A.J. moves to center stage as we reach the end of the Sopranos' six-season story arc. Though you're right: David Chase is a master of misdirection—I too was thinking Tony B. was building, inadvertently, a happy-ending club, not a legitimate massage parlor. (Doesn't "legitimate massage parlor" look slightly ridiculous to you in print?)

The father-son relationship is the central story of the mob in America (that, and RICO, of course). In my reporting, the clever mobsters never seemed to want their sons to follow them into the business (see Gotti vs. Castellano in this regard). Of course, by not recruiting their own sons, these mob bosses are condemning their businesses to slow collapse.

Firm like a Jersey tomato? What's with you people and tomatoes, anyway? Everybody I know from New Jersey hypes the tomatoes. Is this to cover up the fact that large swaths of your state, especially those parts surrounding the turnpike, smell deeply unnatural?

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In general, I enjoy the literary references, though I thought the reference to Abelard and Heloise was comically heavy-handed. We get it; he got castrated.

I'm also bothered by the condescension toward people without higher education: Carmela made a breakthrough in her reading of Lord of the Flies. OK, it was a breakthrough that a reasonably bright fourth-grader could make, but still: She made a connection. On the other hand, that condescending now-ex-boyfriend of hers, telling her he loves her simplicity—he deserves a smack for that. And presenting Carmela with a  Modern Library Madame Bovary and calling it a first edition? Talk about a mook.

I want to take advantage of your presence here this week, George, and ask you to enlighten us on a subject I'm unclear about: What exactly is the status of the New Jersey mob? My suspicion is that the Soprano Family is a lot healthier, overall, than the actual Jersey mob, but I'm not sure. And my impression of the Philly mob is that it's been straight downhill since the demise of Angelo Bruno. Inquiring minds want to know.

Best,
Jeff

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for the Atlantic and the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror.