Sopranos Final Season

Week 5: Is Paul Wolfowitz Tony Blundetto?
Talking television.
May 8 2007 7:25 PM

Sopranos Final Season

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Dear Jeff and Brian,

See, Jeff, this is why you and I don't make the big bucks. Even before he knew he would join this online discussion, this Wilson guy spotted Southside Johnny in the background with Nancy Sinatra during Episode 81. When you work in TV journalism, you can't go back and check afterward. You have to get it right in real time. One quibble, though: My friend Bill Barol—who, unlike Brian, is not too busy shaking hands with Queen Elizabeth II to go back and check frame by frame—reports that Southside Johnny was playing harmonica for Miss Sinatra, not leading the band. Southside was, Bill reports, "waaaaay in the background."

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I'd also like to thank Brian for informing me that Satin Dolls  of Lodi, N.J., doubles as the Bing. What I didn't know until I surfed the Web to confirm Brian's claim is that the real-world state of New Jersey forbids topless dancing in any establishment that serves alcohol. Indeed, a liquor-serving club called the Moulin Rouge in Atlantic City recently got prosecuted for employing lap dancers, even though they wore bikini tops and bottoms, based on broad language in the state regulation banning any "lewdness or immoral activity" anyplace they serve liquor. Since the Bing's dancers are topless and perform lap dances while the taps flow freely at the bar, Tony's strip club is in pretty flagrant violation of New Jersey state law, and has been for many years now. Is acknowledging New Jersey's topless ban one concession to reality that Sopranos creator David Chase refuses to make? Or has Chase set a trap in plain sight for Tony's demise? I doubt anybody ever does hard time for violating New Jersey's topless ban, but a slap on the wrist to Tony might serve as a passable concluding irony to the narrative.

Whoops. There I go violating my Karenina rule again.

I think you're both big chickens for refusing to embrace my offer to play Bush-Soprano Mix 'n Match. Bwah bwah bwah bwah! (I'm flapping my elbows at you as I write this.) Brian at least has a good excuse—he's anchorman of the evening news, and would probably cause an international incident if he spoke out loud what I know must be on his mind, which is that Queen Elizabeth fairly begs to be matched with Svetlana, Livia Soprano's one-legged Russian nurse, whose prosthesis Janice stole when Svetlana wouldn't give Janice Livia's record collection, which Livia bequeathed to Svetlana fair and square, prompting Svetlana to ask two friends in the Russian mob to break Janice's ribs. It's been a while since I read The Guns of August, but isn't this how the queen's grandfather, George V, got mixed up in the Great War? Svetlana had a way of flicking the ash off her cigarette that could only be described as regal.

Anyway, Brian gets a bye because he's an anchorman, and because he's our guest. But Jeff. Paisan. As Michael Corleone would say: You disappoint me.

I know no journalist with greater courage than you. You have risked your life more than once reporting on wiseguys and terrorists. (Reader, if you have not done so, run to a bookstore this instant and purchase Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Muslim Divide, which I declared in Slate "the most riveting read" of 2006.) But when I ask you to match a Bushie to a Soprano, you hem and haw and dig your toe into the ground and finally give me … Norman Mineta? (No, he isn't secretary of transportation anymore. That seat is now being warmed by someone called   Mary E. Peters.) Gen. David Petraeus, now halfway across the world trying to get some results out of the president's ill-considered surge in Iraq, is far too admirable a figure to have any fun with. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid isn't bad as Artie Bucco, but our readers should know that it's been open season on Reid ever since David Broder, the very solemn dean of the Washington press corps, declared Reid "the Democrats' Gonzales" in an April 26 column. Pick on someone your own size!

Embattled World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz as Hesh is bolder but not particularly apt. I'm thinking Wolfowitz is Tony Blundetto, because they're both tragic recidivists. Or maybe Wolfowitz is Feech LaManna, the over-the-hill capo played by Robert Loggia who re-emerged after 20 years in the slammer. Tony gave Feech the big boys' poker game to run but warned him not to step on any toes. "Me?" Feech said. "I'm Fred Astaire." He wasn't, and Tony got rid of him by duping him into violating his parole. I like this theory, but it gives President Bush way too much credit.

Till Next Week,
Tim

Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.