I had an interesting encounter today. I was going to the Mets game at Shea at night, but before I went I had a couple of errands to run in Manhattan. It led to a very strange and funny coincidence.
I've been taping "The Sopranos" for my friend Alex, who doesn't have HBO but is a big fan of the show. Starting from last season and including this one, I tape the show on Sunday nights and we meet up the next day and swap tapes (I've been taping it on two separate tapes). This past Monday I accidentally left the tape home, so we decided to meet up on Tuesday to exchange tapes.
We did so in Greenwich Village, and then I left to meet up with my friend Leah in the West Village. She has season tickets to the Red Sox at Fenway and offered me two for the game on Friday night against Atlanta, which I gratefully accepted. We agreed to meet up at The Pecan Cafe on Franklin Street and West Broadway so I could get the tickets.
I got there around 5 PM. As I approached the entrance, who should be sitting there with a little boy having a cold drink but none other than Tony Soprano himself, James Gandolfini (pictured, with the late Christopher Moltisanti). He was sitting there on the steps of the place, like any other New Yorker enjoying the spring day. I couldn't believe I was seeing him, after just a few minutes before swapping Sopranos tapes with Alex.
I met up with Leah, and she was all excited about Mr. Gandolfini's appearance. She went on to tell me that she walked up to him in The Pecan Cafe a few moments earlier and told him how much she loved his work and the show. He smiled and shook her hand.
She had an idea about me going up to him and asking him to autograph it, but we both realized that he probably wouldn't want to be bothered when it comes to autographs, and that he probably would want his space. I have always respected celebrities' need for privacy when they are out in public. When I worked at Tower Records we had celebrities coming in all the time, and it was always a big deal for us employees. But I always left them alone, unless they came up to me and asked for help (and some did). Most stars who came in were generally pretty cool about being recognized, but I also heard some stories about those who were rather surly. So I leave them be.
But I do like to look (or even gawk, if you will).
Leah and I had a seat in the cafe right at the window, which was right behind James and his young son. It was fascinating watching people in the street pass him by and recognize him. They all just looked back at him and left him alone. He was there about 5-10 minutes before he left with his boy and his nanny (I believe). And in an ironic and rather funny twist, he left in an SUV that he was driving. (If you saw this past Sunday's episode you get the twist.)