Photos: This Is What It’s Like Inside A Sopranos Convention In New Jersey
SopranosCon, the ultimate two-day Sopranos-themed convention, took over the Meadowlands this weekend for a two day Sopranos-themed orgy of Jersey sights, sounds and smells. It was truly the ultimate fan experience for Sopranos lovers, where you could meet tons of various major and minor cast members (including Pie-O-My!!), get lost inside a “Pine Barrens”-themed maze, take part in a cannoli-eating contest, or get a Sopranos-inspired tattoo. Even the band Alabama 3 showed up to perform the iconic theme song, “Woke Up This Morning.”
Thousands of people showed up for the first-ever event, which was billed as “an interactive, street festival themed fan experience, visually inspired by The Feast of St Elzéar, celebrating the series by showcasing Italian culture in New Jersey with food, drink, art, music, comedy, and some show-related businesses.” There were a whopping 55 cast members in attendance, though some of the biggest names only made it to one of the two days—Drea de Matteo only came on Sunday, for example, while Tony Sirico only went Saturday. He was spotted riding in a golf cart through the arena, which is a priceless thing to witness.
There were long lines for the very in-demand people like Dominic Chianese (Uncle Junior), which angered some fans who hoped to collect all 55 autographs. In an email to fans, the three main organizers apologized for some of the event’s problems: “The reality is it’s IMPOSSIBLE to have met everyone, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to talk to every cast member and it was IMPOSSIBLE to have a sit down dinner.” They added, “Some people are delusional to think that we made money on this event. The fact of the matter is we could have had 5-6 cast members, played Alabama 3 on a CD through the loudspeaker, just focused on autographs and made lots of profit because we had 10,000 people. That is false. That wouldn’t be SopranosCon.” They also added that the Gandolfini family was in attendance and “his 6 year old daughter took photos in front of a 30 foot wall with his image on it. That is something we will never forget.”
“We all came together to be a part of history,” they concluded the email. “The MAJORITY enjoyed themselves. We certainly learned a LOT. We apologize to those that weren’t 100% happy. We are humbled by all the support we have received. We will make changes and continue to bring you epic events that we are passionate about.”
As for more highlights: Chianese blessed the audience with a few songs on the main stage, where there were various Q&As with cast members, eating contests, a costume contest, musical performances, and at least one stand-up routine. There were incredibly obscure characters (the Members Only guy from the finale), a recreation of the Bada Bing (complete with dancers), the car from the movie Green Book (never forget that Tony Lip played crime boss Carmine Lupertazzi on the show), and a recreation of Bobby Baccala’s train set from the penultimate episode. The amount of Sopranos trivia and minutiae that was revealed was incredible, like when Vincent Curatola (the legend Johnny Sack) said his favorite episode of the show was “Pine Barrens” because it was the “only time you see Tony Sirico’s hair messed up,” or the fact they had this classic Jackie Jr. piece on site.
I can’t believe they have the Scrabble game where Jackie Jr. played the word “ass” pic.twitter.com/yQp3Y4cgec
— actually at capaciklee 🦜 (@MilesKlee) November 24, 2019
“The overall event was really friendly and warm, and every single attendant and cast member was super friendly and just stoked to be there,” noted photographer Gretchen Robinette, whose photos of the event you can see in the gallery up above. In addition to those, you can check out a few portraits of fans and cast members, and their thoughts on the weekend and the show in general, below.
Marc Milano, 46, dressed up as Tony in his bath robe. “There is always peril around the corner, thats what the show is about,” he said. He was most excited about meeting Ray Abruzzo (Little Carmine Jr.), and had some thoughts on the finale: “I don’t think Tony died, I think that life just goes on. The show goes on, it’s just not on TV anymore. The song [in the finale episode] “Don’t Stop Believin'” is just that, don’t stop believing in the show.”
Kathrina Miccio played “Diane,” one of the original Bada Bing bartenders. “The entire [Sopronos] cast was impeccable, the writing was amazing, and the show was just addictive,” she said. She was incredibly impressed by the turnout for SopranosCon: “When they said thousands of people were coming, they were not kidding, it is packed! An event like this could only be successful because of the diehard fans.”
John Bianco played Gerry Torciano, a protege of Phil Leotardo better known as “The Hairdo” on the show. “It’s turning out much bigger and better than I had expected. Just to get to see all the guys again is so cool,” he said of the event. He reflected on the legacy of the show: “No one knows at the beginning of a show if it’s going to be successful or not. The Sopranos had touches of The Godfather, the actors together have amazing chemistry—once you have all [of] that it starts to take on a life of its own.” As for the finale: “My take on it? I think he got shot, I do.”
Bergen County resident Kevin Force, 32, called it the most NJ show in history:”Every place they go to in the show, I recognize, it’s Jersey. And it has a real Jersey attitude.” He also thinks Tony was killed in the finale.
Dunellen, NJ resident Steve Katrensky, 26, has this amazing outfit on. The most Jersey thing about the series? “Attitude.” And the finale? “Tony’s goose was cooked.”
Blake Lombardi (right), 27, hails from Coldsnack, NJ. “I haven’t been to the Sopranos house yet, but we are going today on the tour after this,” he noted. The person he most wanted to meet was Federico Castelluccio, aka Furio, “but I’m waiting for the line to die down. I also wanted to see Paulie, but he had to leave, unfortunately.” His friend Ronnie Rehim (left), also 27 and from Coldsnack, weighed in on the finale: “Meadow should have parked the car faster.”
Belford, NJ resident Frankie Fratello, 51, said the most Jersey thing about the show is that Jersey people “are real people that tell it like it is.” As for the finale: “I think Davis Chase left it up to the audience to decide. If you really watch, you can see how he put everything from every episode, in the scene. Like the guy in the diner in a Members Only jacket, the scene with the picture that represents his mother. I really believe that all they were doing was having dinner. The show started with them eating and ended with them eating. He was having dinner with his family and that is all that happened. He did not get killed.”
Jersey City residents Alfredo Fuccilli (left) and Mathew Slawek (right), both 26. Fuccilli was most excited to meet Dan Grimaldi, who played Patsy Parisi, and of course, Paulie Walnuts. He said about the finale, “I think [David Chase] meant it to seem as very tense moment, but for Tony, that was just everyday. The tape cutting off doesn’t really mean that he died, it just means that any moment could be that tense for him, but his life just went on.” Slawek disagreed: “Tony is dead. That’s my conspiracy theory. Every time the door rang, every camera angle is from his perspective. And when it goes black, that’s just from his perspective.” As for the most Jersey thing about the show, he noted it was “the ziti. All the ziti.”ent could be that tense for him, but his life just went on.”
Newark residents Joey Catalano (left) and John Ruggiero (right) will both appear in the upcoming Sopranos spin-off film, The Many Saints Of Newark, coming out next year. Catalano said of the series, “The show was so successful because it had everything: crime, drama, humor, everybody related to it. Everybody liked it, even in middle America. It had drama, sex, New Jersey.”
It’s none other than Brandon Hannon, aka poor Vito Spatafore Jr. “The cast members are very loyal to one another, everyone loves each other, I think that is what people pick up on,” he said. “I couldn’t believe the turnout! Everyone is in good spirits. It just goes to show that even 13 or 14 years after the show has ended, so many people still love the show and are still coming out to support.”
Joseph Caballuzi (far right) said he got to meet Uncle Junior, and would love to see a Sopranos spin-off with Steven Schirripa and Steven Van Zandt. His friends Rosanne Muccioli (middle) and Frankie Panzarino (bottom left) wouldn’t want any Sopranos-related thing without James Gandolfini. Panzarino shockingly didn’t like the finale: I thought a movie was coming out of it, then nothing happened. I didn’t want it to end, but if it had to, there should have been something better than that.”
Vincent Pastore, aka Big Pussy, with Robert Funaro, aka Eugene Pontecorvo. He said he loved every minute of SopranosCon: “I hope we do it every year.”