Posts Tagged ‘Holsten’s Badda Bing’


Yesterday Jack and I played “tourists in our own town.”  I love The Sopranos and Jack is a serious Sopranos FREAK.  He’s been wanting to go on this tour since before we even considered moving to New York.  He finally had a Saturday off, and since I’m currently unable to work due to my injury, we took the opportunity to be tourists for a day.  It was a great day weather wise (mild and clear), plus it’s “off season” so we were able to get a little bit of a discount and enjoy the tour on a not too crowded bus.  The tour itself overall was FANTASTIC, really thanks to our tour guide, Marc Baron.  He had been on the show a few times in bit parts and as a day player, and so had inside tips and information that made it all that more interesting and fun.  He was also incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the show and very engaging during the entire 4 hour tour.  He alone made it worth every penny.  I’d never been on a tourist bus excursion like this before (and generally have no interest), but would recommend this one to anybody whether you are an avid fan or even only occasionally watched the show.

Jack with “Vito Spatafore, Sr.,” played by  the actor Joseph  Gannascoli.   Okay, I have a lot to say about this picture.  This was the only weird and disappointing part of the entire tour.  I had read that on this tour you often get to meet Joseph Gannascoli but didn’t really read further into any of the details.   Basically what happens is when you check in, the tour guide (Marc) tells you that if you are interested you can meet one of the actors from the show “in a silver car, four cars down behind the bus.”  So we walk about 50 feet and see a few people in line ahead of us.  Basically Joseph Gannascoli is standing with the hatchback open, selling books, autographed pictures, and cigars out of the back of his car.  While waiting, I asked Jack if he wanted to buy anything and he said no, that he just wanted to meet him, tell him how much he admired his work, and to get a picture.  When it was our turn, Gannascoli was extremely unfriendly and wouldn’t make any eye contact.  When Jack told him how much he loved his work and asked could he get a picture, Gannascoli refers to the items for sale and says, “Something for the effort.”  Jack looks at me sort of confused and not knowing what to say and then says, “No thank you, is it okay if I just get a picture?”  Again Gannascoli says, “How about something for the effort, I drove 2 hours.” (Btw, he lives in Brooklyn.)  I can see Jack’s taken aback and doesn’t really know what to do or say (as am I, in shock that this guy is actually trying to hustle fans).  But I know what a HUGE fan Jack is of the show and how much he’s been looking forward to this tour forever and that he really wants a picture with the guy, so I encourage him to buy an autographed photo so I can get the picture above.  What I really wanted to tell Gannascoli  at that moment is to go eff himself, but for Jack’s sake and not wanting to ruin any part of this tour for him, I play along.  Of course immediately after we paid, as I took the picture, his total sour demeanor all of a sudden disappeared and this brilliant smile of his is displayed. I walked away feeling pissed off (at both Gannascoli and myself) that I had totally bought into being shaken’ down by this guy and at his taking advantage of true fans by putting them on the spot like that. It also felt just kind of sad and depressing that he feels he needs to hustle (true) fans of his work (that simply want to express admiration) for TWENTY DOLLARS.  What was also weird/funny was that after we were on the bus(waiting for a large group that arrived 1/2 hour late for check-in), our tour guide kept us engaged with trivia and video clips.  We were first shown an interview with Joseph Gannascoli talking about one of his favorite things about working on The Sopranos:  doing scenes at Badda Bing.  He described how he would tell the girls to “really go for it, the director is watching and if he’s impressed he’ll keep using you and you could really go far” and how his saying that got them to do just that, do all kinds of crazy things;  basically admitting that he abused his position to exploit these girls.  The interview clip was intended to be humorous, but immediately following our interaction with him, it was obvious that he wasn’t kidding, and it left me viewing him as a creepy gross fame whore  jerk.  Too bad because truly his work in The Sopranos was pretty brilliant.  Sometimes it’s better not to meet people whose work you admire, especially when they turn out to be a-holes and then your whole view of them and their work becomes skewed.  Boo.:/

So after the initial nonsense, the real fun began.  Here’s Jack like a little boy at Christmas as we wait for the tour to begin.

About to exit the Lincoln Tunnel, crossing over from New York to New Jersey.

View of Manhattan from the Jersey side (and my reflection in the bus window).

Diner where Christopher was shot (now painted a different color than it was during the taping of the show).

Jack on the steps that Christopher was coming down when he was shot.

Passing by La Pizza (still in operation).

Big Pussy’s auto shop

Another view of Big Pussy’s auto shop

Pizza Land (seen in The Sopranos intro and opening credits), also still in operation although now under different ownership. Apparently you can call and get one of their pizzas fed-exed to your home if you do not live within the immediate delivery area. Marc-the-tour-guide-Baron said that immediately proceeding the show’s finale, they had to shut down for a few days because they had hundreds (I think he said about 800?) of orders for their pizza to be fed-exed all over the country.

Jack on the bus looking all maphia-like as we pass by Pizza Land

Pulling up to Holsten’s (where the final scene of The Sopranos was shot)

Outside of Holsten’s.  When we went in, they had a sample of onion rings waiting for each us (just like Tony ordered for the family to share in the final scene).  REALLY cute place (as you will see in the pictures below).  We were able to order food to-go here (we got a side of fries and (I forgo my vegan ways for a day) two chocolate egg cremes.  The kids (and I do mean kids) working here were super sweet, and the inside is MUCH smaller than it appears on the show.  It is a very popular local diner, and we talked with a really nice (local) mother and her kids who were dining there and so tickled that people actually took a bus to New Jersey just to come to this place (she said she had been taking her kids there since they were “wee-big.”).

The bathroom where the guy with the Members Only jacket enters after passing by Tony.  Notice that in “real life” it’s actually the women’s bathroom (but they used this one in the show for a better screen shot). There was a lot on this tour I actually didn’t take pictures of, and it was interesting to learn where “mistakes” were made in the show and/or how the director’s would use different tricks to “cheat” in order to make things work (like this).

Jack and I sitting in the Sopranos family booth at Holsten’s where Tony Soprano and family were sitting in the last scene of the series. They had to made this booth especially for James Gandolfini because at the time he could not fit into their normal sized booths.

The last stop and of course the “real” reason Jack wanted to go on the tour…Badda Bing (aka IRL Satin Dolls).  No cameras are allowed inside (for obvious reasons).  Fun fact, like Washington State, liquor and nudity cannot cohabit in a place of business, so unlike on the show where the girls were topless, here they can only skimp down to lingerie type attire.  Sorry Jack.  We spent about 25 minutes in here, each having a drink at the bar, watching girls do the impressive impossible on stripper poles (of course tipping the girls for their efforts), and with “Girls,  Girls, Girls” playing in the background (yes, that song, really).  Jack bought a couple of souvenirs (a t-shirt and a hat) and we chatted up with the super nice and laid back manager on duty for a bit.

Pictures I didn’t take were mostly of where we got off the bus and walked around in a small area of town where certain scenes were shot; places such as Satriale’ s Pork Store, which is sadly now an empty lot), AJ’s High School (which is actually a middle school), etc.  What I really loved were Marc Baron’s stories of James Gandolfini and Edie Falco, whom he described as incredibly generous of spirit people.  He said that during negotiations with HBO, Gandolfini insisted that the other actors on the show also get a raise, and that during the last season when only he got a raise, he invited each actor on different occasions into his trailer and handed them a large envelope of money.  Marc also described a day when he was working on the set as an actor, playing a waiter where he had to get trained to serve tea in a very specific way.  During the taping, the whole original plan got scrapped, thus making his hours of training for it obsolete.  When this happened, Edie Falco, who was also in the scene, suddenly started ad-libbing and engaging Marc so that he would have to answer her, thus giving him dialogue.  The director kept re-shooting the scene, telling her not to do that, but each time she would do this.  Finally they submitted and kept the exchange in, which forced the producers to make Marc a Day Player for this scene, thus paying him $800+ instead of the $130 he would have originally received.  Extremely classy and generous on Falco’s part to look out for her fellow actors (regardless of their stature and the size of their parts), and both of these stories made me love Gandolfini and Falco even more.  I also loved finding out how so many people who worked on this show came to it from previous work with David Chase, as well as learning a lot about Chase’s creative process.  Most of the details on the show were directly from his experiences and life, and it made me realize so much more that this is the best place to draw from creatively(rather than some far off, hard to reach place, or “trying” to make it up).  Example: the name “Meadow” (Tony Soprano’s daughter) came simply from the name tag of a waitress at a restaurant where Chase and his wife had eaten at in L.A. years earlier. It’s these little attention to details in one’s own real day-to-day experience that can spring to life the incredible attention to detail in that same person’s creative expression. I love it.

So to wrap up–FUN day.  If you love The Sopranos as much as we do, I cannot recommend this tour enough.  Incredible value (especially if you skip the $20 “photo-op” with Vito at the beginning–save that extra money, plus some, to go towards the well deserved gratuity for the awesome tour guide, Marc Baron, the great kids at Holsten’s, and the hard working girls at Satin Dolls).

(last scene…is there any fan out there there that really hasn’t seen this yet???…well, spoiler alert, just in case)


Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: