Exterior of the Satriale's Pork Store (it's a former
parts store that HBO is renting to use as an exterior).
Many people travel to be in the spots they've seen in movies or
read about in books. Agatha Christie fans have traced Detective
Jane Marple's steps in England. People take tours of Kuai to stand
under the waterfalls where Fantasy Island was shot. Fans of the
hit television series "The Sopranos" are so devoted that they'll
spend a day in the roughest sections of New Jersey, just to see
the diner where Tony had a salami sandwich, and ordered one of his underlings
to whack somebody. The last original episode of "The Sopranos" aired
way back in May of last year -- and the next original show won't
air until September. Contributor Jeff Lunden missed the mob family
so much that he recently took, not one but, two Sopranos bus tours.
The clash between the dueling consiglieres is heating up. Ba-da-bing!
Jeff Lunden, 4/5/2002
New Jersey may be nicknamed the "Garden State," but if you watch
The Sopranos, you know it isn't exactly filmed in garden
Lucas: This is Hudson County that we're in, and Jersey City
is the seat of Hudson County. So, you'll see, as we go through
here momentarily, you'll see graveyards, toxic waste sites, factories,
housing projects -- everything all right next to each other in
Chris Lucas, an actor who actually had a couple of lines in 10 last
season. Chris runs his tour out of New Jersey. His competition
is Georgette Blau. She runs her tour out of Manhattan. Both tours
cover much of the same gritty territory -- they drive down bleak
highways, past abandoned factories, diners, parking lots and auto
body shops. With scenery like that, Georgette says, you'd better
Jeff Lunden under the diner at the Pulaski Skyway,
where Chris (in "The Sopranos") got shot in the parking lot.
You really have to make the tour itself very colorful, because,
um, this isn't exactly the nicest area of New Jersey and, you
know, New Jersey has a lot of beautiful areas -- but this isn't
Georgette's tour has a slight edge right from the start, because
it actually goes through the Lincoln Tunnel -- just like Tony Soprano
in the opening credits -- and as you emerge into the New Jersey
sunlight, the show's theme blares from the bus speakers.
as the tours drag on -- and they both run for over 4 hours -- you
really appreciate your guide's gift for gab. And, boy can
Chris gab! A New Jersey native, Chris fills every minute
of his Sopranos tour with little facts and anecdotes.
If you look to the left, you'll see Satriale's Pork Store, over
here -- the famous pork store from the show. You notice right
next to it is the Irish-American Association here, proudly flying
the Irish flag. Well, when they film here at Satriale's, they
pay this Irish-American Association $5,000 a day to take down
the Irish flag, put up an Italian flag and cover up all the shamrocks
and everything else, because it wouldn't look right having Tony
sitting here with the Irish flag flying right behind him.
Launder, the substitute host on Georgette's tour, is from Jersey,
too. And, while he's never been on The Sopranos himself,
his car has! Now, John's a little more laid back than Chris, but
he still gets out his zingers.
Up on the top of the hill is another thing from the opening credits:
Pizzaland. 'Gotta be the smallest pizza parlor in New Jersey.
It's supposed to be so small, they only sell slices.
back on the other bus, stuck somewhere on Route 17, Chris wins me
over with a brilliant analysis of the term "fuggedaboutit."
A lot of people ask me, they say, "What does that mean?" I say,
"well, it could mean any number of things, depending on how you
use it." Fuggedaboutit, fuggedaboutit, fuggedaboutit, fuggedaboutit.
Chris has the best snack, too -- a major consideration on a long
tour. He gives his customers a choice of two Italian pastries:
sfogliatelle or cannoli. Georgette's customers only get cannoli,
but on the day I went, we got an extra treat -- a visit from an
actor on the show. Joe Gannascoli's claim to fame is that his character
Vito whacked Jackie Jr. in season three.
Do we get to take pictures of you?
Yeah, we're gonna do a little business first, and then we'll do
that. That good?
buying some Sopranos memorabilia from a guy who once had a small
part in the series, and sells memorabilia out of the trunk of
too authentically, Joe popped the trunk on his ancient Mercedes,
and proceeded to sell Sopranos-themed merchandise from out
of it, including a T-shirt that has his picture on the front, firing
a gun. On the back it says, "I did Jackie Jr."
Do you come out? Do you meet the bus every Sunday?
I, yeah, pretty much. I just started doing this, you know.
So, it's nice. I move a little merchandise.
confess, I bought a little merchandise. Not the T-shirt,
but a hat that has The Sopranos logo on the front and says
"Bada Bing" on the back. The Bada Bing is Tony's strip club in The
Sopranos. Both tours visit the "real" Bada Bing -- the Satin
Dolls Night Club in Lodi, where exteriors, interiors -- and posteriors
-- are shot.
They have a sign up there that says "the Bada Bing," but they
took it down now, 'cause it says "God Bless America, The Panty
Raid Party," which, (laughter) I don't see the connection between
the two, but… I'm not making it up, you can see it's up there.
both tours, it's the the final stop. And, Georgette says that the
strip club actually welcomes busloads of tourists.
I think they like us coming in, spending money on drinks, T-shirts,
bottles of wine that they're selling. So, you know, it's good
-- they're trying to exploit themselves.
club engaged in exploitation?
the way, Georgette forgot to mention that you can also buy Bada
Bing g-strings and bum panties, whatever they are. After
15 minutes, the buses return to Secaucus or Manhattan, and, yes,
both tours have Sopranos trivia contests along the way, to
keep the tired tourists happy. If these tours seem similar, it's
no accident. Chris Lucas used to work for Georgette Blau. After
a falling out, he started his own tour.
There's another company that we actually wrote the tour for them
originally, and now it's two companies doing The Sopranos
tour, which gets really confusing with people. They call me --
"Which Sopranos tour are you?" But we actually run into
each other every once in a while on the tour, so…
into each other? Georgette says he's been stealing her customers
at their mutual pick-up site in Secaucus.
He's been taking my people who are pre-paid, I guess, to look
like there's people on his bus.
now, it's getting downright ugly. Georgette recently initiated legal
action against Chris. Regardless of how the turf war turns out,
the people who take either tour are having a blast, like Betty Licomia.
What in God's name am I doing on this tour? It's a birthday present
from my daughter to her father, 'cause he loves The Sopranos.
This isn't, I mean, this is not the part of New Jersey I would
ride around on a Sunday afternoon, but it's fun. What a way to
make money. Gawd.
In New Jersey, I'm Jeff Lunden for the Savvy Traveler. Fuggedaboutit,
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