By LARRY McSHANE
.c The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) - It was an offer he had to refuse. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, told by organizers that he couldn't march in the annual Columbus Day Parade if accompanied by two cast members from ``The Sopranos,'' said Friday he would simply skip the event.
The mayor even slipped in a little mob-speak about the tempest in a cappuccino cup caused by his invitations to Monday's event.
``I'm sort of walking along, invite two Italian-Americans, want to say thank you on behalf of the city,'' Bloomberg said a la Sonny Corleone. ``And bada-bing, bada-boom - all of a sudden they're down my throat. OK?''
Bloomberg spoke on his weekly radio show as the Columbus Citizens Foundation, which runs the parade, sought a federal court order banning him from bringing Dominic Chianese and Lorraine Bracco to the annual celebration of Italian pride.
Chianese plays New Jersey mob boss Junior Soprano, while Bracco plays a psychiatrist treating mobster Tony Soprano.
Parade organizers have complained that the hit HBO show is little more than a negative caricature of Italian-American life. ``It denigrates Italian culture,'' said Frank Fusaro, vice president of the Columbus Citizens Convention.
Fusaro said his group still wanted Bloomberg to march - but as a solo act. Bloomberg said he would only attend if his guests were re-invited.
``I'm sorry if anyone's annoyed, but if my friends can't march ... they don't have to have the mayor,'' Bloomberg said.
A lawyer for the city, Michael Cardozo, in the hearing before U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff, agreed that the organizers had the right to invite or disinvite anyone to their parade.
Rakoff, after admitting he was ``one of the two or three people in the universe who have never seen `The Sopranos,''' said he had nothing to rule on since both sides agreed on the issue.
Much like ``The Godfather,'' this was the third installment of the flap regarding the mayor and the fictional mob.
On Wednesday, parade organizers complained about the inclusion of the actors in Bloomberg's group. A day later, ex-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said people were overreacting and supported ``The Sopranos.''
Bloomberg said he invited the pair because of the work they do for the city - Bracco as a spokeswoman on environmental issues, and Chianese for making a public service announcement on behalf of tourism.
Both performers issued statements thanking Bloomberg for his support, and the three will share lunch Monday at an Italian restaurant in the Bronx.
``It's my honor to celebrate Columbus Day there with the mayor and Lorraine,'' said Chianese, a former Bronx resident. ``Where you celebrate the holiday is not important - who you celebrate it with is what counts.''
Bloomberg added that he planned to march in a pair of more mayoral friendly events this weekend.
``There's another parade in the Bronx, the Italian Columbus Day parade,'' he said. ``There's one on Fifth Avenue on Sunday, the Hispanic parade, and I can march in those two.''