'Sopranos' Parade Invites Cause Stir
Wed Oct 9,10:26 PM ET
By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS, Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - In a recent episode of "The Sopranos," members of Tony Soprano's crew got into a fight with another group over a Columbus Day celebration.
Now, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has asked two of the show's cast members to march in New York's Columbus Day parade. But no one told the parade planners, who dislike the HBO mob drama because they say it perpetuates negative images of Italian-Americans.
"The show stereotypes the Italo-American family in the worst way," said Larry Auriana, president of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, which is organizing Monday's parade. "Besides the whole crime element, it shows Italo-Americans as uneducated, low-life brutes.
"This," Auriana added, "is not the mayor's parade."
Bloomberg asked Dominic Chianese, who plays Tony's Uncle Junior, and Lorraine Bracco, who plays psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi, to take part in the parade. The foundation previously has turned down requests for "Sopranos" actors to appear at the annual event.
Cory Richman, assistant to Chianese's manager, Brian Liebman, said Chianese planned to accept the mayor's invitation.
"As a citizen of New York, I am proud to march with Mayor Bloomberg in the Columbus Day parade," the actor said through his manager.
Messages left for Bracco's representatives were not immediately returned. HBO had no comment.
Bloomberg said Wednesday he invited the actors because of the work they do on behalf of the city: Bracco as a spokeswoman on environmental issues, Chianese for making a public service announcement for tourism.
"I didn't invite them as members of 'The Sopranos.' I didn't invite any other member of the 'Sopranos' cast," the mayor said. "These are two nice people who have gone out of their way to help the city."
"I apologize if anybody's offended," he said, but added, "if you are offended, don't wave back when they wave to you."
William Fugazy, president of the Coalition of Italo-American Associations, called the invitations "a disgrace."
"It's a sort of sacred day for Italo-Americans. Our parade is about heritage and pride. Certainly, the 'Sopranos' haven't done much for heritage and pride in our community."
Fugazy's words sound a lot like the ones Silvio Dante uses in the Sept. 29 episode of "The Sopranos," upon learning that an American Indian group plans to protest just days before a Columbus Day parade in New Jersey.
"Ultimately, it's anti-Italian discrimination," says Silvio, played by Steven Van Zandt. "Columbus Day is a day of Italian pride, it's our holiday, and they want to take it away."
Later in the show, several guys in Tony's crew descend on the American Indians' demonstration. The two groups brawl, resulting in several arrests.
A few years ago, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani brokered a deal in which Fugazy — who concedes that he enjoys the show despite his often stinging criticisms of it — met with HBO officials. Fugazy said the network pledged to tone down the program, though HBO denies it made any deal.
On the Net:
Columbus Citizens Foundation: http://www.columbuscitizensfd.org/pa...nframeset.html
"The Sopranos": http://www.hbo.com/sopranos/
Coalition of Italo-American Associations: http://www.italiancoalition.org