Actor James Gandolfini, best known for playing Tony Soprano, one of the most compelling protagonists in television history on one of television’s most compelling shows, and for his work in great films like True Romance, passed away yesterday at the age of 51. The loss came as a shock to fans, and already, the tributes to the actor, a Jersey native who won acclaim and admiration for his evocative work bringing the many facets of David Chase’s richly-written mob boss to life, every panic attack, every whacking, every one-liner burned into a collective cultural memory, are pouring in. Steven Van Zandt called him "a brother." "Best of James Gandolfini" clip shows are already piling up from every corner of YouTube. There will be plenty more in the next few days, and well-deserved for an actor who gave his all to bring the world such memorable characters and memorable pieces of art.
But one of the simplest, but neatest tributes so far has to be the one from Holsten’s Brookdale Confectionery in Broomfield, New Jersey, best known as the diner where the pivotal, ambiguous final scene from The Sopranos was filmed. As John Klekamp of News 12 NJ told via Twitter, Holsten’s was packed with locals wishing to pay tribute to Gandolfini at the site of one of his best-known scenes, and Holsten’s had placed a simple card on the booth where the family last sat that read "Reserved." Keeping it simple, and honoring him in a place where he was doing what he did best at his best. Nice.
Now, let’s all go back to the diner one more time. Don’t stop believin’.