Monday, November 01, 2004

"Tony Soprano, Weak in the Knees"

One of my favorite “Sopranos” episodes is the second season ender, “Funhouse” (episode 26). It’s the one where they kill Big Pussy and Tony gets food poisoning. Anyway, there’s a great line toward the end, where the head of the FBI task force brings Tony in for dealing stolen airline tickets. They are at the station and Tony is wobbly from his food poisoning, so the head of the task force says, “Tony Soprano…weak in the knees?”

Anyway, the head of the task force is played by Frank Pellegrino, an actor who also appears in a number of “Law and Order” episodes. Pellegrino also is owner of one of New York’s top Italian restaurants, Rao’s. Rao’s is perhaps New York’s toughest table, and unless you are the late Dick Schaap or Martha Stewart (really), you cannot get in the place. If you are the ghost of Dean Martin, you also are in. Pellegrino has been on Martha Stewart’s cooking shows numerous times.

The rest of the story is that my wife and I met Pellegrino a few years ago at a special outdoor demonstration held by AJ’s, a local supermarket. I actually had a minute to talk with Frank (also, he autographed a book for us) and looked at him, laughed and then uttered the famous line—“Tony Soprano…weak in the knees.” He smiled, probably thinking I was a lunatic.

It was even better than the time my wife and I went to see Paul Mazursky speak at a local theater in Marin County. After he was interviewed by a local radio personality, I asked from the audience about a great scene in “Next Time Greenwich Village” (a wonderful, underrated movie with a very young Christopher Walken and the inimitable Lenny Baker). I asked if the scene at the end, when Shelly Winters reminded him (or the person playing Mazursky) as he was leaving for Hollywood, not to forget that his grandmother escaped from Poland and the Nazis.

Mazursky said it was true.