Perspectives: Summer Mailbag

July 8, 2013

by Steve Adubato, Ph.D. for NJTV

In last week’s column, I mistakenly made reference to Venus Williams and her harshly negative opinions toward a Steubenville, Ohio rape victim when, in fact, it was her sister Serena Williams who made those comments.  Numerous readers responded to let me know of the mistake.  First, it was a sloppy error that shouldn’t have been made and I take full responsibility.  Second, it was gratifying to see that so many Star-Ledger readers picked up on it and didn’t hold back with their feedback.

I also received a lot of feedback on a column from two weeks ago on the passing of James Gandolfini.  In that column, I expressed that his unique brand of “Jersey communication” allowed him to connect with others on a personal level.  I encouraged readers to share their impressions of the Jersey-born actor.

Valerie Turker from Belvidere ran into Gandolfini at the Chester Diner years ago while dining with her husband and young children.  Said Turker, “Being a fan, it took all my courage to stifle any emotion as I walked by him.  But my husband, Mark, casually said, ‘Hey, Jimmy!  How’s it goin’?’  I turned around, mortified, only to be greeted by ‘Jimmy’s’ warm smile and the remark, ‘Hey, man, what’s up?’…Mark died from colon cancer at the young age of 42 almost 9 years ago, but I shared this story with my children.  My son, knowing what a fan I was of Mr. Gandolfini, remarked after hearing the news of his death, ‘Mom, now Dad can say, ‘Hey, Jimmy, how’s it goin’?’ and maybe start a conversation this time.’”

It’s amazing how a chance encounter with someone can have an impact and leave a lasting impression.  That’s why I’m a big believer that it’s important to go the extra yard in being friendly when meeting someone for the first time.  That easy smile, or warm handshake or a few kind words can make all the difference in the world.

However, Ken Fost from Bloomfield said he believes honoring Gandolfini as a “Jersey guy” missed the point.  Said Fost, “This ‘Jersey guy’ couldn’t wait to move out of New Jersey into New York when he received some financial success. Buying a country estate in Tewksbury does not qualify as a ‘Jersey guy.’  It is perhaps relevant to my point that this ‘Jersey guy’ is having his funeral in New York City, where he lived… If James Gandolfini never played the role of Tony Soprano, would we be celebrating him as a ‘guy with a big heart and a lot of confidence and swagger… a Jersey communicator who will truly be missed…’?”

Ken, you clearly have a right to your opinion.  But Gandolfini was a huge Rutgers supporter, was involved in many New Jersey-based charities and yes, his role in “The Sopranos” connected him to our state in a powerful way.  Many of us who live in and love New Jersey have connections to New York, but that doesn’t diminish our love for the Garden State.

Finally, Michael Matt of Chatham said, “I grew up with Vince Lombardi and, in a way, James Gandolfini reminds me of him. Not just the [Italian] ethnic background but the fact that both men had somewhat humble beginnings and it took them awhile to gain recognition for their talents. They were very similar in personality and inspired confidence in their actions…The fact that so many people have had an outpouring of regret over his passing proves how well-liked he was by ‘regular people.’”

Michael, I’m sure you’re not alone in comparing Gandolfini to Lombardi.  They both made a lasting impression and had the kind of presence that made people take notice when they walked in the room.  The other similarity is that both Lombardi and now Gandolfini will be sorely missed.