GQ just posted the James Gandolfini story from its 2013 Men of the Year issue. Told by a close friend, a German-born watchmaker named Michael Kobold, it lays out some of the issues the Sopranos star’s family and friends faced when he died unexpectedly in Italy this summer. Dealing with the press, figuring out how to get the body home from a foreign country in a reasonable amount of time, etc. Kobold also passes along a few funny personal stories, including this one about their first meeting, when he traveled to the set of The Sopranos to deliver a watch Gandolfini ordered.
“Oh,” I replied. “Have you done anything big in your career?” He said he was on a show called The Sopranos, and being an expat with no TV and a huge blind spot for pop culture, I asked if this meant he was in a musical.
“Basically,” he said, “it’s a show about a fat guy, and I’m the fat guy.”
A few days later, I drove to New York to hand-deliver the watch and wandered the set asking for James Gandolfini until I finally asked the right person. He was slumped in a chair with a scowl. “You found him,” he said. “Who are you?”
“You told me to look for a fat guy,” I answered, and he fell into hysterics. Any awkwardness that might have existed was swallowed by a laugh that sounded like a roar.
We clicked, almost immediately.
I wonder how much the television landscape would be different today if, way back in 1999, HBO had promoted the show with billboards and posters all over America that just had the show’s famous “gun for an R” logo with “It’s a show about a fat guy” underneath it.