How "The Sopranos" Begins

The cigar appears quickly. First, there’s the pulsing beat of “Woke Up This Morning,” the Alabama 3 song that will forever be known as the Sopranos’ theme song. It’s less than 25 seconds into the intro, as the car zooms past the slightly fuzzy images of New Jersey’s most infamous landscapes—the highway tunnels, the brick warehouses, and the smokestacks of the industrial zones that seem to line the northern end of the New Jersey Turnpike. As the car pulls into a tollbooth, a thick, stubby fingered hand reaches out for a ticket, and there in the unmistakable mouth of Tony Soprano, there is a lit cigar.

The small theater filled quickly last week, the seats taken by New York’s media elite, at least the ones with a shared fascination of HBO’s breakout hit, "The Sopranos." The distinctive bold red letters spelled out the show’s name against the black screen in the front of the sloping hall. Then, the hissing of HBO’s snowy logo, a quick fade to black, and the pulsing sound of Woke Up This Morning pounded out from the wall speakers.

Like every one of the six seasons, the final episodes of The Sopranos begin with the same theme song, and the same scenes of New Jersey. And, like we have come to expect, the first two episodes that I saw last week have cigars being smoked by more than one character, whether its Tony himself, or one of the other players in the long-running television mega-hit. I won’t ruin any of the story lines for you—suffice it to say that no one dies in the first two episodes that you care about, or at least that you should care about _fcksavedurl=.

But hasn’t this show been a showcase for cigar lovers? Nearly every major character has had a cigar in his mouth at one time or another. James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano is almost never without one. Steve Schirippa as Bobby Bacala. Frank Vincent as Phil Leotardo. There have been a few characters who’ve come and gone, too: Joey Pantoliano as Ralph. Vincent Pastore as Big Pussy. All cigar smokers at one point or another in the past seasons.

At least a couple of the cast members took their love of cigars out into the real world too. Vincent Pastore was the face in advertising for Player’s Club by Don Diego. Frank Vincent has started his own cigar brand. And, CAO came out with a Sopranos cigar that they’ve showcased at Cigar Aficionado’s Big Smoke events. Gandolfini and some other cast members joined us last year at our prostate cancer charity dinner and cigar event, the Night to Remember.

Cigars have been such symbols on the show that when we created an illustration for the May/June cover of Cigar Aficionado, it made perfect sense to put a cigar in Tony Soprano’s hand.

So, get ready for the wild ride starting on April 8th. The first two episodes are every bit as bloody, and unpredictable, as anything that’s come before. They are also as dark and dangerous as any previous season. If you’ve been a fan, you won’t be disappointed. If you haven’t watched before, check it out. Get ready to be entertained.

"Gordon,While I am somewhat saddened to see the series come to "a close" with the conclusion of the upcoming sixth season, I understand David Chase's decision to stick to the story's arc, and I respect that the series will run its course without ever "jumping the shark" (although I do admit some personal frustration with the extended Kevin Finnerty dream episodes, and the diversion into Vito's deviate lifestyle - but like Tony, "I make certain allowances"). As an American of Italian heritage, I am amused by those who have viewed this series (and other "mob genre" films, books, shows) as besmirching Italian Americans and our rich culture, tradition, and heritage. The Sopranos (and all of these other great movies, etc) are fictional dramas, presented for entertainment, to anyone who is "so inclined" as to be entertained by these stories. Of course, some stories are loosely based upon real life events. Real life can be ugly. And real people have, and can and do live in these lifestyles, and do these things. That said, it's all about personal choices and preferences, and anyone who contends that any of these great dramatic works (and let there be no confusion - The Sopranos is a great dramatic work) have in any way diminished the rich, vital heritage and place of Italian Americans in our society, well, I think these people just like the sound of their own cantata... As an avid cigar smoker of 15 years, I always found it very entertaining to see Tony and other cast members indulging in cigars, but then, the lifestyle they have portrayed has been one of indulgence, no?Someday, I can only hope to have the opportunity to enjoy the company of some or any of this wonderful cast and producers, to enjoy some great cigars and conversation together. This would be a great pleasure (sounds like a great fundraising opportunity,no?). BTW - in the illustration on this month's cover, the cigar Tony is holding looks alot like an El Cobre Churchill, or maybe the New Oliva line?" —March 29, 2007 13:48 PM