1. James Gandolfini was born and raised in Bergen County, North Jersey.
In 1979, he graduated from Park Ridge High School — where he was voted “Class Flirt.”
2. Then he attended Rutgers, New Jersey’s state university.
He majored in communication and worked as a bouncer at a pub. He graduated in 1983 and was inducted in the school’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 2011. Both of his sisters attended the school as well.
3. He always returned to his roots, filming commercials for Rutgers football and raising money for charities.
The #Rfamily lost one of our hall of distinguished alumni members today. Our condolences go out to the Gandolfini family.
4. He then moved to New York to struggle nobly in pursuit of the arts.
Then there is Jim Gandolfini, who seems to thrive on the apartment-hopping life. Since moving to New York City four years ago, Mr. Gandolfini, 26 years old, has never had his name on a lease, never paid more than $400 a month in rent and never lived in one place more than 10 months. His wanderer’s existence has given him sojourns, some as brief as two months, in Hoboken, N.J.; Astoria, Queens; Clinton and the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and Park Slope and Flatbush in Brooklyn.
”Moving, to me, is no big deal,” said Mr. Gandolfini, whose calling is the theater but whose living comes mostly from bartending and construction. ”I have a system down. I throw everything in plastic garbage bags and can be situated in my new place in minutes. Without my name on a lease, I’m in and out. I have no responsibilities.
5. After years as a working actor, he landed his landmark part: Tony Soprano, a Jersey gangster for a new age.
HBO’s The Sopranos was, of course, set and filmed in New Jersey. It changed television, and Gandolfini won three Emmy Awards for his work.
6. He also won the admiration of his fellow Garden Staters.
North Caldwell Police Chief Mark Deuer, who worked security on the set of The Sopranos, still keeps a photo of himself and the actor on his desk. Gandolfini often ate lunch with the cops on set.
8. Even went to a Nets games at the Meadowlands before they left town.
9. Of course, Gandolfini enjoyed the Jersey Shore.
10. He lived the dream of every Jersey kid — hanging out and co-starring with Stevie Van Zandt.
They were co-stars on The Sopranos!
Steven Van Zandt
I have lost a brother and a best friend. The world has lost one of the greatest actors of all time.
11. And he got a tribute from Governor Chris Christie:
It’s an awful shock. James Gandolfini was a fine actor, a Rutgers alum and a true Jersey guy. I was a huge fan of his and the character he played so authentically, Tony Soprano. I have gotten to know Jimmy and many of the other actors in the Sopranos cast and I can say that each of them are an individual New Jersey treasure. Mary Pat and I express our deepest sympathies to Mr. Gandolfini’s wife and children, and our prayers are with them at this terrible time.