Gandolfini.com site creator Shade Rupe with James Gandolfini, 2004.

In 1999 the billboards were going up for a new HBO series, The Sopranos…

I had been following James Gandolfini’s career since witnessing his breakthrough role in Tony Scott’s 1993 film True Romance. I found copies of A Stranger Among Us, Italian Movie, and Money for Nothing on laserdisc or VHS though first started seeing his films theatrically with True Romance. His role in Terminal Velocity with Nastassja Kinski is a great character that remains little seen. Crimson Tide, Get Shorty, and Night Falls on Manhattan had me in line on opening weekends, a trend which continued through Fallen, A Civil Action, and 8MM, and everything since.

When the billboards first went up and I saw this actor that I had been following for six years boldly pictured in the center, I finally decided to turn on the cable in my home. And while waiting for the show to arrive, I decided to build my first website, Gandolfini.com. When The Sopranos premiered I began interacting with folks around the world in the pre–social network days of email and bulletin boards.

I met people from Alaska and Texas and New Jersey who were just as rabid for the show as I was and through these relationships I was able to attend various Sopranos cast events including a private screening of On the Run, a film starring John Ventimiglia and Michael Imperioli, attended by both actors along with Edie Falco, Robert Iler, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, and Aida Turturro. I attended a photo line for a firefighters’ benefit held by Denis Leary and the cast appeared in that line. This footage was included on the Sopranos Unauthorized DVD. One of my favorite events was attending a softball game downtown with several cast members, though Mr. Gandolfini sat this one out.

My first encounter with James Gandolfini was looking him up in the phone book and realizing he lived a few blocks from my old apartment. I called the number and heard his voice on the message. Boy do I wish I recorded that now! Later, outside my apartment between Bleecker and 12th on 8th Ave I walked past the ATM machines there and saw a large gentleman’s back and just knew it was him. I walked back, leaned up against the wall, and said, “Hey, Mr. Gandolfini, sorry to bother you, but I’ve made a website for you.” He said, “Oh, I don’t really use that stuff.” I said, “Ah, that’s okay, I just hope it’s cool with you.” He replied, “It’s fine with me. Hey, what’s your name?” “Shade.” “Jim.” We shook hands. “Have a good night. And thanks.” “Sure thing! See you, Jim!”

Fourteen years after creating the site I heard the news while, somewhat appropriately, portraying an FBI agent on the set of the Discovery television show, “The Bad Old Days,” and it made the rest of the day a bit tough. I knew I had to go back to the site and rebuild it and luckily my friend Heidi Honeycutt and her Unicorn Professional Websites were around to help out. And here we are.

It’s only two days since we all heard, and I’m still in shock and sadness along with the rest of the world. I’m so happy to have met Jim Gandolfini and so happy to have met so many of the great cast members of a great show. And I have stayed first in line for all of Mr. Gandolfini’s films with more to come. We may have lost a great man, and a great actor, though thankfully we have many great performances we can return to again and again.

I only met you twice, Jim, but I definitely loved you, as did so many others. Thanks so much for being a friend to those great people close to and around you.

Shade Rupe
Manhattan, NY
June 21, 2013