Saturday, March 10, 2007

N.J. town rejects 'Sopranos' filming

BLOOMFIELD, New Jersey (AP) -- The producers of "The Sopranos" were denied a permit to film in this North Jersey town because the mayor and some City Council members say the acclaimed HBO series negatively depicts Italian-Americans.

The owners of an old-fashioned ice cream parlor selected for the series' final scene, however, said such "personal feelings" shouldn't stand in the way.

"He should do what's good for the town," Chris Carley, co-owner of Holsten's Brookdale Confectionary, said of Bloomfield Mayor Raymond McCarthy.

Permits were approved last week. But after complaints, the council voted again on Monday and rejected them. Officials have agreed to reconsider the issue for a third time next week.

The mayor, whose wife is Italian, said: "I don't think 'The Sopranos' depicts the life of a typical Italian-American in a positive way and I still don't like the way people see New Jersey based upon 'The Sopranos' series."

He added that he plans to oppose filming again on Monday. "What the rest of the council does, that's their choice. I stand by my convictions."

As a member of Unico, an Italian-American civic group, "I am pledged to honoring my commitment to its mission to speak out in defense of Italian-American dignity," McCarthy said.

One council member, Peggy O'Boyle Dunigan, has changed her mind and now wants to allow the show to film here.

She said she was given incorrect information that Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo disliked the show, and she has been since flooded with calls of support for Holsten's.

"If you don't like the show, you can turn it off," she said. "It's hard enough to have a small business in town. I don't want to discourage them."

On Wednesday, DiVincenzo visited the store to show his support and said he asked the Bloomfield mayor to reconsider.

"Nobody is more proud to be an Italian-American than I am," said DiVincenzo. "I'm not offended by the show at all."

"The Sopranos," which debuted in 1999, tells the story of fictional New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini, and his family. Scenes for the Emmy-winning show have been shot in New Jersey and New York. The show is scheduled to begin its final season on April 8.

Carley said he was thrilled that it had been selected as a location for the show. He and business partner Ron Stark said they were told by HBO officials that the 1939 building would be used for the final scene of the series finale. While they hadn't finished negotiating a price, the shop would have been used for three days in late March.

Creator David Chase (who is of Italian heritage -- "Chase" was originally "de Cesare") had been in twice to scout the place, said the partners, whose wives are both Italian.

Some of the ire about filming in Bloomfield has come from Italian-American groups, including the Italian-American One Voice Coalition, led by Emanuele Alfano. He said he asked the town to reconsider after the permit was approved and plans to be back at the council meeting Monday.

" 'The Sopranos' has been a series that depicts Italian-Americans in the worst light," said Alfano, who lives in Bloomfield. "When they reversed the decision, I was so proud of this mayor and this council. They showed integrity."

HBO is a unit of Time Warner, as is CNN.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.

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