Tony Soprano’s Black Floral Assassination Shirt
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob chief
Jersey City, NJ, Fall 1998
Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano” (Episode 1.13)
Air Date: April 4, 1999
Director: John Patterson
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
This week marks the sixth anniversary of the June 19, 2013, death of James Gandolfini, the brilliant actor who made Tony Soprano one of the most compelling TV characters of all time. Today’s #MafiaMonday post celebrates one of Tony’s most iconic moments on The Sopranos… pulling a pistol out of a dead fish’s gaping mouth to shoot a rival mobster. While the show is filled with scenes that exhibit the depths of Gandolfini’s brilliant acting, this memorable sequence has always stuck with me.
The first season follows Tony’s increasing feud with his proud uncle, Corrado “Junior” Soprano (Dominic Chianese), who has been plotting to have his nephew assassinated. The last attempt to kill Tony failed so by the season’s final episode, “I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano”, Junior has enlisted the help of his top two lieutenants, the unrepentant douchebag Mikey Palmice (Al Sapienza) and the more pitiful Chucky Signore (Sal Ruffino). It’s the latter that Tony and his cronies identify as the likely triggerman in the next attempt, so the Soprano crew decides to get the upper hand.
Chucky is mooring his boat, Villain II, at Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City when he is shocked by the sudden appearance of a smiling Tony Soprano, walking toward him in shorts and carrying a large fish.
Tony: Jesus Christ, relax!
Chucky: The fuck you doin’ here?
Tony: Takin’ the Stugots, puttin’ her in the marina next door.
Chucky: No shit…
Tony: Look at this baby I caught right off the point here…
Tony reaches his right hand into the fish’s mouth, pulling out a compact Beretta pistol, leveling it, and emptying all eight shots into a panicky Chucky’s chest. It’s a loud kill as the gunshots were sure to echo through the marina, but Tony is too satisfied with the elimination of an immediate threat to be concerned with witnesses.
R.L. Burnside’s “It’s Bad You Know” begins as we cut to Tony’s trusty consigliere, Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt), pulling the chains and concrete blocks from the back of his car to sink Chucky’s body.
What’d He Wear?
With summer starting at the end of this week, there’s no time like the presents to pull your Aloha shirts and tropical prints from the back of your closet. Though “I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano” is likely set closer to the fall, Tony embraces his seafaring mission with a loud silk-like rayon short-sleeved shirt with a colorful tropical print of pink flowers with teal leaves on green stems, all contrasted against a black ground. (Thank you, @TonySopranoStyle, for identifying this shirt as a product of the Honolulu-based clothier Tori Richard.)
Tony would later wear a similar black tropical-patterned shirt while vacationing for his birthday in “Soprano Home Movies” (Episode 6.13), the start of the final season, providing some unification with this shirt worn at the finale of the starting season.
There may be an unwritten—but not unspoken—rule that “a don doesn’t wear shorts”, but the context of taking a boat out to sea seems as good a time as any to sport a pair of black Bermuda shorts… especially ones with back pockets where Tony can carry his Beretta after completing the hit.
Continuing the theme of nautically appropriate attire, Tony wears a pair of classic brown leather boat shoes. His footwear isn’t seen clearly enough to ascertain whether or not his shoes are the classic Sperry Top-Sider that originated the boat shoe style when they were introduced in 1935, but it’s a good bet.
After dispatching Chucky Signore, Tony appropriates the recently deceased mobster’s mariner’s cap, also known as a Greek fisherman’s cap or a “fiddler cap” based on Topol wearing a brown one as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof (1971). The nautical affiliations date back to the early 20th century when merchant navy sailors wore these soft-topped caps in navy or black, a tradition that extended to more recreational skippers like Chucky over the following decades.
Mariner’s caps are defined by their soft cover, matching visor, and decorative braiding detail. They are traditionally constructed from navy blue or black wool felt.
Tony has discarded all of his normal jewelry, wearing no gold bracelet, no Rolex, and no pinkie ring. Only his gold pendant and his gold wedding band remain.
Due to the larcenous nature of their use of firearms, few characters on The Sopranos have a signature weapon, using whatever they can get their hands on (likely sans a legible serial number) and quickly discarding it after their latest crime. “I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano” is the sole appearance of the Beretta Cheetah, a compact semi-automatic pistol that the Italian manufacturer developed in the late 1970s also known as the “Series 81” line.
The actual Cheetah handled by James Gandolfini was included in an auction by The Golden Closet, which identified it specifically as a Beretta Model 85BB Cheetah, chambered in .380 ACP and designated with the serial number D11606Y, leased to the production by Weapons Specialists Ltd. (You can also find the listing at Julien’s Live.)
There are many variants of the Beretta Cheetah, all differentiated by their model number and letter suffices. Models 81 and 82 are chambered for the smaller .32 ACP cartridge, with the Model 81—Tony Montana’s chosen sidearm in Scarface—carrying a double-stack 12-round magazine while the Model 82 has a single-stack magazine that holds nine rounds.
Models 83, 84, 85, and 86 are all chambered for .380 ACP (9mm Short). The Model 86 is the outlier with its redesigned, 4.37″-long tip-up barrel like the subcompact Beretta Jetfire series that can load cartridges directly into the chamber. The Model 84 holds a double-stacked, 13-round magazine while the Models 83 and 85 have single-stacked magazines, though the Model 83 has a longer 4″ barrel and a seven-round magazine. The Model 85—Tony Soprano’s assassination weapon in this scene—carries eight rounds in the magazine and has a 3.81″-long barrel like most other Cheetah variants.
The standard Model 87, the single-action Model 87 Target, and the competition-designed Model 89 are all chambered in .22 Long Rifle (.22 LR). The Model 87 shares cosmetic similarities with the base .32 and .380 models while the Model 87 Target and Model 89 have longer barrels just shy of six inches.
Most Beretta pistols are also designated by letter suffices: base model (no letters), B, BB, F, and FS. The base model is the most stripped down with only an ambidextrous frame-mounted safety and wooden grips. The B suffix introduced an automatic firing pin safety, while the BB suffix—like the Model 85BB seen in Tony Soprano’s hands—adds details like additional slide serrations and white dot and post sights. All of the aforementioned models have rounded trigger guards, unlike the F and FS series that squared off the trigger guard as well as an addition of a combination safety/decocker lever.
How to Get the Look
What could be less threatening than a guy in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts holding a giant fish? Tony Soprano uses this to his advantage for an assassination.
- Black with pink floral, teal leaf, and green stem tropical print silk short-sleeved resort shirt with point collar, plain front, and breast pocket
- White ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt
- Black cotton Bermuda shorts with side pockets and jetted back pockets
- Brown leather two-eyelet boat shoes
- Gold open-link chain necklace with round St. Anthony pendant
- Gold wedding ring
This isn’t an uncommon aesthetic for an Aloha shirt, so see if the look is right for you with these options:
- Aloha Republic “Triple Orchid” in black cotton ($38)
- Hawaii Hangover in “black rafelsia floral” rayon ($35 – $46)
- Ky’s International Fashion “Enchantment Luau” in black cotton ($36)
- Lucky Brand “Sunset” in “black floral” Tencel Lyocell ($41.70-$62.55)
- Tommy Bahama “Tahitian Tweets” camp shirt in black silk ($125)
- 28 Palms in “black bamboo” silk/linen ($13.13-$40.00)
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the entire series, but start with the epic first season—one of the strongest starts in TV history.