James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob boss
Putnam Valley, New York, August 2007*
Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “Soprano Home Movies” (Episode 6.13)
Air Date: April 8, 2007
Director: Tim Van Patten
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy birthday to Tony Soprano… and David Chase! According to Tony’s driver’s license in “Another Toothpick” (Episode 3.05) and his hospital bracelet seen in “Mayham” (Episode 6.03), Anthony Soprano was born on August 22, 1959, exactly 14 years to the day after his creator, David Chase.
After a relatively full recovery from the incident that landed the mob boss in the hospital, Tony and his wife Carmela (Edie Falco) reluctantly accept an invitation from his sister Janice (Aida Turturro) to join her and her husband Bobby (Steven R. Schirripa)—one of Tony’s most loyal capos—at their summer house on the shore of Lake Oscawana in Putnam Valley, New York. (Interestingly, the home was owned at the time by Roy Scheider and his wife Brenda Siemer, who still owns the house.)
*Carmela makes much of the fact that Tony is celebrating his 47th birthday, which should set the episode in the late summer of 2006, but we know the previous season ended on Christmas 2006 and Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico) establishes in the final episode that this season was set in 2007 so we can reasonably assume that, as Silvio Dante once so aptly said… “timeline got fucked up.”
The timeline didn’t treat Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) too well either, as the hotheaded young capo chooses exactly the wrong moment to call Tony with his belated birthday greeting, one of the most hilarious moments in the episode and one that sent me and my girlfriend spiraling into uncontrollable laughter with its perfect juxtaposition at Christopher’s expense following Tony’s tense fight with Bobby and subsequent argument with Carmela.
Tony, Carmela, Bobby, and Janice celebrate Tony’s birthday with lakeside libations, drunken games of Monopoly (“fuck the Parker Brothers!”), embarrassing family stories, and even a dash of international intrigue as the two mobsters meet with Québécois, exchanging murder for expired medications. Tony asserts his power by assigning the hit to Bobby, who had only just shared with his boss that he had never “popped his cherry” by killing anyone for the mob.
Though the overweight Bobby may be the butt of many of Tony’s jokes, the weekend in the woods provides an opportunity for the mob boss to bitterly observe his good-natured capo’s surprising physical superiority as Bobby cuts down trees, establishes himself as a bow-and-arrow hunter, and easily bounces back from a night of drinking and fighting only to not only concoct but imbibe a few Ramos gin fizzes as his “hair of the dog” the next morning.
It’s one of the best episodes of the show’s later seasons, filled with the series’ usual blend of tension, dark comedy, and drama, but made particularly entertaining as we watch, as Sopranos Autopsy so pointedly described in its analysis of the episode, “the Soprano family gathering… characterized by many of the traits of a typical American family visit: fishing, eating, drinking, shooting guns, gossiping, bad karaoke, and of course, the presence of long-simmering frustrations that bubble their way up into passive-aggressive criticisms.”
What’d He Wear?
Day 1: Arriving Upstate
You know, I gotta admit it. Every time, once you’re up here, it’s pretty great.
Spending many of his days in silk camp shirts and luxurious knitwear, Tony Soprano’s daily style already leans closer to the leisure-friendly end of the spectrum than others. He makes the drive from his stressful life in New Jersey up to Bobby and Janice’s lake house in a black silk short-sleeved camp shirt accented with beige stitching, worn over one of his many ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirts.
This beige stitching is close to the edges, following the camp collar down the shirt’s six-button plain front and around the waist hem, which is split by short vents on the sides. The armholes, sleeve ends, and horizontal back yoke are also decorated with this beige stitching. As an added touch, each side of the chest is detailed with six beige-stitched stripes with the four center stripes closest to each other and the outer stripes positioned about an inch or two away.
Tony arrives wearing a pair of olive green double reverse-pleated Dockers trousers with belt loops, slightly slanted side pockets, jetted button-through back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms, worn with a black leather belt. His brown leather moc-toe loafers, identified as a Timberland product in an auction listing, are the most prominently featured of the two sets of shoes that Tony wears over the long weekend.
By dusk, Tony embraces the summer weekend vibe by changing out of his olive slacks into a pair of similarly colored flat front shorts.
“The sense that Tony had a chance to really change but missed his moment is indicated, subtly, when Carmela spots a jumping fish (probably the most important animal on this show, even more important than Tony’s season one dream ducks) and Tony looks up too late to see it,” write Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall in “Boardwalk Hotel,” their essay exploring the episode included in the marvelous 2019 book The Soprano Sessions.
Day 2: Shooting and Sailing
or… Blowjobs, Bullets, Beers, and Boating
By the next day, Tony has fully embraced the vacation aspects of his weekend and dons a black tropical-printed Aloha shirt, evoking a similar shirt worn in “I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano” (Episode 1.13), the final episode of the first season, providing a thematic unity to this appearance in the first episode of the final season.
Tony’s screen-worn shirt from “Soprano Home Movies” was included in a Christie’s auction just over a year after the show ended and sold for $4,000. The auction listing describes the shirt as a “black short sleeve tropical print shirt by Rick’s Cafi,” though the only references I can find online to “Rick’s Cafi” are in conjunction with this shirt auction; correcting the spelling to “Rick’s Cafe” initially yields an abundance of Casablanca reviews, though a deeper and more targeted search illustrates that the brand appears to be a “big and tall”-oriented menswear label specializing in summer and resort attire.
My friend at Aloha Spotter identified the shirt’s distinctive pattern as based on the classic “bird of paradise” flower that has been a staple of aloha shirts since their inception in the 1930s. Lavender tropical leaves and a pink-and-cream bird of paradise floral print cover the shirt’s black ground. The rayon or silk shirt has a camp collar, a non-matching breast pocket, and tan mixed plastic buttons down the plain front.
Tony’s other shirts worn during this trip may be similar to those he wears when ruling the Jersey underworld, but this one is only seen when the mobster is totally at ease and enjoying his vacation, thus he only wears it with swimming trunks rather than slacks or trousers. Seen only from a distance and in promotional photography, he wears brown leather boat shoes rather than the Timberland loafers.
His knee-length Nautica swim trunks are made from a dark navy waterproof polyester with blue and white vertical stripes down each side seam. “NAUTICA” is stitched in white just forward of the left stripes.
Continuity Note: The scene of Tony in the woods with Bobby, firing his new AR-10 rifle, is edited to be depicted on the day of Tony’s arrival, but—based on the men’s costumes—this was no doubt meant to be set during the following day as there’s little reason why Tony would change out of his black shirt into this Aloha shirt just to go shooting in the woods with Bobby before returning to the house and putting the first shirt back on for drinks on the dock with Bobby and their wives.
Night 2: Monopoly and Resentment
Unfortunately, Tony and Bobby’s newfound bond, strengthened by their conversation in Bobby’s Chris-Craft, violently fissured that very night during a tense, drunken game of Monopoly as Tony’s needling and Bobby’s pride collided. The evening began with a calm and relatively quiet (save for the occasional “OH!”) dinner to celebrate Tony’s 47th birthday, followed by presents.
Tony dresses for dinner in yet another printed shirt, this one somewhat more subtle with a brown feather print on a black silk ground. As described in a Christie’s auction in June 2008 where the entire outfit was auctioned for $4,000, the shirt is a product of After Dark, yet another brand that seems to specialize in “big and tall” menswear.
The short-sleeved shirt has a point collar (rather than a camp collar as seen on his previous two shirts), a single breast pocket, black buttons down the plain front, and a straight hem to allow the shirt to be worn untucked as Tony tends to do.
Tony wears the shirt over one of his many white ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirts, though this one ends up in poor condition, bloodied and torn after his messy brawl with Bobby.
Tony presses his olive green Dockers slacks back into service, worn with a black leather belt with a squared steel single-prong buckle that he unbuckles before passing out on his bed.
Tony sleeps in his loafers, the same well-worn brown leather Timberland slip-ons that he has worn throughout most of the weekend. Worn without socks here, his decision to sleep in them reveals the orange branded logos on the bottoms of each shoe’s tan rubber sole.
Day 3: Brooding over Budweisers
Tony dresses the next morning in yet another printed silk shirt, this one vividly patterned in a blue-and-gray static print that echoes the chaotic tension underscoring the day’s events. This short-sleeved shirt has a point collar, a plain front with navy blue sew-through buttons, and a patch breast pocket designed to be seamless against the shirt’s busy pattern.
Again, Tony wears one of his usual white ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirts, wearing his static-printed shirt unbuttoned and open over the undershirt when sitting down by the lake and grumbling to Carmela that he would have won the previous night’s fight had it not been for “that fucking throw rug.”
Tony initially dresses in khaki trousers, possibly Dockers like his olive-colored slacks, but he changes back into his navy Nautica swimming trunks when he sits in solitude on the dock. Once again, his footwear of choice is that same versatile pair of brown leather Timberland loafers with the tan rubber soles that extend up the back to just below a short orange stripe.
Night 3: Heading Home
For the sake of completion, this analysis includes Tony’s outfit for the ride home, the least flattering of his weekend ensembles. This oversized short-sleeved polo shirt illustrates what The Sopranos‘ costume designer Juliet Polcsa told The Independent about the evolution of Tony Soprano’s style in the show’s later seasons: “Less polo shirts became more of a necessity as Jim Gandolfini gained more weight. He wasn’t comfortable in knits that clung to him.”
This polo shirt is patterned with an abstract static striping that creates a faded black, beige, and pale gray horizontal stripe effect, balanced by a solid beige knit collar with a three-button opening. The breast pocket is styled to match the rest of the shirt’s pattern.
Tony wears this polo with plain black double reverse-pleated slacks, balancing the busy upper half and indicating that the boss is “back to business.”
Tony Soprano brings his full complement of gold jewelry with him on vacation. On his right hand, he wears his usual yellow gold chain-link bracelet and the gold pinky ring studded with a diamond and a ruby.
On Tony’s left hand, he wears his gold wedding band as well as his signature gold Rolex Day-Date “President” chronometer, a ref. 18238 that takes its moniker from the distinctive link bracelet made specifically for the Day-Date and favored by several American heads of state, including Dwight Eisenhower (a gift from Rolex), JFK (a gift from Marilyn), and LBJ (the first to actually wear his Rolex President while serving as President.)
Tony’s Rolex is 18-karat yellow gold with a “champagne” gold dial with a long display for the day of the week at the top and a date window at 3:00.
Even a used Rolex President will typically cost no less than $5,000 to $10,000, so—if you’re seeking the general look of Tony’s watch without the expensive prestige—Seiko offers a few lookalikes for less than $150, though the gold-plated steel Seiko SGF206 is powered by a quartz movement and is connected to a bracelet with more similarities to Rolex’s “Jubilee” band. The automatic Seiko SNKK52 is another inexpensive alternative and the bracelet looks somewhat more like the President, though the dial differs more from the Day-Date.
Tony also wears his usual gold St. Jerome pendant, worn around his neck on a thin gold open-link necklace.
What to Imbibe
For better or worse, the foursome has plenty to drink throughout the weekend, from short cans of Budweiser and Heineken to grappa and Rémy Martin; “We’re out of grappa, how about some Rémy?” bellows Bobby after killing a bottle of Nonino Picolit, which had been established as Janice’s favorite grappa.
The morning after Tony and Bobby’s drunken brawl, Bobby mixes up a batch of Ramos fizzes to act as a “hair of the dog,” though the worse-for-wear Tony is hardly looking for anything that could make him feel worse.
The Ramos gin fizz was invented by New Orleans bartender Henry C. Ramos in 1888. The “fizz” was an increasingly popular style of drink, first referenced in Jerry Thomas’ seminal 1876 Bartender’s Guide, that combined a spirit (often gin, whiskey, or rum) with carbonated water and either lemon or lime juice. Egg was a common addition to the fizz; adding egg white resulted in a “silver fizz”, adding egg yolk resulted in a “golden fizz”, and adding the entire egg resulted in a “royal fizz”.
With gin as its base spirit, the Ramos fizz added the typical fizz ingredients of soda water as well as both lemon and lime juice in addition to egg white, sugar, cream, and orange flower water. (The IBA also specifies two drops of vanilla extract, though I’ve rarely seen this in other reputable recipes!) The sequence to which the ingredients were added was essential, dissolving the sugar before adding ice so that it could work in tandem with the gin to effectively prepare the egg white for drinkability.
More modern recipes streamline the preparation with all ingredients (except the soda) dry-shaken in a mixer for about two minutes before adding ice, shaking hard for another minute, and then straining the creamy concoction into a Collins or highball glass (though the esteemed Mr. Boston Bartender’s Guide calls for a chilled red wine glass!) and topping off with soda for a frothy finish.
Standard ingredients for a Ramos gin fizz now include:
- 1.5 oz. gin
- 0.5 oz. fresh lime juice
- 0.5 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp. simple syrup
- 2 tbsp. cream
- 1 egg white
- 3-4 dashes orange flower water
- soda water
Originally dubbed the “New Orleans fizz”, Ramos’ loaded concoction grew famous in the decades leading up to Prohibition for its extensive preparation that could take up to 12 minutes to mix, requiring Ramos to hire a full staff of more than 20 bartenders to mix up nothing but his signature fizz for customers at the Imperial Cabinet Saloon on Gravier Street. After Prohibition, the drink was revived as a favorite of outspoken Louisiana Governor Huey Long, who exported New Orleans bartender Sam Guarino from the Roosevelt Hotel to the New Yorker Hotel so that Long could enjoy his preferred cocktail while in the Big Apple.
What to Listen to
The Drifters are prominently featured throughout the episode, the perfect soundtrack for a laidback late summer weekend.
The episode closes with Bobby returning to the family’s lake house after carrying out his first hit for the mob after his long, relatively bloodless career in La Cosa Nostra. The once-jovial capo has essentially sold his soul and is brought almost to tears by the sight of his family celebrating at the lake, particularly his youngest daughter running into his arms. “This Magic Moment” is an excellent track for this closing scene, calling out what a “magic moment” this would have been for Bobby and juxtaposing the sadness in his face as he recognizes the morality that he sacrificed in service to Tony Soprano.
The analysis of this episode at Sopranos Autopsy further explores the significance of this music cue:
Chase pipes in The Drifters’ 1960 hit “This Magic Moment” as Bobby looks out at the lake, holding on to his daughter like his life depended on it. It is a beautiful and moving song, but I think there is also something clever in its selection. 1960 was the first year of what was arguably the most tumultuous, transformative decade in American history, and much of the ensuing music of the Sixties reflected this tumult. “This Magic Moment,” however, still has that sweetness and wholesomeness that we associate more with the 1950s. The song, in a sense, reflects that period in American history when we transitioned from the relative “innocence” of the Fifties to the turbulent experience of the Sixties—and thus poignantly underscores the loss of Bobby’s innocence now. (I wonder how many thousands of backseat teenyboppers in the real world must have lost their innocence—or “popped their cherries—to this very song?)
“This Magic Moment” was released in January 1960 and was one of the last hits featuring lead singer Ben E. King before he embarked on a solo career with hits like “Stand by Me”. King was replaced by Rudy Lewis, who would serve as the group’s lead vocalist for the next four years.
The Drifters had planned to record their nostalgic summer love paean “Under the Boardwalk” with Lewis on May 21, 1964. Sadly, Lewis died on the night of May 20 of a suspected heroin overdose. Rather than rescheduling their session in the studio, the group tapped their former lead vocalist Johnny Moore—who had gone solo after his stint in the Army—and recorded what would be one of the group’s biggest hits, rising to number four on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
“Under the Boardwalk” is never actually heard in the episode, but referenced by Tony’s bastardization of the lyrics at his sister Janice’s expense.
In addition to these classics, my personal favorite song by The Drifters is “Up on the Roof”, their 1962 single and the biggest hit under Rudy Moore’s tenure as lead vocalist, rising to number five on the Billboard Hot 100 and number four on the U.S. R&B singles chart.
Bobby’s birthday gift for Tony is a heavily customized AR-15 rifle made by DPMS Panther Arms, an American firearms manufacturer founded in the 1980s that got its start manufacturing M14 and M16 rifle parts for U.S. military contracts before it graduated to developing its own AR-15 rifles. (Bobby tells Tony the weapon is an “AR-10,” but that appears to be an error.)
“Is this how you bagged that deer?” Tony asks, impressed by the powerful weapon. “I wouldn’t use a firearm like this on a deer,” Bobby responds. “It’s unsportsmanlike!” Bobby then shares that he exclusively uses a bow and arrow for deer hunting, unconsciously highlighting his virility for Tony as the latter grows increasingly insecure about his age.
Bobby comments to Tony that the weapon is an “AR-10”, though it is, in fact, the AR-15 with a straight box magazine designed to look more like an AR-10:
The AR-10, it’s my birthday present to you… 800 rounds per. He chromed out the inner carrier. And what I like, it’s got the Panther fluted barrel…
The AR-10 had been designed by Eugene Stoner for ArmaLite during the 1950s and submitted for U.S. military tests for a modern battle rifle chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO to replace the aging M1 Garand. The military eventually chose the M14 design, though the AR-10 found favor abroad during the rest of the decade. Frustrated by its lack of success and nearly out of finances, ArmaLite sold its designs for the AR-10 and the downscaled AR-15 to Colt in 1959.
By the 1960s, American troops were reporting the M14 to be difficult to control when firing fully automatic and hardly formidable against their foe’s AK-47 pattern rifles. The government returned to the AR-15, a scaled-down version of the AR-10. Chambered in the 5.56x45mm NATO round, the AR-15 was easier to control than the AR-10 and the smaller round allowed troops to carry more. As the war in Vietnam progressed, the U.S. military phased the M14 out of service with widespread adoption of the M16 service rifle, adapted from the AR-15.
As the M16 and its multiple variants would continue to be one of the most successful service rifles of the 20th century, the AR-15 on which it was designed became a popular civilian weapon, first offered by its original manufacturers Colt and ArmaLite and now by scores of firearms manufacturers including Bushmaster, Heckler & Koch, Olympic Arms, Ruger, SIG Sauer, Smith & Wesson, and DPMS, the Huntsville, Alabama-based company that likely made the weapon that Bobby presented as a gift to Tony.
The experts at IMFDB tracked down all of the modifications and accessories added to Tony Soprano’s rifle, including Aimpoint M2 optics, DPMS Mangonel iron sights, UTG rail covers, UTG bipod (not seen installed until the final episode), VLTOR E-MOD stock, Falcon Industries ERGO Tactical Deluxe Grip, and Crimson Trace VF-302M laser foregrip.
In an instance of Chekhov’s gun—or Chase’s gun, if you will—Tony’s AR-10 would later be prominently featured when he goes on the run in the final episodes, “The Blue Comet” (Episode 6.20) and “Made in America” (Episode 6.21). Interestingly, the weapon featured in “Soprano Home Movies” is suggested by IMFDB to be an AR-15 with a magazine modified to resemble an AR-10 while Tony would be seen with a genuine AR-10 (with the Aimpoint optic and vertical foregrip removed) in those final two episodes.
How to Get the Look
Even when running his mob empire from a back office in Jersey, Tony Soprano is a fan of loud silky printed shirts, though his patterned Aloha shirt looks perfectly appropriate for his lakeside sojourn, accompanied by a rotation of Macy’s-approved menswear staples like Dockers slacks, Nautica swimming trunks, and Timberland loafers.
- Black tropical-printed (lavender, pink, and cream “bird of paradise” pattern) short-sleeved Aloha shirt with camp collar, plain front, breast pocket, and straight hem
- Olive double reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, slightly slanted side pockets, jetted button-through back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Black leather belt with squared steel single-prong buckle
- Brown leather moc-toe loafers with tan rubber soles
- White ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt
- Rolex Day-Date “President” 18238 chronometer watch in 18-karat yellow gold with champagne-colored dial and “President” link bracelet
- Gold open-link chain bracelet
- Gold pinky ring with ruby and diamond stones
- Gold wedding ring
- Gold open-link chain necklace with round St. Jerome pendant
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the entire series.
No risk, no reward.
What does Tony Soprano’s August 22 birthday tell us about him… and, by extension, about series creator David Chase? August 22 falls under the astrological sign of the fire sign Leo but is on the cusp of the earth sign Virgo. “You gain attention because of your strong personality and sense of style,” writes astrologer Joanna Martine Woolfolk. “Determination is one of your dominant qualities; you climb over obstacles to reach a goal or get something your heart is set on.”
According to Tarot.com, those born during this cusp period tend to be “a natural leader with a vision for the world and the ability to command a room.” As “fierce, intelligent, and courageous” leaders who “can charm anyone with your childlike charisma and [are] loyal to the ones you trust,” the page also warns Tony that, “while your commanding energy might be an inspiration to some, because you were born on the Cusp of Exposure you also run the risk of becoming overbearing and controlling.”
“You are big, bright, and shine over everyone, but you’re also able to process, think, and talk about the tiny details,” explains the page, additionally consistent with Tony’s nature. “You have two strong forces encouraging you to both think hard and act big, so it’s important to find harmony between the two.” Listed strengths of those born at this time are hard work, passion, loyalty, honesty (well…), success, and responsibility, while weaknesses include the possibility of being critical, stubborn, quarrelsome, controlling, rude, and manipulative.
Regarding this specific day, which Gary Goldschneider refers to as “the day of seasoned experience,” Goldschneider writes that those born on August 22 are “fearless in carrying out their ideas,” and, “while displaying a frank, tough, and outspoken exterior, they rarely allow others access to their sensitive interior.” Sounds familiar.