This might seem a bit trivial and maybe it is, but as anyone with any mental health problem will know one persons trivial is another’s critical.

James Gandolfini has died today in a hotel room in Rome and that has shaken me greatly for so many reasons that I have to think to get them in perspective and it surprises me how bothered I am. I am trying to list them in a way that’s understandable so here goes.

I first got into the Sopranos when I had my first official major breakdown, I lived in a small loft flat and struggled to leave the house so a box set of the Sopranos was a boon, I watched season one on recommendation from a few friends, they knew I loved mobster films and I had already caught the buzz that HBO had created something beyond the genre and wanted to see it. I enjoyed the start and felt it wasn’t as bad as watching the live feed from the big brother house that was usually on in the background during my days of torture, it was ok at least  but then he had the panic attack and I was hooked.

Tony was sat in a psychiatrists office as ebullient as ever but vulnerable too and I felt something very strange, an empathy for a violent murderous mobster and I am not the kind of person who glorifies the darker side of life so this was new to me. I watched him try and keep the secret about his mental health whilst uncovering his mother issues and felt this guy was more than he appeared, it was only because James imbued this character with such humanity and realism that it worked and touched me, I was through to season four in a few days and even when he was treating people like crap I knew that Tony had something else going on.

The other part of the reasons is his build, I am “large” man myself and although he had charm James was no looker, he wasn’t supposed to be. He was fat. sweaty and crude but he seemed comfortable in his skin and I used that on the days I considering removing my excess fat with a sharp knife, I had even done some research into where I needed to miss to ensure survival at least until an ambulance came but seeing him strutting around in his boxers with beautiful women gave me a small glimmer of hope that I wasn’t as obnoxious to everyone else’s eyes, again seems trivial but it might have been the difference between a serious injury and not doing something very silly.

With he comparison comes another issues, James is 8 years older than me and his death appears to be heart related, like I have said I am big and hearts in my family fail early, my Granddad and uncle died young and my dad had bypass surgery in his fifties and my dad was as lean as a whippet and fit to boot so being overweight with that heirloom isn’t a good idea. I have lost weight over two stone but still I am big and hearing your hero , who was held in esteem because he made being a fat man ok has died as a result is not great.

I also found that Tony’s mother issues, and I do know that James wasn’t Tony but he portrayed him so very well, his awards testify to this, began to resound with me once I entered the therapeutic regime and after seeing old episode I laughed at the comparisons and wondered if the brilliant writers had been there themselves because it was very realistic and again James’s portrayal was spot on, the feelings of desperation when he realised how vulnerable this made him were brilliant.

The other and thankfully for you poor readers is the silly idea in my head that I will die like one of my heroes, I imagined when I was younger it would be John Belushi I would follow but my aversion to narcotics made that unlikely, then it was Kurt Cobain but I was dragged away from the option of suicide by a chance meeting in therapy so that one was pulled away from me so now I am left thinking maybe I will simply have a massive heart attack and be gone.

Don’t misunderstand I have no problem with that, I look forward to dying in a way only those in our position can understand but I had this fantasy scenario of dying heroically after a fight against a terrible illness, not for my own reputation but so my wife and children could tell the tale with some pride in my efforts, sad but true I’m afraid.

In the end I should just accept that another legend in my life has passed, hard when he was only 51 a fact that isn’t lost on me, and enjoy the legacy of great roles he left behind for his fans, god bless you James, and rest in peace.


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