Monday, June 11, 2007

Cut to Black: Will New Jersey Need a New Brand?


So The Sopranos is finally over, and for some the series went into the night rather quietly. For me, the sudden ending felt like I'd been shot. Life doesn't always supply a "neat finish", especially for a wiseguy. I never saw it coming, and I can't say I wasn't warned. All in all, after a few hours, the chill of being so unceremoniously dispatched convinced me that creator and episode writer David Chase had done an effective job of closing the coffin on the series. All that's left is me accepting it's really gone, and doing my best to move on.

But with Frank Sinatra gone, Springsteen well under the radar, and Don Imus sullying the Rutgers sporting reputation with his comments about the women's basketball team, The Sopranos was still something New Jersey could be proud of. They put The Garden State on the world map, even if a few people got upset with the way the series supposedly insulted the Italian-American community. Personally, I like the tough-guy rep the mob family gave us, and even though I hail from the far more bucolic southern region, I'd perfected a mean Tony impression that tickled friends around the world.

So, now what? I know On Location Tours are wondering the same thing. They conduct four-hour tours for between 400 - 500 people a month at $40 a pop, stopping at many of the locations that were made famous by the show: Satin Dolls, New Skyway Diner, and Satriale's to name a few. Apparently they expect the tours to become even more popular, and I hope that's the case. But will New Jersey begin to lose its blush as fast as my impression? How long before it's just another state with high insurance rates and ever rising taxes and my Tony advertises me as just a half-Italian guy who can do another full-blooded Italian guy with an attitude?

We need a new symbol to help keep New Jersey in the hearts, minds and wallets of the interested public, and we need one fast before the pasta gets cold and our hallowed hot spots become as lonely and unvisited as Bobby Bacala's head stone.

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