Reminder, this is basically fan fiction for both The Sopranos and Sex and the City. The stories are confined to the shared fictional world, but we’re reaching the end of both series, so I’ve taken a few liberties with the narrative arcs that extend beyond the life of the show. Again, it helps if you’ve seen both shows, and spoilers abound.
In memory of Ed Vassallo, 1972–2014.
Catcalls and Gummy Bears
Back during the days of Blockbuster, Miranda once hit a sexual drought so prolonged that she racked up enough video rentals to earn a free pound of gummy bears.
At three months and one week without sex, Miranda swung by the quick drop slot at the Lexington Avenue Blockbuster to return a libido-numbing, five-hour Danish documentary on the Nuremberg trials. A construction worker yelled that she could “quick drop this,” so she rolled her eyes and scurried away. She never went inside the Blockbuster yet produced a bag of gummy bears to share with the ladies as we watched my neighbors having sex. She must have secreted them away in her Strictly Rhythm satchel…or in her dungarees.
When Miranda weirdly went back to Blockbuster for the second time that day, ostensibly for another pound of gummy bears, she got catcalled again by the same guy yelling: “I got what you want! I got what you need!”
“You talking to me?” Miranda yelled, doing her best De Niro. She proceeded to let everyone on the upper eastside know she needed to get laid, effectively cat-calling the construction worker’s bluff. She dismissed him as a gavone, Italian for swine-god, then stomped into Blockbuster for her gummy bears. Inspired by her little lesson in the language of love, she also rented the entire Godfather trilogy.
“Part III is so bad,” Miranda told me the next day.
“And Parts I and II were both so good,” I agreed. Maybe revisiting a beloved franchise after an extended break might not be such a great idea…
“I find the higher the number, the worse the sex,” Samantha interjected.
“We’re talking about roman numeral movies, not roman numeral guys,” I scolded Samantha, though maybe she had a point.
“How did he react when you demanded to get laid?” Samantha reached into the bag of gummy bears.
“He said: ‘Take it easy, lady. I’m married.’”
“Well, that has absolutely nothing to do with getting laid,” Samantha stated, then pursed her lips.
“You know, I believe her,” Miranda said to me.
“Do you think he was really married?” I asked.
“He was married, all right,” Miranda said. “Married to the mob.”
Tom Giglione, Jr. and his wife, Barbara, lived a relatively quiet life in Brewster, New York, with their kids, Tom III and Alyssa. Occasionally, they would drive the hour and a half across the Tappan Zee to visit his New Jersey in-laws. Tom made appearances beside Barbara at five family meals, four funerals, and one bedside vigil when the head of the family was in the hospital with a gunshot wound. He and the don’s baby sister lived in relative obscurity, avoiding getting drawn into the underworld that subsumed Barbara’s parents and siblings.
Tom uttered some of the best one-liners in the family…by virtue of only speaking one line per appearance:
When the matriarch of the family, a terrible woman, finally died and her equally awful eldest daughter forced everyone to choke out a few nice words about the departed, the first lady’s father snapped and went on a tirade about suffering under the yoke of that woman, to which Tom responded: “Hear, hear!” When Christopher Moltisanti finally settled down with a wife and kid to throw a housewarming party at his tacky Mini McMansion, complete with a CLEAVER poster in the foyer, the Giglione family arrived bearing gifts and Tom cracked a joke that the wine-shaped one was for the baby. When his buttnut of a nephew went through a woke phase regarding Iraq and started quoting “The Second Coming” during another uncle’s funeral buffet at Vesuvio, Tom corrected his mispronunciation of the poet’s Irish name: yates, not yeets.
But mostly, Tom blended into the background, at least in New Jersey. The edgiest thing Tom ever did was grow a goatee and accept mafia boosts when his honest and hard-working father died. Tom II liked football and food, and once unknowingly poked the bear by bringing up the Jets at the dinner table, prompting the elderly uncle with dementia to tease the scariest man in New Jersey about never having the makings of a varsity athlete. His life was so seamless and relatively uncomplicated that his wife transformed into a completely different woman who simply had to call the mafia don “big brother” during that pasta dinner to reclaim her role in the family.
I couldn’t help but wonder: were the women in that world as disposable as the men were in mine? If wives can be recast and mothers can be computer generated, what place of power can women really hold? With an ever-rotating supply of guest-star goomars, not to mention background strippers who are never given credit and might as well be human scenery, was the life depicted on the other side of the Lincoln tunnel as dismissive of women as mine was of men?
And just like that, I realized our stories constituted thematic inversions of each other, reflected across the Hudson River.
To learn more, I dusted off my press pass and did a little investigating into the parallels between us. I figured that Tom Giglione was the most approachable: he was a New Yorker (albeit upstate), he was connected without being CONNECTED, and Miranda had all his contact information from the sexual harassment case she had considered pursuing against him.
“Whatever happened with that?” I asked as we reminisced with gummy bears in my single gal apartment that BIG AND I KEPT AS AN EMPTY PIECE OF VALUABLE MANHATTAN REAL ESTATE.
“It’s so great you never bothered to find renters for this place,” Samantha said, watching the couple across the street having sex. Well past their prime years of two-hour matinees, the pair still liked to occasionally put on retrospective exhibitions. Like the rest of their audience, I had moved on, but Samantha still liked to take a peek, for old time’s sake.
“I didn’t pursue it because I pretty much trumped him when I started screaming in the street about needing to get laid,” Miranda said, stretching a gummy bear until it snapped. “I did get him fired, though.”
Miranda’s discovery procedures had prodded Tom’s employer to issue a round of layoffs, allegedly only affecting upstate crews so disorganized that they had to work in the middle of Lexington Avenue on Saturdays, which somehow also managed to get rid of the sex pests. The company was trying to rebrand, and the catcalling construction worker, pounding away at the pavement with his ineffectual jackhammer, was a sexual harassment trope that everyone was ready to dismiss.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Tom, who took small handyman jobs around Putnam County while he went back to school to earn his teaching certificate (with a few feminist studies classes thrown in for good measure). He eventually became a football coach, a dream he had shared with his brother-in-law that would ultimately become a nightmare.
Tom began as a coach of his son’s pop warner football team. The big man back in Jersey seemed supportive of Tom II’s progress on the sidelines and Tom III’s development on the field; his own son was also showing some promise as well. But as the Toms began to display more and more gridiron prowess, the buttnut of a nephew was experiencing panic attacks in the huddle, and Tom Jr. started noticing some passive-aggressive comments from the mafia don.
“My brother has a bit of a jealous streak,” Barbara told me when I drove Big’s Batmobile up to Brewster for an interview. I had thought I just had to drive by Aidan’s rustic cabin and turn left instead of right at the sign for farm-fresh summer squash, but it turns out Brewster is nowhere near Suffern—they are on complete opposite sides of the Hudson. It’s like I don’t know upstate New York at all.
Barbara recalled her husband staring out over the darkened waters of the Tappan Zee on their way home from a family dinner. Her brother had needled Tom III about hitting the weight room, bragging that there was a time when he could bench press 300 pounds. “I may have placed us in a no-win situation,” Tom told Barbara.
But football had become a way of life for the Gigliones, and they couldn’t quit if they tried. By the time Tom Three, who everyone now called Tre (Italian for, you guessed it, three), made the all-state team, Tom Two had secured a job on the varsity coaching staff as an offensive coordinator.
A photo I found in the newspaper archives showed the two of them—Tom II and Tom III, father and son, player and coach—embracing on the field after a heartbreaking loss in the state championship. Both were covered in dirt, drenched in sweat, and openly sobbing. The photo was a perfect balance of masculinity and vulnerability, two warriors who came up short but left everything on the field.
I thought back to the time I dated an actual New York Yankee and acted like a whiny baby the whole time—maybe my relationship problems stem from my having horrible taste. I do tend to pick the wrong men, and I probably should have continued seeing the therapist who led me to that breakthrough.
“Then Seton Hall started recruiting Tre,” Barbara told me. “That was the beginning of the end.”
Her brother had been indignant that Tre look elsewhere to continue his education. “Those guys from Seton Hall are seven feet tall, some of them,” he had yelled during Sunday dinner with the family, pounding his fist on the table before leaving in a huff.
“I used to worship my big brother,” Barbara told me. “Christ, I went to Seton Hall because that’s where he went—for a semester and a half—but I guess all godfathers meddle in their sisters’ lives.”
“Like Connie Corleone’s husband in Part I,” I nodded. “They let that play out for years.”
“Tom disappeared during a college visit with Tre,” Barbara told me, stubbing out her cigarette. “Now I sit here, turning into my mother, shriveled up and bitter, ruining my children’s lives. I don’t even recognize myself. It’s like they hired someone else to play me.”
“You never go back to Jersey?” I asked with trepidation.
“I don’t even cross the Hudson,” Barbara croaked. “After his father disappeared, Tre was angry enough to go back to Newark and steal my mother’s car.”
“That green Dynamic 88 in the driveway?” I had dinged the car when I pulled up to the house and was just waiting for the right time to bring it up.
“My horrible sister tried to claim it as her own, but that family owes me,” Barbara said, lighting another cigarette. “Tommy took a lead pipe to the kneecap for his efforts. Got the car, but never played football again.”
“All this because Tre succeeded where your brother failed?”
“No, because my husband succeeded where my brother failed,” Barbara yelled. “My brother always wanted to be a football coach; he literally dreamed about it. It was the only honest work he ever wanted to do, but since he was incapable of honest work, he had to send my husband into the witness protection program.”
“Is that a euphemism?” I asked.
As I left the Giglione house in a hurry, I had a thought: the senseless deaths were now hitting way too close to home. If people in the actual family were not safe from the mafia don’s wrath, maybe I should stop asking questions.
A long scrape of green paint now marred the front fender of Big’s Batmobile. The custom color was so outlandish that it evoked neither the Green Lantern nor the Green Hornet—both of whom, I now knew, were considered heroes. No, this green was pure villain, the most quintessential, sociopathic, and secretly adored villain of all time: the Joker.
I pointed the Batmobile toward Manhattan. Surely there would be no repercussions for my actions.