Lorraine Bracco: Barry Wetcher
Gary Susman
October 10, 2002 AT 04:00 AM EDT

In a ”life imitates art imitates life moment,” folks from HBO’s ”The Sopranos” have found themselves in a brouhaha over a Columbus Day parade and issues of Italian-American pride. In a twist worthy of this season’s third episode, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg finds himself caught up in a controversy over whether ”Sopranos” actors Lorraine Bracco and Dominic Chianese can march in the city’s Columbus Day festivities, since their presence is protested by activists who find the Mob drama a slur on Italian-Americans.

It was such protests against the show that prompted this season’s Columbus Day episode, which raised issues of Italian-American stereotypes when some of Tony’s crew tried to shut down an anti-Columbus Day protest by an American Indian group that accused the Italian explorer of genocide. (Meanwhile, Carmela and the other made men’s wives squirmed during a lecture by an academic who said that Mafia stereotypes were outdated and unjustified.)

Despite the real-life protests, ”The Sopranos” has earned thumbs-up from New York mayors — the Italian-American former prosecutor Rudy Giuliani, and now, Michael Bloomberg, who invited Italian-American actors Bracco and Chianese to march in this weekend’s parade. That invitation incurred the ire of Larry Auriana, president of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, who told the New York Post, ”The show stereotypes the Italo-American family in the worst way. Besides the whole crime element, it shows Italo-Americans as uneducated, low-life brutes.” (Well, Bracco’s Dr. Melfi hardly fits that description, but you get the drift.)

”This is New York. You can’t do anything without somebody being upset,” Mayor Bloomberg responded, according to the Post. ”I apologize if anybody’s offended. If you’re offended, don’t wave back when they wave at you. You don’t like ‘The Sopranos,’ don’t turn it on. Nobody’s forcing you to do either.”

Still, Bloomberg said he invited the actors to march because of their contributions to the city, not because he’s a fan of their ”Sopranos” work. ”I’d love to tell you I watch ‘The Sopranos’ all the time, but I’m not a big television addict. I don’t have the time for it,” he told the Post.

HBO and Bracco did not comment on the controversy, but Chianese, who plays Uncle Junior, said through his manager, ”As a citizen of New York, I am proud to march with Mayor Bloomberg in the Columbus Day parade.”

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