During Monday’s Columbus Day parade in New York, the city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, will be noticeably absent. Instead, he’ll be having lunch at an Italian restaurant in the Bronx with two pals, ”Sopranos” stars Lorraine Bracco and Dominic Chianese. After parade organizers won an injunction to keep Bloomberg from inviting cast members from a show the Italian-American group finds offensive, the mayor took the rare step of sitting out the parade.
The Columbus Citizens Foundation, the group that organizes the parade, objected to the mayor’s invitation of Bracco, who plays Dr. Melfi, and Chianese, who plays aging mobster Uncle Junior, on the grounds that ”the show stereotypes the Italo-American family in the worst way,” the group’s president told the New York Post. The protest seemed an echo of the recent episode of the show that dealt with a Columbus Day parade and issues of Italian-American pride, an episode that, in turn, seemed a response to earlier protests against the show by outraged Italian-Americans.
The mayor, who claims he’s not a big TV watcher or ”Sopranos” fan, said he invited the two actors, not because of their Mob-show ties, but because of their service to the city: Bracco for serving as an environmental spokesperson and Chianese for promoting tourism to the city. Still, during his weekly radio address on Saturday, he sure sounded like a guy who’d been watching a lot of ”The Sopranos”. He said, ”I’m sort of walking along, invite two Italian-Americans, want to say thank you on behalf of the city. And bada-bing, bada-boom — all of a sudden they’re down my throat. Okay?”
A U.S. District Court judge ruled Friday that the Columbus Citizens Foundation, the group that organizes the parade, could invite or disinvite whomever they wanted. The group continued to extend an invitation to Bloomberg, but only if he came alone. Bloomberg said fuhgeddaboudit. ”I’m sorry if anyone’s annoyed, but if my friends can’t march… they don’t have to have the mayor,” he told the press.
Even former mayor Rudy Giuliani got into the fray. An Italian-American and avowed ”Sopranos” fan, he told the Associated Press on Saturday, ”The show is a terrific show, and I would urge some Italian-Americans to be less sensitive. You could spend your whole life wanting to be insulted…. Why? Why do you want to be insulted?” (That’s certainly a lot more tolerance than he showed for artwork that he said he found insulting to Catholics that was displayed at the Brooklyn Museum, where he called for heads to roll while he was mayor.)
In the end, Mayor Bloomberg marched in a Columbus Day parade after all — on Sunday in the Bronx. Bracco and Chianese were not with him.