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    Posted June 19, 2013 by
    Jacksonville, Florida
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    In Memoriam

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    So long paisan


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Pat Tantalo worked on special effects in the 2006 film 'Lonely Hearts,' starring James Gandolfini and John Travolta. He said when Gandolfini arrived at the production office, 'he was bigger than life. He had this huge smile on his face and the office was buzzing. He shook everyone's hands and made sure he learned everyone's name ... We were like kids meeting a movie idol. He was Tony Soprano!'
    - hhanks, CNN iReport producer

    So long paisan, thanks for letting me be your friend. Now you and Bobby V can smoke cigars together. R.I.P. Jimmy.


    I was the Special Effects Foreman on Lonely Hearts with my best friend Bobby Vazquez who was the FX Coordinator. I was also chosen to be the prison guard  who throws the switch on the electric chair for Salma Hayek & Jared Leto. But you only see my hand pulling the switch.


    When Jimmy arrived at the production office for Lonely Hearts in Jacksonville FL. He was bigger than life. He had this huge smile on his face and the office was buzzing. He shook everyone's hands and made sure he learned everyone's name. We were just finishing a production meeting and we introduced ourselves. We instantly connected. He planted his huge mitts on my shoulders and called me a little bull. We talked about having dinner and taking him to our favorite cuban restaurant.


    We gave him our numbers and he gave us his. Me and Bobby V. left. as we were leaving Jimmy was banging on the office window when we looked up he threw us the finger! He was laughing like only he could. We busted out laughing and got in the cadi and drove off. We were like kids meeting a movie idol. He was Tony Soprano! I told Bobby he was gonna call us, and it wasn't a half hour before he did. He didn't want to hang in his hotel all day. So we did some errands and went and picked him up. we took him to the place we were renting cabins at by a lake. There was a great little deck overlooking the lake, we sat and smoked cigars and told stories, it was like we had been friends forever.


    We made that event a weekly thing and it eventually grew to a gang of people hanging out having a great time by the lake. Jimmy was always playing on the set, he was just a blast to be around.


    One night we were shooting late and a crowd had formed hoping to get a glimpse of Jimmy and John Travolta. We were inside a house shooting and during breaks in shooting Jimmy would be amazed at the crowd hanging around so late. He went over to John and they talked for a few minutes the two of them went downstairs and instead of taking a van to their trailers, went out into the crowd and signed autographs and took pictures with everyone in the crowd. That was something you don't see any more in the film industry. They came back both smiling from ear to ear. the crowd was chanting and cheering them both. Jimmy told me he loved that because if it wasn't for those fans he would be selling cars in new jersey. He loved his fans and was just a regular hard working guy.


    We talked about fishing and he liked to take his son fishing when he was on hiatus, we took him to the biggest tackle shop in Jacksonville and got him set up with all the latest gear for when he got back to NY. He was like a kid in a candy shop. It was another example of him being that everyday guy, I think that was his appeal, he was one of us.


    He will always be one of my most treasured friends. I have lost two friends in the last month, first my friend and brother Bobby Vazquez and now Jimmy Gandolfini, I know those two will be smoking it up in that big lounge in the sky. RIP Jimmy G.

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