Booth where Tony Soprano may – or may not – have been whacked sells for a cool $82K to mystery buyer

BLOOMFIELD, N.J. — The ice cream parlor booth where Tony Soprano may or may not have been whacked has sold for more than $82,000.

As Tony would say, Madone!

An anonymous buyer bid $82,600 Monday night in an online auction for the piece of memorabilia that occupies an outsize role in the lore of the award-winning HBO series — particularly because it was where the New Jersey mob boss was sitting when the series ended by cutting to black, outraging many viewers and claiming a place in TV history.

Ron Stark, co-owner of Holsten’s, the northern New Jersey ice cream parlor, candy shop and restaurant where the scene was filmed, won’t say a word about who bought it, including whether it was a man or a woman. (That whole code of silence thing.)

Anyway, the story starts with some broken legs — on the tables of the restaurant that opened in 1939, that is. Suffice it to say, things were trending downward.

“Our dining room was in kind of bad shape,” Stark said. “It was getting to the point where we didn’t think it was safe anymore because of the legs breaking, and we didn’t want anybody to actually get hurt.”

Stark and his co-owner Chris Carley decided to auction off the booth and use the proceeds to pay for a renovation of the dining area.

Interest in the booth has remained high among fans of the show since the final scene aired in 2007. Tony Soprano, played by late actor James Gandolfini, orders a plate of onion rings and puts a coin in the jukebox to play Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” as his wife Carmella and son A.J. join him in the booth, while daughter Meadow struggles with parallel parking outside.

A guy walks past the table and enters the men’s room (which, at the restaurant, is really the ladies room, but they switched the signs so it would show up in the shot.) A bell rings to signal the entrance of someone walking into the restaurant — and the screen cuts to black, in the infamous ending that had countless viewers fiddling with their TV sets, thinking something had gone wrong.

It was “Sopranos” creator David Chase’s master stroke, Stark said — although Stark had no idea during filming that the scene would end the series.

“You’re just stunned and you say, ‘OK, they ended it, but how did it really end?’” Stark said. “David Chase is a genius for setting up that ending. Let’s say hypothetically Tony got whacked; it was all over. It would not have had the recognition that it had. People are still talking about it. No one knows 100% for sure what really happened.”

During filming, Gandolfini hungrily eyed the onion rings on the table before him — but was not allowed to eat them until multiple takes had been completed.

“They’d say ‘Cut!’ and he would roam behind the grill, and he goes ‘You have anything to eat? I’m starving!’” Stark recalled. He cooked Gandolfini a hot dog with cheese and fried onions.

The actual booth where the scene was filmed was detached on Monday and replaced by a recreation the same day. On Tuesday, so many media outlets wanted to photograph Stark in the booth that customers had to sit elsewhere during the lunch rush. He would not say when the buyer plans to pick it up.

As word of the sale spread, regular customers were joined anew by “Sopranos” fans, including a guy wearing the same shirt Tony did in the final scene, smoking a cigar as he walked in and out of the joint.

People still come in and make a bee-line for the men’s room, looking for the gun that may or may not have killed Tony.

“People actually go into the bathroom and take pictures of themselves in the bathroom,” Stark said. “They come for answers, they want to find out what happened.”

Shari Magill of nearby Nutley, a frequent customer, stopped by Tuesday for some food.

“Everybody comes here for the booth,” she said. “I hope people still come.”


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