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`Sopranos' fans still believin'

Business at the diner in the final scene is booming, bus tours are selling out, and Journey downloads are way up.

June 22, 2007|Janet Frankston Lorin | Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. — Fade to black? Not a chance for fans of "The Sopranos."

Almost two weeks after the series finale, the addiction to the show seems stronger than ever, with legions of fans making a journey to Jersey to see real-life remnants of the hit TV mob drama.

For many, their obsession starts at the place where the series ended: Business is booming at the diner where Tony Soprano sat with his family in the controversial series finale.

Fans not only want to eat at Holsten's (actually an ice cream parlor in Bloomfield), they want to sit in the same booth in which Tony, the fictional New Jersey mob boss, played the Journey song "Don't Stop Believin'."

"The phone just rings constantly all day from people wanting to make reservations," said co-owner Chris Carley. "They ask 'Can we reserve the booth? Can we get a T-shirt?' "

Carley, who watched the final scenes filmed there over two days, fields calls from fans wanting to talk about the ending. Customers who want to relive Tony's last meal can buy some of the onion rings he raved about (for $2.50), but they cannot listen to the juke box, which was a prop for the show.

"It's just so funny that people want to sit in that booth," Carley said. "A lot of people are taking pictures."

The Emmy-winning HBO show explored the life of the fictional mob boss and his family, and scores of scenes have been shot across the Garden State since it debuted in 1999.

The series buzz-inducing final scene ended abruptly with the screen suddenly going black as Tony and his family sit down to dinner at Holsten's, leaving fans guessing about what happens next.

Part of "The Sopranos" fascination is fueled by the lack of a real ending, said Roland T. Rust, chairman of the marketing department at the University of Maryland.

"The fact you don't have that resolution makes it more difficult for people to let go," Rust said.

Some fans are flocking to a "Sopranos"-themed bus tour. With 47 sites, it's one way fans can still connect with the show. The cost is $42 per person, which includes a cannoli (a nod to "The Godfather"). Afternoon tours for the next two weekends are already sold out.

The tour begins in Midtown Manhattan and transports up to 54 people through the Lincoln Tunnel into Jersey (the start of Tony's journey in the opening credits). Fans see the fictional Satriale's pork store in Kearny and the diner under the Pulaski Skyway in Jersey City where Tony's nephew, Christopher, got shot.

The obsession with "The Sopranos" doesn't just include New Jersey.

Music downloads of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' " jumped 371% in the week after it was played in the show's final scene, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Even Pizzaland, a shack that zips by in the show's opening credits, has seen a huge spike in business from fans still starving for the show.

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