TV Club

Lonely at the Top? It’s Worse at the Bottom.

Dear Tim,

Before we get to your many points, I’ve been meaning to ask you to choose a mob name for yourself, because that’s what we here in Mob-envy-land do.

I’ve thought up a few possibilities: Tim “Kid Twist” Noah, Tim “Tiny” Noah, Tim “Curls” Noah, Tim “Timmy Bats” Noah? The Mob Nickname Generator came up with Tim “The Ox” Noah. I don’t know why. You’re certainly not very oxlike. It spit out Jeffrey “Knuckles” Goldberg for me. I would actually prefer, if you don’t mind, the name issued by my own soon-to-be-patented, which has bestowed upon me “Jewboy” as my moniker. Khalid Muhammad, the one-time Nation of Islam minister, once called me a “hook-nosed motherfucker,” which I don’t mind, either. (“I wear your scorn like a badge of honor,” I told him, the only time in my life I’ve ever stolen a line from Dan Quayle.) Did you know, by the way, that one of Junior Gotti’s goombahs was named Stevie “The Jew” Kaplan? This was done because there was actually another Steven Kaplan associated with the Ozone Park crew, and, though Jewish, his nickname was not, in fact, “The Jew.”

So let me know. Some variation of “Paulie Walnuts” maybe? “Timmy Macadamia”?

In re: Carmela, let me, without, per your request, getting too specific here (although this is not a secret from my wife), acknowledge first that the rise of Edie Falco is the greatest thing to happen to television since Mary Ann made the fateful decision to go on that three-hour tour. But what you must understand is that I don’t need an Italian-American dominant-female in my life because I have a Jewish-American dominant-female in my life (not you, Mom), who is loved by me in part because she possesses those qualities one associates with Italian-American dominant-females, in that, as you put it, she takes care of business. There isn’t much difference, as you surely know, between Italians and Jews (they worship Jesus, Jesus was a Jew; they eat too much, we eat too much; and, oh, by the way, Jews and Italians together invented organized crime as we know it).

By the way, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard came to me from Mario Puzo’s mother by way of Mario himself, who I got to know slightly in his declining years. We were meant to have lunch one day, and I suggested to him that we go out, but he insisted on eating at home. I asked him why he was so tethered to his own kitchen, assuming the answer was culinary in nature, but he said, and here I paraphrase, “My mother always told me not to go outside because you can get hurt if you outside.” In the post-9/11 universe (and, clearly, the post-Virginia Tech universe), this observation doesn’t always hold true, but it’s worth thinking about.

You’ve given me a lot to think about, and a lot for bosses everywhere to think about. But before we start feeling sorry for them (mob bosses, U.S. News & World Report bosses), let’s remember that, at least in the mob, if not the newsmagazine business, substantial material rewards flow to bosses, rewards inaccessible to underlings, which is partially why we underlings squall the way we do. I have to say, I think you’re excusing Tony’s whining (whining that, in real life, would have gotten him killed a long time ago): Life might be bad for him, but it’s still worse, in very real ways, for the people under him, though this will obviously change as we move toward the denouement, to borrow from the Italian.

On the other hand, even underlings and middle managers are occasionally freed for a fun night out, which is what I had a couple of weeks ago, at the Sopranos premiere, to which you were misinvited. It was quite a scene, actually: David Chase, surrounded by his adoring groupies in the Washington press corps. At one point, Chase had the microphone, and the assembled press—the highest-paid, most famous reporters in the land—asked him a long series of softball questions about imaginary events. I’ve never seen anything like it in Washington.

Obsequiously yours,
Jeffrey “Gefilte” Goldberg