The death of Tony Sirico, who played Paulie Walnuts on the Sopranos, is a moment for those of us who loved watching the Sopra- nos to say farewell to one its most compelling characters.
He died in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida last Friday.
He was 79.
He never graduated from high school.
He worked in construction as a younger man.
Then he got into “other things,” as he liked to recall.
The other things were armed robbery, extortion, coercion and felony weapon possession.
He served time at Sing Sing maximum security prison in Ossining, New York.
Then he got into acting.
When the Sopranos role came to him, he was 55 and “sleeping on my mother’s sofa,” he recalled during an interview about his life.
Paulie Walnuts character was that of a profoundly violent man who took great pleasure in destroying peoples’ lives or killing them outright.
But Sirico had scruples.
He refused to play a character who was a rat.
He was also reluctant to be a character that kills a woman.
He had strong boundaries, a psychologist might well say of Mr. Walnuts.
Who among us who loved the Sopranos failed to be moved by Paulie Walnut’s rage, his physicality, his absolute fearlessness and tolerance to pain?
As Paulie Walnuts he wore track suits, slept with hookers, was phobic about germs, hated cats and watched television in a chair covered with plastic, the NY Times reported in his obituary.
He was always, inevitably, to the very end, himself – and that’s saying something.
RIP Paulie Walnuts.