Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Everybody's scared to upset Mr. Soprano

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LAKE Manitoba Narrows residents are buzzing over the news that actor James Gandolfini has bought nearby land on the lake's western shore. Some jokingly say they don't want word that their tongues are wagging to get out -- in case the real-life version of Gandolfini resembles the mafia boss he played for six seasons on television.

"I think it'll just make it a little more exciting for everybody, that's all," said a manager of the Rona hardware store in Ashern, about 30 kilometres east of the Narrows.

"If you want any hits planned," she laughed, "now you know who to talk to. If you believe the shows, anyway."

Asked to give her name, she said Marlene, then giggled: "Don't quote me, though. No, don't quote me. It was just a comical suggestion."

She wasn't the only person to react with both excitement and nervousness (and requests for anonymity) to a Free Press report last week that Gandolfini, star of the acclaimed TV series The Sopranos, could take up residence in a new cottage development off Provincial Highway 68, about 200 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.

"We've been talking about it, for sure," said the manager and co-owner of the Ashern Chicken Chef restaurant.

The woman said Gandolfini will enjoy exceptional fishing in the area near the Lake Manitoba Narrows, as well as sunsets that "rival anywhere in the world."

The actor's arrival would probably add to the flow of tourists into the area, she said, noting communities around the Narrows already saw a noticeable increase in business this past year.

The development in which Gandolfini has invested doesn't have any residences yet, she said.

Then came the moment to identify herself.

"Are you quoting me in the paper?" she asked. Told she would be quoted, she quickly replied: "Then I'm not going to give you my name."

Even Chad Olafson, the developer who told the Free Press about Gandolfini's property purchase, wanted to downplay the news.

Olafson said he was worried Gandolfini would be upset when he heard of the newspaper article and called the actor himself to mend fences.

"He got a kick out of it and he got a kick out of my concern," Olafson said.

Olafson said he hadn't noticed an increase in calls from prospective buyers since the Gandolfini story broke.

About 40 properties remain for sale in the 330-lot development.

joe.paraskevas@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 17, 2007 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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