The Sopranos Plot That Dare Not Speak Its Friggin' Name, Joe Gannascoli Spotted Gay Mob Story Then, Bottom-Bing! Gandolfini's Offer, Refused: 'You Want Me to Talk to Chase?'
Last week, the actor Joseph Ganna-scoli—who, as Vito on The Sopranos, is living out this television season's only great tragic love story—was tooling around Lynbrook, Long Island, in a new silver Mercedes R350 with a back seat filled with flowering plants. He was wearing a Giants sweatshirt and sneakers, and was taking a reporter on a tour through his neighborhood's quiet maze of split-level houses and manicured, postage-stamp lawns. He pulled up in front of an unassuming two-story white house, which he and his wife, Diana, moved into last August—the first house the actor has owned, after letting go of a rent-controlled apartment in his old stomping ground of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, after 25 years.
Mr. Gannascoli, who at 47 is still a large man even after losing 160 pounds, removed the plants from the back of the Mercedes and hung them carefully off the branches of a tree on the front lawn. He was stepping gingerly after undergoing hip surgery five weeks earlier. He proudly pointed out some yard work: a mosaic-tiled bird bath and, plunked down in the grass, a large boulder that he thinks looks like a bear. Looking at the boulder, he paused and said, "How long till they write 'fag' on it?"
For these days, Mr. Gannascoli is known to Sopranos watchers as "Gay Vito" (or even GaVito, in certain exotic circles). Vito's reluctant coming-out story line has locked up more Monday-morning chatter than all of Bill Paxton's polygamist wives and Desperate Housewives shenanigans combined. He is, simply put, a sensation.
There's something about the sight of Mr. Gannascoli dancing gleefully in a biker's cap in a leather bar, or going on the lam to a gay Shangri-La (in this case, "Live Free or Die" New Hampshire) and falling in love with the handsome mustached cook from the diner—"Johnny Cakes"—that have given TV viewers that rare feeling that they are watching something new. In the hyper-masculine world of organized crime, with its intricately nuanced male taboos—it's O.K. to get misty-eyed at your daughter's wedding, but it's not O.K. to cry if the Feds are bundling you back to prison—Sopranos creator David Chase has introduced a character whose outsized vulnerability will surely force a defining choice for the gentler, back-from-a-coma Tony Soprano.