MAKING IT WITH MARC PART 2: BECOMING A TOUR GUIDE
The popular HBO series The Sopranos turns 20 years old in just one month! To celebrate this milestone, we’ll be sharing some Sopranos content and a behind the scenes look at the Sopranos Sites Tour throughout the years. Marc Baron, long time Sopranos Sites tour guide, tells us about how he became a guide in the second of four blog posts. Read on…
Sometime during the filming of the third season I got a call from an old friend, Joyce Randolph. Joyce is best known as Trixie of the TV The Honeymooners. We both belong to a theater club called The Lambs ®, which is the oldest theatrical organization in America, founded in New York in 1874. Today I am its Shepherd (President). Joyce’s late husband, Richard Charles, was The Lambs’ Shepherd in the 1990’s. Joyce and I are old and very dear friends. Joyce had received a call about making an appearance on a bus tour about film and television locations. She invited the tour company founder/owner, Georgette Blau, to The Lambs to chat, and Joyce asked me to sit with them. Georgette explained that she had created a company focused on giving tours about films and television and among them included tours about Sex & the City and The Sopranos. I chimed in that I had worked on a few episodes of The Sopranos and Georgette began to grill me about my work.
At this time I was now trying to move my career away from stand-in/double work. So, my calendar was free. Georgette wanted to know if I’d be interested in working on her Sopranos Tour. She preferred guides who were actors or comedians, and my having been on the show’s set really piqued her interest. I have never done anything like this before and was hesitant. I eventually agreed to take the tour to see what it was all about. There were about 18 locations and the trip ran over 4 hours and 30 minutes, but it lacked information and was a bit boring. The guide would simply chat with people in front then point to a location as the bus whizzed by telling the clients what happened there. Georgette and I talked about what I thought it needed, such as more interaction and humor. She agreed to let me makes changes to the tour, and I began to learn the tour, while at the same time researching the actors, developing a few jokes, adding some prizes to make it interactive and, adding some of my behind- the-scenes knowledge/experiences.
But then a major setback– September 11th. All tourism essentially stopped in New York City. Tunnels were closed while the city slowly recovered. During the several months following the disaster, Georgette took off the reigns and allowed me to revamp the tour. We had the help of Sue Sadik, aka Soprano Sue, and John ‘Gramps’ Launder. They were two huge fans of the show who frequently found their way onto sets during production. They pointed out a lot of locations and, together, we re-routed the entire tour. I added my research, jokes, and we restarted the tour about 2 months later. It took a little time, but good word was quickly spreading about the tour. We had made the tour run at 4 hours but included about 40 locations.
At about that time one of the actors – Joe Gannascoli who played Vito Spatafore – began meeting the tour at its start, selling souvenirs and taking photos with tourists. Joe can come off a little gruff, but once you get past that he’s a decent guy. While I was doing the tour, I was still working on the show occasionally. The times when both Joe and I were on set he would introduce me around to other actors, directors, etc. I knew better than to mention the tour.