Tony Darrow, who played Larry Barese on The Sopranos, didn’t decide to get rid of his excess fat because fellow cast member James Gandolfini died of a heart attack. Darrow had already decided to try a noninvasive, laser option called Coolsculpting by Zeltiq to freeze his unwanted fat.
Darrow, who has played significant roles in a number of popular films, is also scheduled to narrate an update of the documentary, The Soprano State: New Jersey’s Culture of Corruption, to include recent developments in Hudson County and New Jersey’s notorious scandals.
The death of his friend Gandolfini lent support to his decision to get rid of some excess fat. Good eating from Hoboken to Fort Lee had added to his waistline.
“He’d done some lasik with me so I trusted him.” -- Tony Darrow
While Darrow was in better overall physical shape than Gandolfini, he said he was conscious of the fat.
“I’m an actor, and actors are vain,” he said. “I didn’t like everything I saw.”
So when he heard about a noninvasive procedure that would help get rid of the fat, he went to a doctor in Ridgewood.
“He’d done some lasik with me so I trusted him,” Darrow said. “He wanted me to go to his lecture on it first. I told him, let’s just do this.”
Darrow didn’t completely know what to expect except that it did not involve scalpels, scars, or surgery.
Not for the obese
Darrow’s doctor said the procedure did not involve knives or surgery, but a freezing of the fat that eventually gets processed through the liver, leaves no marks, and is primarily designed for those with relatively small areas of fat, not people who are obese.
This was almost perfect for Darrow who wanted to trim off inches, not a major operation.
Darrow said the staff put a kind of patch over the area and let it do its work.
“They checked on me to make sure everything was alright,” he said. “It tingled but it didn’t hurt, and the area was sensitive for a few days, but nothing more than that.”
The procedure, which is largely designed to deal with things like love handles and moderate fat, is not covered by insurance plans the way bariatric surgery would be.
Beyond The Sopranos
Darrow’s decision to freeze the fat came in the aftermath of Gandolfini death, which Darrow said was sad and tragic.
“I was a recurring character on the show with him,” Darrow said. “We became friends. We went out to eat together and boy could we eat.”
But Darrow’s career went beyond The Sopranos. Indeed, he started out as a standup comic, opening for some of the top acts in places like Atlantic City and Las Vegas.
“I used to get standing ovations even before the other acts came on, and they started cutting my time,” he said. “I still did good, but there wasn’t time for the standing ovations.”
Darrow eventually got into film—some very significant mob-genre films, playing the character of Sonny Bunz in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas alongside Robert DeNiro.
While he is best known for his role in The Sopranos, Darrow also played roles in other TV series such as Law & Order and Swift Justice. He also played roles, some leading, in five films by Woody Allen, who along with Scorsese, he said was his favorite director.
“They let me do what I needed to do to make the characters real,” he said. “They never tried to put words in my mouth. They said they wanted the scene to end like this and how I got there was my business.”
Parts of the The Sopranos were filmed in and near Hudson County, including the opening sequence near the Bayonne exit to the New Jersey Turnpike. The show also filmed in Secaucus twice.
“They did a scene on the Hackensack River behind Red Roof Inn,” said Secaucus’s former town administrator, Anthony Iacono. “I spent a day on the set with them.”
Darrow is a personal friend of Iacono.
“I know him very well,” Iacono said. “He helped my son early in my son’s career, letting him perform at some of his gigs when my son was four or five.”
Although Darrow grew up in the East New York section of Brooklyn in a neighborhood known for its tough guys and wise guys where only the strong survive, he has long been a resident of New Jersey.
“All my friends live in Jersey,” he said. “Most of them live in Bergen County.”
But his memories of growing up in a tough world allowed him to portray characters that became very real on the screen.
His long career playing fictional mobsters apparently made him appropriate to serve as the narrator of the documentary, The Soprano State: New Jersey's Culture of Corruption, where he outlined some of the Garden State’s most infamous corruption cases—some of which had roots here in Hudson County.
“We have to do an update,” he said. “I’m told we have to add about 16 minutes to the original film.”
But it will be a slimmer version of Darrow who will appear in the updated version, and a sadder one.
“I’ll miss Jim, he was a friend,” Darrow said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.