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Actor James Gandolfini Dies; Interview with Frank Vincent and Vincent Curatola, Man Proposes Using Post-It Notes; Supreme Court Decisions Today

Aired June 20, 2013 - 07:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We are at the top of the hour, time for the top news.


JAMES LIPTON: If heaven exists what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

JAMES GANDOLFINI, ACTOR: Take over for a while, I'll be right back.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini has died while traveling in Italy with his son. We have new details on his death and we'll talk to his "Sopranos" co-stars live.

BOLDUAN: New twists, what does this patriots player know about the violent death of his alleged acquaintance? Police reportedly talking to him. We hear from the victim's family this morning.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And LeBron, the man, the myth, the legend, sit down with our Rachel Nichols. The big question, will he wear his trademark head band in tonight's championship game? We've got the answers.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you need to know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a mystery behind what the government does that brings the mistrust.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you just have to see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Daddy loves you. Daddy loves you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.


BOLDUAN: Good morning and welcome back to NEW DAY. It is Thursday, June 20.

CUOMO: It is 7:00 in the east. We're in the middle of 30 minutes of commercial free news. We start off with the death of actor James Gandolfini. The 51-year-old star was best known for his role as New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano.


GANDOLFINI: It's like when they're little and they get sick, you'd give anything in the world to trade places with them, so they don't have to suffer.


CUOMO: Family, friends, fans are all mourning the intense actor this morning. He was traveling with his son when he passed away in Italy after suffering an apparent heart attack Wednesday. Nischelle Turner joining us following this story.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Chris, Kate, Michaela, we do know that an autopsy will be performed tomorrow. Maybe we will get more answers into what happened here. In the meantime, fans and friends are celebrating the life of the man who made us love a mobster.


TURNER: The sudden death of James Gandolfini rippled from Italy to the Jersey shore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe it. I'm in shock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm really taken aback. He was such a young man and such a nice guy.

TURNER: The Emmy award winning actor's death confirmed by HBO, the network where he shot to fame as the tough talking mob boss Tony Soprano on the hit drama "The Sopranos".

GANDOLFINI: I couldn't ask for more.

TURNER: The HBO representatives said the 51-year-old actor may have had a heart attack, though the official cause is not yet known. The news blind-sided his closest Hollywood friends. "Sopranos" co-star Steven Van Zandt tweeting "I have lost a brother and best friend. The world has lost one of the greatest actors of all-time."

The show's creator, David Chase, mourned the loss in a statement, saying "He was a genius. Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that. He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes."

Gandolfini was vacationing in Italy where he was scheduled to attend the Taormina film festival in Sicily later this week. The press-shy star made one of his last public appearances at this charity event for the Stella Adler Acting Studio in New York City just last week. Among his last film roles was playing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on "Zero Dark Thirty".

GANDOLFINI: You guys ever agree on anything?

TURNER: He may have enjoyed global fame, but he never strayed far from home, New Jersey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He definitely put New Jersey on the map, all positive, you know. He just made Jersey better than it already is.

TURNER: One of his best known fans, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, in a statement said "It's an awful shock. James Gandolfini was a fine actor, a Rutgers alum, and a true Jersey guy. I was a huge fan of his and the character he played so authentically, Tony Soprano."

The ice cream shop in Bloomfield, New Jersey, which served as the diner setting for the final scene of "The Sopranos" was overflowing with fans after news of the actor's death spread.



TURNER: They kept the booth empty for him last night. The director of the morgue in Rome tells CNN that Gandolfini was brought in by ambulance but he was dead on arrival. James Gandolfini's manager just confirmed to us he was on his way to the Taormina film festival in Sicily and he was going to be honored with an achievement award at the festival.

BOLDUAN: Hopefully he'll still be honored even if his absence. Nischelle, thank you so much.

James Gandolfini's career went beyond Tony Soprano. He was a well- respected actor who also starred on Broadway and in movies, as you see Nischelle's piece. But to talk more about this, Miguel Marquez is joining us from Los Angeles with more on his truly incredible career. Hey, Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's just so darned sad. Look, his father was a bricklayer, and a cement mason. He later became a custodian in the high school. His mother was the head lunch lady in the high school. He talked about them proudly. He wanted to play regular people, and he certainly did.


GANDOLFINI: I'm in the waste management business. Everybody immediately assumes you're mobbed up. It's a stereotype and it's offensive, and you're the last person I would want to perpetuate it.

MARQUEZ: Tony Soprano, the mob dad with the soft spot the size of New Jersey for his daughter.

GANDOLFINI: There is no mafia. All right, look, you're a grown woman, almost. Some of my money comes from illegal gambling and whatnot.

MARQUEZ: Could be a nasty piece of work, profane, violent, even racist.

GANDOLFINI: I've got business associates who are black, and they don't want their son with their daughters and I don't want their sons with mine.

MARQUEZ: In the hands of James Gandolfini, Tony Soprano the thug became human, familiar, vulnerable, maybe in spite of ourselves, likeable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, not all impotence is the result of medication.

GANDOLFINI: You're saying there's something wrong with me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When is the last time you had a prostate exam?

GANDOLFINI: I don't even let anybody wave their finger in my face.

MARQUEZ: In 2000 when he won his first Emmy for the role.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Emmy goes to James Gandolfini.

MARQUEZ: His reaction says it all, the son of a bricklayer makes good, his acceptance speech humble, almost shy, classic Gandolfini.

GANDOLFINI: I can't really explain this except the academy has an affinity for slightly overweight bald men.

MARQUEZ: Nominated six times for his portrayal of Tony Soprano, he won three. Here's how the former bouncer and nightclub manager described the character on his first win.

GANDOLFINI: He tries to do the right thing and screws everything up. Kind of like a Ralph Cramden, "Honeymooners" kind of thing, just more dangerous. That's all.

MARQUEZ: The New Jersey native had range, spot on as then CIA director Leon Panetta in "Zero Dark Thirty" and all too believable as New York City mayor in "The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three."

GANDOLFINI: What happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone just hijacked a six train. It's stopped in the tunnel between 51st and 42nd.

GANDOLFINI: Another idiot with a gun.

MARQUEZ: He could play wickedly funny, nominated for a Tony for his role in Brooklyn parent in "God of Carnage."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your virtue went straight out the window when you decided to be a killer.

GANDOLFINI: I absolutely did not murder the hamster.

MARQUEZ: Or the general in the British comedy "In the Loop."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How's the Pentagon?

GANDOLFINI: It's kicked up a little. They're talking invasion reasonably seriously.

MARQUEZ: His interest in the military went beyond fiction, producing two HBO documentaries about the effects of war on the men and women who fight them. He visited troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Here he is from a USO tour in 2010.

GANDOLFINI: I always like coming out here to the bases. I think it's a good change of pace for the guys and the ladies, and I know that it makes me appreciate the whole thing more.

MARQUEZ: Twice married with two kids, Gandolfini mostly stayed away from the limelight. He spoke to James Lipton in 2004.

LIPTON: Finally, Jim, if heaven exists what would you like to hear god say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

GANDOLFINI: Take over for a while, I'll be right back. No, no, no.


LIPTON: That's it. You dare not change it.


LIPTON: It's too good, it's too good.

GANDOLFINI: Think of the possibilities.

MARQUEZ: Gandolfini who spent part of his younger years in Naples, Italy, he was set to win an award at the Taormina film festival in Sicily. Saying good-bye won't be easy.


MARQUEZ: Now, maybe the saddest part of all of this, his youngest daughter, Lilliana, is less than a year old. She will never know her father, sadly. And the Taormina film festival said they had talked to him, he was ready to come. And now they're quickly preparing a memorial for him at that film festival. Kate and Chris back to you two.

CUOMO: Miguel, thank you.

Joining us two of the stars of "The Sopranos," Frank Vincent who played Phil Leotardo joins us from Ft. Lauderdale, and Vincent Curatola, best known as Johnny Sac, he's on the phone from New Jersey. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us both. We keep talking about your friend, Jim Gandolfini, as an actor, and that he was great at that, but the more we learn the more it was about him as a man. Please, Frank, starting with you, as a man, as a friend, what made Jim Gandolfini so special?

FRANK VINCENT, ACTOR: Well, I guess the truth of the matter is that Jim was a very humble guy, and he had no airs about him, and he just did what he had to do and he put it all out there. And that's what I think made him great. He was as down to earth as anybody could be. He would do anything for you. If you asked him to do you a favor or you needed something, he was right there. And it's a tragic loss that we have -- we lost this guy, because he was a great, great actor and great friend.

CUOMO: I'm sorry for both of you for your loss. I know it's not easy. You did care about the man very much. Vincent, the generosity, we hear about that, but that it was special with Jim Gandolfini. He never forgot where he grew up with. When he had money he would give money. Tell me a little bit about that if you could.

VINCENT CURATOLA, ACTOR: I think he was probably someone that would never be understood if it was made public. We go back a long time with him, and Hackensack University Medical Center, I'm on the board. He was very generous all the time, you know, three, four, five times a year, and I'd find about it through the back door. He never wanted the light shown on him. He's sweet and steady. He didn't have that up and down personality. He was level-headed and dependable, and just, you know, just a sweet guy, sweet.

CUOMO: Vince, did you know anything about him having any health conditions or anything like that? Was he OK as far as you know?

CURATOLA: No. I mean, I know him since 1997 -- '92 actually, met him long before the show. What am I talking about? He was always solid. As a matter of fact I was with him two and a half weeks ago, I was with him a month ago, I was with him two months ago. No, just fine, great color. And as a matter of fact he had started to trim down and, no, ate wisely, lived wisely, and just enjoying his wife, his baby, his son. He lit up the room when he walked in, put it that way.

CUOMO: We keep hearing that. Frank, when you last spoke to him, where was his head? Where was his heart? Where was he in his life?

VINCENT: He was just ending the show, and I know that he was looking on for other things to do, and I can see the creativeness in him, the juice was flowing. And he was fine. It was him. It was the same guy we worked with, and there was nothing different about him. And it's hard to understand how these things happen, but I guess, I guess when it's time to go, it just happens, I don't know. The world's going to miss a big guy, a great guy.

CUOMO: He had a lot of life left, a lot of opportunity left. His biggest legacy is going to be his kids, of course. Forget about "The Sopranos." He's got his teenage boy, his little baby girl. What are you going to tell them? What do you want them to know about their father as he continues to grow, as she comes into her own, what do you want to tell her?

VINCENT: Well, you're just going to tell them that the father was a good man, he was an honorable man, a generous man, and he was a very humble man, and he cared for his friends. He loved a lot. And there's nothing that is negative that you can say to these children. I mean, you wouldn't do that anyway, but still, Jimmy was a very unique guy, a very talented guy with a tremendous range of ability. And like I said before, it's tragedy that happened here.

CUOMO: If you can tell his little daughter one story about her father, what are you going to tell her?

CURATOLA: Who's that?

CUOMO: Who has the better story?

CURATOLA: Go ahead, Frank.

VINCENT: Go ahead, John. Go ahead, John.

CURATOLA: Oh, all right.

VINCENT: These are tough questions.

CURATOLA: Very tough questions. You know, I mean he'll speak for himself, all of his, I mean her mother, Deborah Lin, just a sweet girl, knew Jimmy for many, many years. Before they got married they were great friends before they got married. And I'm sure that she'll just continue the legacy. Look at everything he's done with our troops, our wounded warriors. These are things that are above and beyond the fact that he's Jim Gandolfini, the tremendously talented actor. There are other aspects of his life that his children are going to know about, his 13-year-old son, Michael, sweet boy. As a matter of fact I remember the day he was born. There are other things besides his talent as a craftsman. That light will never go out. That kind of energy there never disappears. It just changes form.

CUOMO: Go ahead, Frank.

VINCENT: The kids are going to grow up seeing their father through the character that he portrayed. Unfortunately, that wasn't the real him but that's the only reference they're going to have especially the little girl. The boy has had time with Jim, I remember he used to bring him to the set and everything. But unfortunately the little girl is not going to have that privilege to know her own father and again it goes back to the same thing, it's, it's too bad.

CUOMO: Well having the friends like you around she's going to know quickly her father was the opposite of Tony Soprano. Frank Vincent, Vince Curatola thanks very much. Our hearts go out to you, sorry for your loss and the loss for his wife and kids. Thank you for share a little bit of your friend with us today.

CURATOLA: Thank you.

CUOMO: Thank you.

VINCENT: Vinnie, take care of yourself.

CURATOLA: You too, my friend, thank you. VINCENT: Bye-bye.

CUOMO: Take cares, fellas, thank you.

BOLDUAN: I think what you see -- what we've heard and what you hear from his friends is that he had a huge personality on camera, but off camera sweet, humble, very quiet and press-shy person off camera. We're learning much more about James Gandolfini this morning and also wanted to talk to chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta about what we know about the medical condition and more importantly the big questions of what we still don't know and what we want to find out.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: When you hear about something like this happening, obviously from a medical perspective, there are things that are going to be more likely to have caused his too early death and heart disease and heart attack and specifically something known as a sudden cardiac arrest. So when you talk about a heart attack, what you're really talking about is not getting enough blood flow to the heart, but what really causes the problem is arrhythmia, where the heart's electrical pattern just starts to be out of order and that's sort of what you heard from the statement from HBO as a possible cause.

BOLDUAN: And because we get a clue it was maybe a sudden heart attack because the hospital says that he was dead before he even arrived at the emergency room.

GUPTA: That's right. They say at least an hour I think is what I read before he got to the emergency room, and in Italy, I learned yesterday that if someone dies outside the hospital, that means an automatic autopsy, which is going to be performed.

BOLDUAN: So he is so young. You told us last hour that around 60 is when the average kind of heart attack risk sets in. He's 51 when he passed. What in your mind, if there's men out there listening to this, what are the big risk factors that could contribute to having a heart attack at such a young age?

GUPTA: This is an important question. When you say average heart attack occurs around mid-60's, about 10 percent of people have heard attacks before the age of 45. A significant number happened in their 50's as well so it certainly can happen. People are talking a lot about his weight, but more importantly the doctors are going to want to know did he have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes. His family history is so important, even things like sleep apnea can increase your risk.

So these are all factors and again as you point out, Kate, we don't know. I'm a neurosurgeon. Could this have been an aneurysm for example in the brain that we simply don't know, but they are going to probably find some answers as a result of this autopsy. Also they check the blood, see if there's any toxins or anything in the blood, any drugs that could have contributed to this.

BOLDUAN: Regardless, no solace to his family but good to get the medical information out of there. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, always good. Thank you so much.

We're going to have much more on this in our next hour with Larry King, host of "Larry King Now" he'll be joining to us talk about James Gandolfini.

CUOMO: Let's turn right now another big story we're following this morning and Michaela has all of it for us, so what do you have?

PERIERA: All right, Chris and Kate thanks so much. Developing at this hour, the government's vetting process for top security clearances now facing scrutiny in Washington. Senate committee also hear testimony today about serious problems within the Office of Personnel Management's investigative services program. In the opening testimony, obtained by CNN, the inspector general will say that 18 investigators and researchers have been convicted, and many more cases are pending.

Two New York men arrested in a bizarre and chilling plot. The FBI says they worked to develop a mobile X-ray system that would be used from a distance to silently kill people they deemed undesirable with dangerous levels of radiation. Glen Crawford and Eric Feiche face weapons of mass destruction conspiracy charges.

Monsoon rains are causing massive flooding and and mudslides in northern India and Nepal. Showing you some terrifying video, showing the overflowing Mahakali Rivera sweeping away a house in Nepal. First the building suffers a partial collapse, then it tips over completely, falling straight -- really crumbling right into the river and there it topples.

In health news the HPV vaccine is being credited for a dramatic drop in infection rates in teenage girls in the U.S. according to federal officials. Since the vaccine was introduced in 2006, the prevalence of dangerous strains has dropped by half. The dangerous strains of HPV aren't just the most commonly sexually transmitted infections, they're also a main cause of cervical cancer.

And finally, it may not be okay and we are saying this, it is not okay to break up via post-it note or text or any other Twitter, but how about a post-it note proposal? This is a great story. Brett Boytlor from Colorado pulled it off in a pretty romantic way. He asked his girlfriend to marry him by covered an entire wall with different colored post-its notes that read, "Marry Me?" But, if you look closely, there you go zoom in, he actually wrote "I love you" on all 8,000 of them. Fortunately the sticky trick worked. She said yes. Look at that. Changed her Facebook status, and they're getting married.

CUOMO: The whole wall is post-it notes.


PERIERA: They went all the way up to the ceiling and around windows. Dad apparently helped because that's a two-person job.

BOLDUAN: All right, guys, step it up. He's setting the bar pretty high.

CUOMO: Maybe a little too high. That may have been a little obsessive.

BOLUAN: Not really expensive.

PERIERA: Come on.

CUOMO: I didn't say expensive, obsessive.

PERIERA: I like those kind of things, I have the touch of romance.

CUOMO: Setting the high bar. You're setting a high bar my friend. Congratulations.

BOLDUAN: Good luck to both of you.

Caught on tape a waterspout in Grand Isle, Louisiana. The National Weather Service reports some minor damage but look at the video, including a downed power line as the spout stayed mostly out over the water. Indra Petersons is here with exactly what is going on.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: So incredible because yesterday we did not have a slight risk. I actually want to show you the radar from that time there and notice there's pretty much nothing going on, a couple cells and bam, that quickly, that's how fast you saw that develop so this is the power of mother nature. Unfortunately that can happen and we still have a slight risk out there.

I also want to tell you yes, it is hurricane season, it started June 1st and we have Barry today, now this time it's not like Andrea, it's not affecting the east coast nor the U.S. but it is off of Mexico expected to make landfall here shortly just northwest of Veracruz, Mexico. What's important is it's moving at 5 miles per hour. The reason that is key is the direction. It's moving west rather than back into the Gulf where it could have potential to strengthen and go back to the U.S. So that is good news for us. Unfortunately it does mean heavy rain for everyone in Mexico; about 5-10 inches possible for them.

Northeast straight down to the south, you're talking about temperatures warming. We're looking at a lot of 80's out there. That's the good news. We're not looking for rain and we talked about the slight risk potential. We talked about the waterspout today, looking for the severe weather anywhere from the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa.

BOLDUAN: A lot going on this week. I guess it is as always, get used to it. Indra thanks so much.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, a murder mystery in Massachusetts, and an up and coming NFL star is being interviewed by police.

BOLDUAN: Plus, you've heard the old expression, mess with the bull, you get the horns? Well it comes true in bizarre fashion with this bizarre bull fight. We'll tell you what's going on.

CUOMO: Had a red shirt on. Red shirt. Wearing a red shirt?

BOLDUAN: Avoid the red. Look at that.

CUOMO: What did you do at work today? I had to wrestle this bull.

BOLDUAN: There was this bull on my way into class.

CUOMO: That's why I was late. That's a lot of bull.


CUOMO: Welcome back, everybody to NEW DAY. The Supreme Court is expected to make new decisions today that could affect three landmark equality issues -- affirmative action, voting rights and same-sex marriage. Let's bring in Jeffrey Toobin. What's his name? Toobin? That sounds right. Senior legal --

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's the nerd Super Bowl. This is it. This is the big one.


BOLDUAN: You say nerd Super Bowl every June.

TOOBIN: It's true. So you know all my material. That's true.

BOLDUAN: No but you're right it is the nerd Super Bowl.

CUOMO: All right, so let's get to these. First of all, Jeffrey, I've learned so much from you over the years covering trials together. Affirmative action, Voting Rights Act, okay, these are two cases but kind of grow out of the same thing - civil rights in the 60's, even out the playing field. By definition affirmative action was meant to be temporary. We did have one big case already that rolled back quotas. Now we're dealing with pre-clearance issues of places where they have to ask for the ability to change their voting laws. There's a lot of push on both of these issues that it's time for change. What do you see?

TOOBIN: Especially Chief Justice John Roberts, this is a special interest of his. That he has said repeatedly, the country has changed, we do not want to make these racial preferences permanent, and so he is going to be a major force for trying to roll back these initiatives. The question is, does he have five votes? In all of these cases we have five Republicans and four Democrats and Anthony Kennedy, the justice in the middle, will probably be the swing vote in all four of these major cases -- same-sex marriage, the two cases, affirmative action and voting rights.

CUOMO: Even though it is about the law, a little bit of pressure here -- political, historical -- to be voting on doing something negative about affirmative action, the Voting Rights Act. They are such seminal parts of our culture.


BOLDUAN: Is it outdated, right?

TOOBIN: That's a big factor. It's one thing to say that racial progress has been made, but when you talk about a law like the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a law that is widely considered the most successful civil rights law in history, it's going to be very -- I'm not sure the court recognizes just what a backlash there might be if they strike it down, which they well might.

BOLDUAN: I want to talk about the two huge cases relating to same-sex marriage. And we're not -- there's so much -- we could talk about this for an hour. But, you have the Defense of Marriage Act, the case on that and also on Proposition 8 out of California. These deal with two separate issues, both very important, and depending on how it's decided could create a lot of confusion for everyone in this country. What do you think is the most likely outcome in these two cases?

TOOBIN: Boy, you know, I think it's very hard to predict, in part because there are so many moving parts in these cases. They could do so many different things. There are lots of procedural routes that could allow them to duck the tough issues. I think the most important question, though, is will the Defense of Marriage Act still stand? This has so many practical implications for people's lives. There are so many gay married coupled in the 12 states that have it who can't file joint federal tax returns, who can't get Social Security survivor's benefits, very practical stuff that depends on whether Defense of Marriage Act stands or falls. That's the one.


CUOMO: It's a lot easier for them to strike down DOMA than it is to tell all the states that you have to allow gay marriage.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. Here on West 58th street, same-sex marriage looks very different than it does in Alabama. We always talk about how much the country has changed, but it's a very -- there are great regional differences on this question. So 10:00 today --

BOLDUON: That's right.

TOOBIN: -- and then 10:00 Monday, and probably one more day next week.

BOLDUAN: We'll see.

TOOBIN: We will see.

BOLDUAN: And you will be here.

TOOBIN: I will be here.

BOLDUAN: Jeffrey Toobin, I remind our viewers the author of the book "The Oath: The Obama White House Versus the Supreme Court." Jeff, thank you.

CUOMO: Yeah, thank you very much.