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I first got the sad news that James Gandolfini had passed away Wednesday from actor Zachary Levi. We were heading upstairs during the Discover Many Hopes Gala at the Altman Building in NYC.

“James Gandolfini had a stroke and died in Italy,” the shocked Chuck star says. “It’s trending on Twitter.”

James was just 51 when he succumbed to a massive heart attack. The New Jersey native was vacationing with his family in Italy before the Taormina Film Festival this weekend, and leaves behind wife Deborah Lin, 13-year-old son Michael and eight-month-old daughter Liliana.

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Suddenly I was in rewind mode, thinking of all the times I had seen the Sopranos patriarch on the New York event scene. Although he rarely spoke, he was a staple for a time.

I first met him during the Romance And Cigarettes premiere in August 2007, where he brought then-girlfriend Deborah to the event, and mixed with Sopranos co-star Edie Falco and Susan Sarandon.

By that October, during the Bee Movie premiere, he brushed off CNN, who asked him about the wildfires, with a brisk “no comment.”

Still, he was warming up to me. He playfully threw popcorn my way as he headed into the screening at AMC Loews Lincoln Square, where he joined Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Renee Zellweger and Tina Fey.  Ha!

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Also that month, his onscreen daughter Jamie-Lynn Sigler gushed about their bond during the Angel Ball held at Marriott Marquis. 

James Gandolfini, Edie Falco and Michael Imperioli live in my neighborhood,” she tells me. “We always see each other on the street. We’re all still close.”

As for a Sopranos movie?

“No,” she says. “The show’s over, and we’ve said our goodbyes.  Who knows if it will happen one day? But I don’t know think any of us are focused on it.”

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Previously, at the same event in 2005, Jamie-Lynn dished on Tony Soprano’s (James) relationship with her character, Meadow.

“She’s got him wrapped around her finger,” Jamie-Lynn tells me. “She’s daddy’s little girl—always, no matter what. One of the things I like about Meadow is she may seem like she resents or disapproves of her family so much, but she’s very loyal to them at the end of the day. She’s very Italian that way.”

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Next up, in April 2008, James would attend the Vanity Fair Tribeca Film Festival party at the State Supreme Courthouse with Martha Stewart and Cate Blachett.

Most exciting of all, he brought his young son Michael and now-wife Deborah to the Ziegfeld Theatre for the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire premiere in November 2010, where they mixed with the film’s stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, plus Gina Gershon.

The last occasion I would see him was for Cirque Du Soleil’s Banana Shpeel premiere at the Beacon Theatre in May 2010, also attended by Countess LuAnn De Lesseps, Kelly Bensimon, Matthew Settle and Marcia Gay Harden.

This photo is from one of his last NYC events—he attended Which Way Is The Frontline From Here? in April. However, he hit the Stella By Starlight Benefit Gala, with Alec Baldwin, as recently as June 10.

Sadly there will be no more sightings of James. May he rest in peace.

Leave your messages of condolence in comments below and tweet us @OKMagazine.

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