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Fame & Fortune
Steve Schirripa
Steve Schirripa
This 'Sopranos' wiseguy is one successful 'goomba'
Celebrity interview

Fame & Fortune: Steve Schirripa

Steve Schirripa had it made long before he became a made guy as Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri on "The Sopranos."

Although he grew up poor in Brooklyn's rough Bensonhurst neighborhood, Schirripa took out loans to pursue his college degree at Brooklyn College, then high-tailed it to Las Vegas in search of his future. He worked his way up the food service industry to become director of entertainment at the comedy club atop the Riviera Hotel and Casino, the kind of job most guys would kill for. There, he gave a start to such up-and-coming talents as David Spade, Denis Leary, Pauly Shore and the Wayans brothers.

Then, a really funny thing happened: His comedian friends started writing parts for the bearlike Schirripa in their HBO comedy specials. Soon, Schirripa himself had an agent, one who urged him not to take a gamble on a new offbeat HBO series called "The Sopranos." Schirripa, however, not only loved the camaraderie of the cast but recognized it as his ticket to bigger things.

Now approaching its series finale, "The Sopranos" has been precisely the springboard Schirripa had hoped for: Not only is he a frequent correspondent for "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and host of Spike TV's "Casino Cinema," he has launched a series of wiseguy wisdom books that includes "A Goomba's Guide to Life," "The Goomba's Book of Love" and his latest, "The Goomba Diet."

A sampling of goomba etiquette: Do tip the maid; don't tip the made guy. Do tip the DJ; don't tip the DA. Do tell the bride she's beautiful; don't tell her she's hardly showing.

Bankrate: Contrary to the public's perception, a goomba is actually pretty good with money.

Steve Schirripa: Oh yeah, absolutely. A friend of mine's father, an Italian guy, got an eighth-grade education, and by the time the guy died he owned about 10 houses in the neighborhood, just nice and easy, collect the rents and shuffle around the neighborhood. And a goomba likes to spend money; you don't get that many cheap goombas. They tip big, they spend big and eat big, but a lot of these guys legally have done very well for themselves with plumbing businesses, limo companies, construction. They're multimillionaires.

Bankrate: The public, of course, thinks that successful goombas must be mobbed up.

Schirripa: Well, of course. That's what my books are about. We hit that stereotype on the head; we're making a joke and laughing about it, but that's not the case in any way, shape or form.

Next: "I grew up very poor. We were on welfare actually."
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