Subscribe to The Atlantic and get 2 free issues

The Night Tony Soprano Disappeared

An excerpt from Brett Martin's book Difficult Men. Sopranos creator and show runner David Chase and actor James Gandolfini were talented, complicated, and, at times, difficult men who created an iconic TV show:

"The massive job was made possible at least in part by creating a world in which other people managed the rest of his life. When the show became a success, Chase moved into the penthouse of the Fitzpatrick Manhattan hotel on Lexington Avenue, with the hotel staff at his disposal. He dined at the same restaurant several times a week, alternating periods at Daniel and Café Boulud. (The ease of getting restaurant reservations, he said later, only half joking, was one of the major reasons to keep extending The Sopranos' run.) At work, he withdrew behind levels of gatekeepers. Chase's assistant learned to institute a 'five-minute rule' whenever bad news was delivered: the amount of time needed for the desk-kicking and yelling to stop and a more rational response to commence. Not that there was a lot of bad news. 'Nobody said no to David. Ever,' she says. 'Except Jim [Gandolfini]. And even he said no only by not showing up.'"
PUBLISHED: June 20, 2013
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5467 words)

Danny and the Electric Kung Pao Pastrami Test

Chef Danny Bowien's Mission Chinese Food in New York's Lower East Side draws locals and tourists, as well as world leaders and renowned chefs:

"We were somewhere around mapo, on the edge of the catfish, when the peppercorns began to take hold. I remember saying something like, 'Maybe I should slow down…,' pushing a plate of Mongolian long beans into the cluttered center of the overburdened table. And suddenly the numb rush was upon me, a long, white, buzzy tunnel. At the end of it, I could still see the women across the table talking, but I could no longer quite make out the words. On the sound system, the Stones' "Shattered" sounded like it was being played through the blades of a helicopter. I reached for the cool-looking pinkish drink on the table and took a deep gulp, only to remember it was a michelada made of Bud Light spiked with smoked-clam juice, chile oil, and a rim of more crushed chiles and Sichuan peppercorns. I felt like a Looney Tunes character trying to quench the fire of a jalapeño with a nice draught of Tabasco. Peeling myself off the ceiling, I came down face-to-face with a leering bright-yellow forty-foot dragon. On the wall, a cavalry of luridly painted Red Chinese generals on horseback regarded me with bemused, pitying expressions."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 24, 2012
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3894 words)