Tony Sirico, the actor known for playing mobster Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri on arguably the greatest TV show ever made, The Sopranos, became an angel yesterday at the age of 79.

I have to be honest, I thought he was a lot older than this. He looked like he was in his 70s during The Sopranos!

Paulie Walnuts
Everyone should point like this.

Before Walnuts

Sirico started work in construction but soon yielded to temptation and started “running with the wrong type of guys, and I found myself doing a lot of bad things.” He was involved in armed robbery, extortion, coercion and felony weapons possession.

While serving a four year stretch at Sing Sing, the maximum-security prison in Ossining, N.Y., he saw a troupe of actors, all ex-convicts, who had made a stop there to perform for the inmates. 

“When I watched them, I said to myself, ‘I can do that,’”

As well as an uncredited role in The Godfather 2, he appeared in Goodfellas as mobster Tony Stacks and a string of movies and shows dating as far back as 1978’s Fingers with Harvey Keitel, The Pick-Up Artist with Molly Ringwald and RDJ, Dead Presidents, Cop Land and Gotti.

Tony Stacks
Tony Sirico as Tony Stacks in Goodfellas

The Sopranos

Apart from playing Vinny the dog in Family Guy, Sirico is obviously most famous for Paulie in The Sopranos. One of Tony Soprano’s captains and most loyal family members, he was also a massive pain in Tony’s arse. 

He was tight with his money, greedy, always wore tracksuits, shagged hookers, was a germaphobe, hated cats and kept his furniture covered with plastic. On the flip side, he was 100% dedicated to Tony Soprano and the family business and would often make personal sacrifices for his crime boss.

Sirico was eccentric and brought real life experience to the role of Paulie. Most notably he always gripped his hands together in front of him throughout the series. Long time friend and co-star Michael Imperioli who played Christopher shed light on why Sirico did this: 

“It’s a jail thing. You always have your hands at the ready in front of you in case you need to defend yourself from an attack. You don’t want your hands behind your back or in your pockets where you can’t use them quickly. That’s what [Sirico] told me.”

Tony Sirico Paulie
“Why do pissin, shittin’, and fuckin’ all happen within’ a two-inch radius?” – Paulie Walnuts

Famously, no hairdresser on The Sopranos set was allowed to touch Tony’s hair. Jet black with two silver “wings” on either side which he took great pride in blow-drying and spraying himself. How strange. 

His death, in an assisted living facility, was confirmed by his manager Bob McGowan. No cause was given. Sirico is survived by his two children, Joanne Sirico Bello and Richard Sirico, as well as grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews and other relatives.

RIP Tony, say hello to Sonny Corleone (James Caan) for us.

Tony Sirico 1

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