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A Made Man, Making a Difference

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Friday, September 7, 2007

Who knew TV's toughest guy was such a teddy bear? James Gandolfini, forever the embodiment of Tony Soprano, spent Wednesday night happily mobbed by soldiers and Marines at the Ronald Reagan building. The reason? His new documentary about Iraq war veterans, his first project of the post-"Sopranos" epoch.

Gandolfini is executive producer of "Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq," debuting Sunday on HBO. The actor visited Iraq in 2004 and wanted to highlight the real costs of the conflict: "I realized most people didn't have to give up anything for the war." In the hour-long show, he interviews 10 severely injured soldiers about their service, their wounds and their futures. "It was a very minimalist approach," said Dawn Halfaker, who lost an arm and shoulder in 2004. "It was just like sitting down and having a chat."

Before Wednesday's premiere, Gandolfini was in an expansive mood, posing for photos with soldiers, their friends and family, chatting with reporters and tossing a few $20 bills at the bartender who poured him a glass of wine. He got a standing ovation from the crowd, which included Gen. George Casey, top U.S. commander in Iraq from 2004 until this year; VA Secretary Jim Nicholson; and Paul Wolfowitz, one of the administration's leading proponents of the invasion.

The mood was much more sober after the screening. "Fantastic," said Wolfowitz. "Very realistic, unfortunately."

Most of the official types left, but Gandolfini hung out and posed for more snapshots. So yes, we had to ask: Is Tony dead or alive? "Oh, who cares?" Gandolfini said with a dismissive grin.

Saying Goodbye to Reagan's PR Guru

Reagan administration alums mingled with former substance-abusers at Washington National Cathedral yesterday for a final tribute to Michael Deaver, who died Aug. 18 of pancreatic cancer. Nancy Reagan, Dick and Lynne Cheney, former White House chief of staff James Baker and Johnny Mathis (who sang "Amazing Grace") were among the several hundred guests at the memorial service for the PR genius. As part of Ronald Reagan's "troika," Deaver staged some of the president's most memorable images, Baker said; as a recovering alcoholic, Deaver spent two decades quietly helping addicts at local halfway houses. "Mike saw in people what they could not see in themselves," the Rev. Spencer Rice told the crowd.

THIS JUST IN . . .

MTV announced that Britney Spears will launch a comeback of sorts (after time off for babies, bad marriages, head-shaving and crotch-baring) when she performs Sunday as opening act at the Video Music Awards -- site of her epic Madonna-kissing moment in '03 and her '00 striptease, so yeah, we're basically banking on a total meltdown.

HEY, ISN'T THAT . . . ?

Tyra Banks ordering an omelet yesterday morning at the Booeymonger deli in Chevy Chase, possibly the best VIP fish-outta-water sighting since Drew Barrymore at that Dupont dive bar. The supermodel/TV hostess was doing a promotional thingy at nearby Fox 5.

Karl Rove lunching with Steve Forbes at the Hay-Adams yesterday, Rove doing most of the talking. Goodness knows what high jinks those boys could be getting up to.

Russell Crowe walking on 24th Street yesterday afternoon; the Oscar winner (beige shorts, T-shirt, sunglasses, short curly hair) is in town to shoot "Body of Lies."

Ted Kennedy, Right on Cue

Some things can't really be conveyed in words . . . such as Ted Kennedy singing "We Are the World." So at http://washingtonpost.com/reliablesource, we have the video. As country star John Rich wrapped up a tribute to Quincy Jones at Wednesday's "Grammys on the Hill" music-biz shindig, he launched into the '80s feed-the-world anthem -- then asked VIPs such as Keb' Mo' and Rep. Marsha Blackburn to join him for the chorus. Teddy, did you really need the cue cards?!?

Quote

"I had a dream to be a rock star. They say be careful what you wish for: I woke up a heroin addict."

-- Nikki Sixx, speaking yesterday at a Capitol Hill luncheon for National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. The Motley Crue bassist (jeans, black blazer and shirt, massive silver ring shaped like a skull) warned that he "could sit here all day long and gross you guys out with what I did" -- but no, he didn't actually tell us.

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