From Whacking Husbands to Watching Her Blood Sugar: The Diabetes Journey of Aida Turturro
The energetic, stream-of-conciousness conversation style. The constant fiddling with -- and insecurity over -- her hair. The talking with her hands. the occasional exclamation in Italian.
In many ways, meeting Aida Turturro is like having a drink with Janice Soprano.
But when the 44-year-old actress stopped by my office Wednesday, she wasn't coming to trade gossip about working on the final installments of the Sopranos (fresh from filming on Tuesday, she says they have about two or three episodes left to shoot before the final goodbye) or spending five seasons on the coolest drama in television or even her famous acting cousins Nick and John.
She wanted to talk about health. Specifically,the subtle impact of diabetes.
"If you found out you had cancer, you'd do whatever you could to control it," said Turturro, who didn't get serious about controlling her own diabetes until her father died a few years ago, and her doctor had a come-to-Jesus talk about the implications of her denial.
"She said, 'Let me explain: you're putting yourself at risk for blindness, circulatory problems...all kinds of things," she said, flipping back a lock of her tradmark, extra-curly hair. "I realized...this is a 24/7 disease, and it's a very individual disease. And once the damage is done...it's tough to recover."
Turturro was in my office -- yes, I had to say that again, because it so tickles me -- to dredge up some publicity for a talk she's giving on living with diabetes at 3 p.m. today at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Morton Plant Mease Hospital in Clearwater.
It's a message I'm sure those who live with the disease have heard before -- test blood sugar regularly, watch your diet closely, don't ignore the issue, look into newer treatments such as oral insulin or doses which last long periods. But it never hurts to have a TV star personally try puncturing the denial. See her tips for living with the disease here.
"When my grandfather died, I remember him not eating cakes or cookies, but he'd eat all kinds of fruit," said the actress, who has a long family history of the disease. "Nobody told him, you can't eat three pieces of fruit (and keep your blood sugar level), either."
When we got down to talking Sopranos, I pulled out a DVD which had arrived that day showcasing episodes from the first season which had been edited to air on the standard cable channel A&E -- eliminating the nudity and cutting down on the violence and profanity.
Just as with Sex and the City's rebroadcasts on TBS, A&E's edited Sopranos don't lose much in the translation -- both because standard cable channels push the content envelope a lot more than people realize, and because you can accomplish a lot with a little judicious redubbing of profanities and subtle editing cuts. You will see for yourself Jan. 10.
All of a sudden, the scene in which Tony Soprano gifts ailing mob boss Jackie Aprile with a stripper disguised as a nurse features the dancer from behind, where her nudity is obscured. And scenes where women are shown dancing naked at the cerew's Bada Bing strip club suddenly feature them in bathing suits. (what we couldn't figure out, is how they managed such costume changes, given that Turturro is fairly certain they don't shoot "clean" scenes during the show's production)
"It's not about the violence and the nudity on this show, anyway," said the actress, who remained unfazed by the changes resulting from A&E's record deal to pay $2.5-million per episode for Sopranos re-runs. "I don't need to hear all the cursing. I don't need to see anybody's (breasts) in my face to make the story work."
Unfortunately, Turturro reports there's not as much Janice in the final nine Sopranos episodes left to air on HBO as she would like -- she doesn't appear at all in at least two episodes of the final run, which starts April 8 -- and she doubts that character's story will resolve in a way that feels complete enough for her.
Because she prefers to see the scenes she's not in unfold with the rest of the audience, Turturro couldn't say much about where the entire series is going. And it only now seems to be settling in that she's weeks away from ending a significant role in one of the most important drama series in TV history.
"I was just thinking the other day...I'm not going to be Janice anymore," she said, a touch of wonder in her voice. "The artist in you might want to move on. But leaving the family...that's going to be very hard."
Sneak Peek at Coop Scoop
Some insiders at CBS News have groused a bit that 60 Minutes is making room for stories by a guy who doesn't work at the network, given that the program is already straining to accommodate a larger-than-usual roster of contributors.
But New York media's love affair with Cooper shows no sign of abating, and CBS cut a special deal with CNN to take advantage. Here's a taste of what you can expect Sunday....
"Like most soldiers serving in Iraq, Joe Darby just wanted to go home when his time was up. But blowing the whistle on his unit members for abusing Iraqi prisoners changed all that and now the former military police specialist lives in an undisclosed city with his wife, still worried for their safety. Darby talks to Anderson Cooper for a 60 MINUTES report to be broadcast Sunday Dec. 10 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
“I worry about the one guy who wants to get even with me, and that one guy could hurt me and my family,” says Darby. That one guy could be from his hometown of Cumberland, Md., where many in his unit were from. What were his friends and neighbors saying about him after they learned he gave photos to authorities showing U.S. soldiers, some from Cumberland, abusing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison? “He was a rat. He was a traitor. He let his unit down and the U.S. military. Basically, he was no good,” Colin Engelbach, commander of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter, says he heard townspeople say. It was hard on Darby. “These were people who knew me since I was born….my parents’ friends, my grandparents’ friends, that turned against me.”
Says Engelbach, “I agree that his actions…were no good and borderline traitor.” He understands Darby was reporting a crime. “But do you put the enemy above your buddies? I wouldn’t.”
There was a time when Darby was frightened of those buddies enough to sleep with a gun. Right after giving military authorities the pictures, the investigation began and he was worried that some of the accused might find out he had turned in the pictures and could retaliate. “[The accused] still had their weapons…unlimited access to the facility and me the whole time,” Darby tells Cooper. “[I] slept with a pistol under my pillow, loaded, with my hand on it and cocked it….Every night.”
Darby relaxed a bit when the abusers were taken off base, but was shocked when, after “60 Minutes II” broke the story, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld mentioned his name in front of Congress. To keep him safe, the military flew him out of Iraq. But when he landed back in the States and asked to go home, officers told him he wouldn't be safe there, either. “[An officer] said, ‘Well, son, that’s not an option.’ He said the Army Reserve has done a security assessment of the area and it’s not safe for you there. You can’t go home.’” Engelbach concurs with the assessment. “There were a lot of threats, a lot of phone calls to his wife…because [Darby’s actions] really did put our troops in harm’s way more so than they already were.” Instead of home, they went into the protective custody of the military for months.
Bernadette, his wife, was extremely frightened and is now frustrated. “It’s not fair that we’re being punished for [her husband] doing the right thing.” Both lived around Cumberland their entire lives and may never be able to return, but it doesn’t change Darby’s mind about what he did. “They broke the law and they had to be punished. I have always had a moral sense of right and wrong and I knew that…friends or not, [the abuse] had to stop,” he tells Cooper."