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The Men Who Make the Mobsters Sweat

On the set of The Sopranos, which returns to HBO for its 7th season this March, life often imitates art.

For one, the actors who make up Tony Soprano’s crew, from “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri (Tony Sirico) to Bobby “Bacala” Baccalieri (Steve Schirripa), all treat James Gandolfini like the fictional mob boss he made famous. Flash! hears from Sopranos insiders that all the actors get quiet when the mercurial Gandolfini deigns to speak; they laugh too hard at his jokes and make every allowance for his real-life excesses.

The only person treated with more deference from the actors who’ve become famous for playing gangsters in the most notorious Mafia family since the Corleones is The Sopranos creator David Chase.

The actors who make the Bada Bing their second home fear each time they crack open a new script that Chase has decided they should sleep with the fishes à la Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero (Vincent Pastore), who got his at the end of season two.

Most of the series’ fictional gangsters make big bucks—as much as $10,000 a pop—doing personal appearances, everywhere from weddings to casinos.

But once Chase decides you should be fitted for a cement suit, those gigs tend to go away.

Literary Leftovers

Americans may consume a lot of media, but not many want to actually read books about it.

CBS producer Mary Mapes, along with her role in the 60 Minutes Wednesday Memogate fiasco, was covered by nearly every media outlet, from Vanity Fair to Good Morning America, not to mention getting plenty of news and blog coverage. All that exposure doesn’t seem to have helped sales of her book.

Mapes’ Truth or Duty is already being marked down 50% to clear retailers’ shelves. The book has moved a mere 7,000 copies at stores measured by Nielsen Media’s BookScan, which counts approximately 75% of book sales around the country.

Mapes isn’t the only media author being marked down. While picking over the remainder table at a Manhattan Barnes & Noble, we were struck by the prominence of recent books by TV personalities. Martha Stewart, Mike Wallace and NBC’s Andrea Mitchell—all are half off.

Some of these books didn’t necessarily sell badly, but higher expectations led publishers to print too many copies.

Barnes & Noble merchandising VP Bob Wietrak says that, for some of the media books, “We had pretty good sales with them,” particularly Wallace’s Between You and Me: A Memoir, which BookScan says sold 60,000 copies through Jan. 1.

Even the Mapes book wasn’t a bomb, says Wietrak: “It did OK. It wasn’t a major bestseller for us, but it wasn’t a book we would have said, 'Just return it.’”

BookScan says Mitchell’s Talking Back: ...to Presidents, Dictators, and Other Scoundrels recorded 26,000 sales; Stewart’s The Martha Rules moved 50,000 copies.

But some are much weaker. Michael Jackson’s near-stalker Diane Diamond’s stomach-churning title Be Careful Who You Love hit the checkout scanner just 5,000 times.

Readers had plenty of doubts about CNBC host Donny Deutsch’s Often Wrong, Never in Doubt. BookScan recorded 8,000 sales.

And we checked on a book by Deutsch’s new CNBC colleague Michael Eisner, Camp, about the ex-Disney chairman’s boyhood days at summer camp. It wasn’t on the remainder table, but when it came out last June, we couldn’t conceive of anyone other than Eisner’s mother (and maybe his ghostwriter’s mother) wanting to read it.

We were close: It moved 11,000 copies.

Virgins Gone Wild

Call it TMITV: Too Much Information Television.

We spotted a casting notice for unspecified “docu- reality” show that’s “Calling all VIRGINS!” The show, taping in New York this week, is seeking a soon-to-wed couple saving their virginity for marriage.

The wedding must be scheduled by the end of February, and these folks don’t want to simply hear about your moral outlook on life.

They want to hear all the dirty details when, in a champagne-and-cake-induced haze, you actually do the deed.

“You must be willing to talk openly on camera both pre- and post-wedding day,” says the Craigslist notice.

Flash! says, Keep it in the Honeymoon Suite.