TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – Love them or hate them, “The Sopranos” are good business for New Jersey.

The HBO saga of conflicted mobster Tony Soprano and his two dysfunctional families returns for a fifth season Sunday night, and that means a boon for cottage industries like bus tours, memorabilia Web sites and celebrity lookalikes.

It also has meant more attention for hobbyists like Sue Sadik of Clifton, known to legions of Sopranos fans on the Internet as “Soprano Sue.” Her Web site, www.sopranosuessightings.com, features news, photos and off-screen sightings of the actors on the show, as well as links to e-commerce sites that sell everything from Bada Bing drink coasters to the Artie Bucco Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Gift Set.

Sadik, 42, who owns a small delivery service in Jersey City, said she began watching the show after she noticed many of the locations shown in the opening credits were within minutes of her commute to work.

“I had to watch to see what locations I could pick out,” she said. “I had a digital camera, so I started taking pictures of the locations and sending them around.”

There is little doubt that the location that has benefited most is Satin Dolls. This Lodi gentleman’s club doubles as the Bada Bing, the combination strip joint/clubhouse where Tony, Silvio, Paulie Walnuts and the rest of the crew relax after a hard day of beating the system.

The cast spent about 100 hours shooting there last year, according to manager Richie Malaricci, who said he expects a crowd of 250 people for Sunday night’s season premiere. “The Bing” has become the favorite stop for visitors on bus tours from Manhattan who come to snap up T-shirts, hats, ties and coasters.

More than half the tour-takers are foreigners, mostly from Britain and Australia, according to Georgette Blau, who runs the Sopranos tours for On Location Tours out of midtown Manhattan. Business has risen about 20 percent in recent weeks, she said.

The tour runs about four hours, costs $35 and visits close to 50 sites, including Satriale’s Pork Store in Kearny – site of a gruesome murder in the pilot episode – and the Skyway Diner in South Kearny where Tony’s nephew, Christopher, was shot by two mob wannabes.

The approaching season has kept Adrienne Gusoff busy booking Sopranos lookalikes for her New York-based business, Bubby Gram/Pick-a-Shtick. Among Gusoff’s clients is a dead ringer for James Gandolfini, who plays Tony; lookalikes for Edie Falco, who plays Tony’s wife, Carmela; and doubles of Lorraine Bracco, who plays psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi.

“It’s been nonstop. Every day they’re in the news,” Gusoff said.

Not everyone will miss the show when it finishes its run. Bloomfield-based Italian American One Voice, a coalition of Italian-American organizations, is one of several groups that have criticized the show for promoting negative stereotypes.

“It’s lazy casting,” said Emanuel Alfano, One Voice’s national director. “If you want a pimp, make him black. If you want a gangster, make him Italian. People say, “But it’s good writing.’ Just because it’s well done, it doesn’t mean it’s right. “Amos ‘n Andy’ was well done. “Birth of a Nation’ was well done.”

The upcoming season of “The Sopranos” was once thought to be the series’ last – for that matter, so were the third and fourth seasons – but earlier this year, creator David Chase confirmed there will be one more go-round consisting of 10 episodes.

The end of the show may not necessarily mean the end of the gravy train. Blau said her tours should continue to thrive since some European countries have just begun to get reruns of “The Sopranos.” And Satin Dolls’ 15 minutes of fame could extend indefinitely.

“Once the legend grows, it never dies,” Malaricci said. “It’s been a very happy time for us.”

AP-ES-03-05-04 1443EST



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