James Gandolfini Mobbed by Fans, Police As He Arrives in New Orleans for Mardi Gras Role

The cops got Tony Soprano Friday.

James Gandolfini, who plays the Mafia boss on the Emmy and Peabody-winning HBO series "The Sopranos," was surrounded by lawmen when he arrived in New Orleans to begin his reign over one of the city's biggest Mardi Gras parades. His limousine was escorted by 10 motorcycle officers and two police cars.

Gandolfini was crowned Bacchus XXXIX, and as such will ride in Sunday night's parade and rule at the Carnival Krewe's ball.

"Every time I've come to New Orleans I've had a wonderful time," Gandolfini told a crowd of patients, medical people and others who waited for him at Children's Hospital. "I love this city."

Gandolfini was presented with a golden chain to mark his upcoming rule. Lexie Hayles, a 9-year-old patient at the hospital, also presented him with a picture she had drawn, wishing him a happy Mardi Gras. "I hope your arm doesn't get tired," she wrote, referring to the custom of riders throwing beads and doubloons to the crowds.

Gandolfini arrived 45 minutes late for the event, but the crowd did not mind. He threw handfuls of doubloons to them, and stayed for about 30 minutes to sign autographs and pose for pictures.

Fellow cast member John Ventimiglia, who plays Artie Bucco, accompanied Gandolfini.

"I brought about 20 friends with me," Gandolfini said.

Mardi Gras is on Tuesday.