April 17, 2011
Mob Wives is a hit reality television show aire on VH1. The show has been dubbed a “docu-soap”. The show follows the lives of women whose male family members have been incarcerated for crimes connected to Cosa Nostra, documenting the women handle the down side of the not-so-glamorous Lifestyle they were born into.
Overview, production, and spinoffs Edit
The show was created by director and executive producer, Jennifer Graziano. Jennifer is the sister of cast member Renee Graziano, and also the daughter of Renee’s father Anthony Graziano.
The show has aired on VH1 for five seasons since it’s debut on April 17, 2011, each season adding (or removing) cast members. Alongside the show, creator and executive producer has launched 3 spinoff series including Mob Wives Chicago, Big Ang, and Miami Monkey.
Mob Wives Chicago (2012) was a similar series that followed women whose families are allegedly connected to the “Chicago Outfit” (the Chicago mob). Mob Wives Chicago aired in the summer of 2012, and it was announced that following fall that the spinoff series had been discontinued due to low ratings.
Big Ang (2012) was a spinoff focused on Mob Wives season 2 cast member Angela “Big Ang” Raiola. In the fall of 2013 Miami Monkey aired which again starred Angela Raiola. In thespin off series Raiola moves to Miami, Florida for the summer to open a bar with her daughter and 2 of her friends, Big Ang’s nephew’s wife, and Big Ang’s son’s fianceé (who both have appeared on Mob Wives). When they arrive to Florida they hire locals to star on the show and help run the bar, including season 5 Bad Girl’s Club star Morgan Osman. The show’s title is based off of the name of the bar "Miami Monkey", which is the Miami location of Ang’s Staten Island based bar and grill, the "Drunken Monkey". This spinoff also only lasted one season, and shortly after the end of the show the Miami Monkey bar closed. Her original bar the Drunken Monkey however remains a stable business.
The women casted for Mob Wives, aside from the Philadelphia cast members, are women who have grown up with each other and are familiar with each others families.
Cast Members Edit
Renee Graziano Edit
Seasons 1- Edit
Renee Graziano is the daughter of reputed Bonanno crime family leader, Anthony "T.G." Graziano has worked for the Bonanno’s as a caporegime and consiligere. Renee Graziano is also the ex-wife of Hector Pagan Jr., who is known as “Junior”, is a Spanish-Italian Bonanno family associate, who was close with Renee’s father. Renee and Pagan have a complicated relationship as for the first season of Mob Wives they are divorced however they remain very involved in each other’s life. This is because Renee considers this to be loyalty, he and her father are close with each other, and they have a son together, AJ Pagan. Junior and AJ make multiple appearances of the show. During the second season Renee and Hector being to work things out and Hector moves back in with Renee and her son. Around this same time Renee’s father is arrested after just being released from prison and it is discovered that his arrest is because of her ex-husband’s cooperation with the federal government. Renee struggles between moving on with her life to better herself, and remaining loyal to the mafia lifestyle.
Karen Gravano Edit
Seasons 1-3, 5- Edit
Karen is the daughter of legendary mafia informant, Salvatore “The Bull” Gravano. Salvatore or Sammy was the underboss of the Gambino crime family and close friend John Gotti until his arrest and cooperation with the federal government. He is considered the man that helped bring down John Gotti, and the mob. At the beginning of season one, Karen makes a surprising reappearance on Staten Island after laying low with her family in Arizona as a result of her father’s cooperation. This makes Renee Graziano uncomfortable because Renee despises “rats” and Karen is the daughter of an FBI informant. Renee’s father ordered her to cut ties with Karen because of her father’s actions, and Renee remains loyal to her father and his wishes. They soon resolve their issues and Renee comes to an understanding of Karen’s past and current situation. Since then they have had a strong friendship and alliance and they both strictly abide to the mob morals they grew up with such as honor, loyalty, and respect. Karen wants people to see her for who she is and not for who her father was. Karen terminated her contract after season 3 to take a break but returned for season 5 after feeling disrespected by New Blood cast member Alicia’s comments about her father, and watching her close friend, Renee, get pushed around.
Carla Facciolo Edit
Seasons 1-3 Edit
The only family members Carla initially wishes to discuss is her ex-husband Joseph Ferragamo, who did time for a boiler room scandal on wall street that resulted in his indictment and her losing her job. They both met when she was a supervisor to him at their job where committed the scandal. It is later revealed that her uncle, Bruno Facciolo, is an alleged mafioso who worked under Paul Vario in the Lucchese crime family. Bruno’s brother, Louis Facciolo, is a Gambino family associate and the father of Carla. Carla grew up with Renee and they are close friends. Prison is not seen as a big deal to Carla as many of the men in her life have gone away to prison and it lost its shock value. Carla realizes that the heydays of the once powerful mafia are over, and it is time to move on with her life and raise her children in a normal “lifestyle” and works to do so. Carla terminated her contract with VH1 after season 3.
Drita D’Avanzo Edit
Seasons 1- Edit
Drita is the husband of bank robber Lee D’Avanzo. Lee is related to alleged mafia gangsters and followed in the footsteps of his mobbed up family members but soon realized it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be after serving 2 prison sentences for robbery. Drita is the child of two Albanian immigrants, and grew up in a “legitimate” and “straight” family who lack respect for criminal and people involved in the streets. She involved herself in the street life when she began hanging around street guys. She is known for being easily angered, and for being a fighter, however she has tried to calm that side of her self down and now unwillingly acts as a middle man because she easily gets along with everyone. With her husband now out of prison, she strives to return to the normal family life she grew up with and raise her kids in the same manner.
Ramona Rizzo Edit
Seasons 2-3 Edit
Ramona is the Spanish-Italian granddaughter of the infamous Benjamin “Lefty Two Guns” Ruggiero, who is played by Al Pacino in the movie Donnie Brasco which is based off of FBI operation “Donnie Brasco”. In this operation an undercover FBI agent assumes the identity of Donnie Brasco and infiltrates the Bonanno crime family through Ramona’s grandfather. He wears a wire to collect evidence of the crimes committed by the people around him so that they may be prosecuted by the federal government. After this operation Ruggiero was put away and a price was put over his head for allowing that to happen, but he is later forgiven by the mob. Her grandfather died in prison of cancer. Ramona is a proud mother, and upholds a tough and strong personality and refuses to back down to anybody who does wrong to her or her family and friends. She also struggles to leave the mob life behind her for herself and her daughters. Her middle-eastern ex-husband was thought by her to be a legitimate person and not a man involved in illegal activities, but later finds out he is dealing with business connected to the mob. She goes to live with him in Jordan but struggles to leave with her kids and has a difficult time with legal issues, which prevented her from joining the show for season 1 after being invited to do so. During season 3 she revealed she was engaged to incarcerated mobster, Joseph "Joey Boy" Sclafani, who is serving 15 years on drug charges. She is close friends with Karen Gravano, as they have known each other since early childhood. While not related by blood they have such a close relationships they consider each other cousins. Ramona has also been good friends with Renee from childhood because their father’s were close with each other because they worked for the same mafia family. Ramona terminated her VH1 contract with Karen and Carla after season 3.
Angela “Big Ang” Raiola Edit
Seasons 2- Edit
Angela Raiola, better known as “Big Ang” is the niece of Salvatore “Sally Dogs” Lombardi. Angela has been around the streets all her life, and has never been more comfortable. She has been friendly with many wiseguys, worked in mafiso hotspot bars and restaurants, and dated plenty. While Angela prefers independence, she does appreciate and widely accept the generosity she is treated with by connected guys. She says mafiosi have bought her houses, cars, furs, and much more. Big Ang was dubbed with the nickname “Big Ang” because of her larger than life personality. She is also known for openly having many plastic surgery procedures, also a likely contributing factor for her nickname. Big Ang has been through all the lifestyle tragedies everyone else has like rats, and prison visits, however she is content with what it is. In 2001 Raiola was arrested for operating cocaine distribution ring. Her best friend testified against her. Raiola was sentenced to house arrest. Besides being on the show, Ang also runs a bar on Staten Island called the Drunken Monkey. This career has been a part of her 2 spinoffs that were produced just for her, Big Ang and Miami Monkey.
Love Majewski Edit
Seasons 3 Edit
Love Majewski is the ex-girlfriend of the notorious Untouchables crew member Chris Paciello, and Ray Merolle. She is of Polish and Puerto Rican descent. She didn’t originally grow up around people of “the life” but when her best friend got pregnant her mom decided to move her to an Italian neighborhood thinking it would be nicer and my conservative there. This is where she began hanging around Italians, and connected people. She also went to school with Karen and Ramona and the formed a close bond. Love is no stranger to television, she first appeared on Investigation Discovery’s I Married a Mobster first season and the 9th episode “Love Hurts” where that episode solely focused on her and her testimony about rolling with wiseguys. The movie Gone in 60 Seconds was based off of her ex-boyfriend Paciello’s car theft ring. The character Sara Wayland, played by Angelina Jolie, is based off of Love. Love was known to have an outrageous and violent temper. Although never meeting Carla until the finale, Love spent much of season 3 with anger for Carla because she heard Carla had been talking about her, and Carla’s father law supposedly stole Love’s business’ logo for himself (according to Love). On the finale at Drita’s 80’s birthday party, Love sat down with Carla and Karen to clear the air with Carla and off the bat attacked her pulling her hair and breaking glass which resulted in a wound on Carla’s hand. Carla threatened VH1 with lawsuits if disciplinary action was not taken towards Majewski. Love was fired from Mob Wives, and was not invited to the reunion show.
Alicia DiMichele Garofalo Edit
Seasons 4 Edit
Alicia DiMIchele Garofalo is from Philadelphia and was recruited to star on the show as “New Blood”. She is the wife of Edward “Tall Guy” Garofalo, a reputed Colombo family enforcer. During the season, she and Eddie are on in the process of being tried for crimes related to the the mob. Alicia was indicted on union embezzlement charges, and Eddie was also indicted on embezzlement plus conspiracy to commit murder. While on Mob Wives, much of her air time focused on trying to sort out her case. She claimed she didn’t know her husband was involved in mafia business until federal agents came into their home one morning and arrested the both of them. She said she didn’t know she had committed any crimes. At the beginning of season 4, Alicia said to Renee she didn't want to be in the same room as Karen Gravano because she "boasts" about her father being a gangster and he committed 19 murders. Alicia's father in law was murdered by Karen's father when her husband Edward Jr. was young. Alicia was a unique cast member because she didn’t grow up around the mob like the rest of the women did. She “unknowingly” married into it. Her husband, Edward, was convicted of him crimes and sentenced to seven years in prison, and Alicia paid $20,000 in restitution and was sentenced to four years of probation. The judge told her “He didn’t want to see her in the courtroom ever again”. Alicia quit Mob Wives after season 4 to focus on her case and her 3 sons.
Natalie Guercio Edit
Seasons 4- Edit
Natalie was the second “New Blood” wife that debuted in season 4. She is significantly younger than the other wives and brings a youthful energy to the show. She is the granddaughter of Nunzio Carto, the founder of Carto Funeral Home in Philadelphia. Carto Funeral Home is known for covering the funeral arrangements for many families connected to the mafia. Her cousin is also allegedly involved in the Philadelphia crime family, but he remains anonymous. Natalie once said in a comment on her Instagram profile that the movie 10th & Wolf is about her cousin.
Natalie DiDonato Edit
Season 5- Edit
Natalie DiDonato is the cousin of Frankie “Flowers” D’Alfonso, a reputed mobster in Philadelphia. Natalie didn’t join the cast at the beginning of season five, however, on episode 4 “RATalie” she and Drita D’Avanzo met at an Italian magazine photoshoot where Drita was working as a makeup artist. Drita mentioned her friend Natalie Guercio and DiDonato told her to “be careful”, because Natalie was a rat and a cop caller. This was significant because Graziano and Gravano had been trying to convince Big Ang and Drita that Natalie was a rat, but Guercio had been nothing but good to them and they couldn’t believe it. This was confirmation. Frankie Flowers was a Philly mob associate during the Angelo Bruno era. In 1985 Frankie Flowers was taken out by the mob at age 55, D’Alfonso was not a made man. Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi was found responsible for the hit, and the hit was what got him made. He spent 10 years in prison for the murder until he was acquitted for the gangland slaying in 1997. Frankie D’AlFonso owned a flower show, which is what got him his nickname “Flowers”. He was only ever convicted for bookmaking, and spent a little time for it because he didn’t flip. One night he was nearly beaten to death, but when the cops asked who did it, he once again kept his mouth shut and told them he got hit by a car. All that is known about Natalie at this time is that she is a real estate agent and a DJ manager, and evidently she does some modelling on the side.
Supporting Cast Edit
- Nikole (1-) - Renee’s good friend who also has some connections to the streets
- Kelly Gorsky, LMHC (1) - Renee's therapist
- Janine Detore (2-) - Big Ang’s sister
- Anthony “AJ” D’Onofrio (2-) - Big Ang’s son
- AJ Pagan (1-) - Renee’s son and son of Hector Pagan Jr.
- Linda Torres (2-) - Big Ang’s good friend
- Hector Pagan Jr (1-2) - Ex-husband of Renee Graziano and Bonanno family associate
- Etty (1-3) - Carla Facciolo’s good friend, jewlery appraiser
- Eleanor (1-3) - Carla’s good friend and former co-worker
- Rena Garafola (1-3,5-) - Karen’s cousin who also has family ties to the mob
- Joseph Ferragamo (1-3) - Carla’s ex-husband who did time for boiler room scandal
- London Rene (4-) - Natalie Guercio’s boyfriend
- Anthony DiMichele (4) - Alicia DiMichele’s brother
- Carla Moreno (4) - Renee’s childhood friend who is also involved with street guys
- Storm (3, 5-) - Karen’s boyfriend
- Gabby (4-) - Big Ang's son AJ's fiancee
- Victoria Gotti (5-) - Daughter of late Gambino crime boss, John Gotti. Acts as an adviser to Big Ang
When Mob Wives first began, it was a highly criticized topic. Italian-American activist officials said the show was earning a bad name for Italians and supporting the mob stereotype that Italian-Americans have been labelled with.
Daughter of John Gotti, Victoria Gotti, and daughter of Sam Giancana, Antoinette Giancana, have both said the show is fake and scripted. After guest starring in the 5th season Victoria Gotti's current stance on the show is unknown.
When the show originally began there was an uproar that the women were breaking the code of silence (Omerta) and telling on the mob on television. The women argued that they were only speaking on what happened in their lives and what happened to them, not anybody else. They said they couldn’t say anything about the mob because they don’t know anything. People including figures in law enforcement were accusing the show of glorifying the Mafia life.