Updated: December 17, 2011 8:25AM
This one should set tongues to wagging from Bridgeport to Chicago Heights and along Grand Avenue to Elmwood Park.
The folks behind “Mob Wives,” VH1’s hit reality television show following the lives of four tough-talking, loud-living Staten Island women with personal ties to New York mob figures, plan to start filming a new Chicago spinoff within the next month.
Talk about your Operation Family Secrets.
The biggest secret is which Chicago women have been signed up by the network to participate.
Jennifer Graziano, the show’s producer, is keeping that information within the family, so to speak, despite numerous scouting trips here over the last several months to lay the groundwork for a series that is expected to air in the spring.
I’ve heard a couple of names, including one you can bet wouldn’t be doing this if her father were still alive, but both women angrily hung up on me.
Television gossip isn’t my normal turf, but it’s been too hard to resist this story since Graziano’s co-producer called this summer looking for Chicago mob insights.
Apparently, big city daily newspaper columnists are supposed to have lots of sources inside the mob, and I hate to break it to my readers, but unfortunately I’m fresh out.
Still, I know a spit storm brewing when I see one. I can’t tell you about New York, but in Chicago, mob wives — and daughters and girlfriends — are still supposed to stay out of the public eye.
Chicago lawyers who have represented mob clients were beyond skeptical when asked if they were aware of the project.
“It’s inconceivable,” one said. “I just don’t think it would meet with approval here.”
I tried to make the same point to Graziano when she stopped by the office around Labor Day between meetings with prospects.
But Graziano, whose father is Anthony “The Little Guy” Graziano, reputed consigliere to the Bonnano crime family, just gave me a knowing look as if to indicate she had her bases covered.
“I’ve got some family contacts here, people that have known my family and friends of mine,” said Graziano, whose sister Renee is one of the stars of the show along with Karen Gravano, daughter of Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, the mob hit man who became a government witness and took down John Gotti and the Gambino crime family.
“One of the selling points is we don’t write about anything that hasn’t been in the news,” Graziano said. “We don’t divulge any secrets.”
While hoping to land a recognizable mob family name or two for the Chicago cast, Graziano said it was more important that the characters “pop” on television.
I suggested they pay a visit to former Cicero Mayor Betty Loren-Maltese. That was the weekend Betty happened to be having a garage sale, so it seemed pretty obvious she could use the money. I also assured them Betty “pops” on television.
But they weren’t certain Betty fit the demographic they were seeking, in other words, too old. Sorry, Betty. I tried.
I’ve never watched “Mob Wives” myself. “Wives” shows give me the heebie-jeebies.
But my wife assured me “Mob Wives” was the best show on television during its first season, and I can attest she is a connoisseur of a certain kind of TV — the trashy kind.
“Mob Wives,” as I understand it, is way more raw, more intense, more real, than any of those “Housewives” shows. When these women have a fight, as they often do, you fully expect somebody to get hurt.
My wife’s favorite character is Drita D’avanzo. She is particularly impressed with how effortlessly Drita slips off her high heels while charging headlong into battle. You’ve got to admire that in a woman.
This embrace of mob stereotypes has received its share of criticism in New York, and anticipating the same here, I called Dominic DiFrisco, president emeritus of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans.
“I wish them nothing but failure,” said DiFrisco, who hasn’t seen the show but knows the type. “I think it’s a very ugly continuation of the long-standing slandering and defaming of the Italian-American people.”
If the characters pop, I can’t imagine it will be a failure. But this being Chicago, you still have to wonder if somebody will get popped.