VH1 Expands Franchise with 'Mob Wives: Chicago'

Drita, our favorite Mob Wife (in New York, that is).
"Eighty years after the feds nailed Al Capone for tax evasion, Chicago’s ugliest legacy is about to return to the national spotlight. Ready or not, here comes Mob Wives: Chicago," reports  Time Out Chicago.

So who are the Chicago Mob Wives? It seems that that is pretty well protected info, for now.

NBC Chicago has noted, "The network is refusing to give up the names of the women starring in the Windy City show..."

In Chicago omerta seems to be very much alive, and enforced along a quite broad front that also includes the wives of made guys. There is a chance, we at CNNews believe, that the identities of the Midwest Mob Wives may be kept anonymous. But then again, we have not learned a single thing about any inside Mafia news or gossip from Season One of the New York series. These wives talk more about themselves and how much they either love or hate one another--depending on the day of the week or the weather or what they had to drink.

“It’s inconceivable [wives would speak out],” one attorney [said] in the NBC story. “I just don’t think it would meet with approval here.” Approval from whom? We think quite possibly the higher-ups at VH1 and not the Chicago mob.

This has "publicity stunt" stamped all over it. Any viewer knows, as we said above, the wives do not talk about any inside mafia stuff that we aficionados want to hear, which is what makes this whole thing frustrating. 

Returning to the Time Out Chicago report, we read that  VH1 announced Wednesday that a spinoff of its “docu-soap” reality series Mob Wives would focus on a group of Chicago women “suffering the stronzi and agita of their Mafiosi connections.” Production is expected to begin next month, with the 10-episode series set to debut in spring 2012.

“I have always heard the legends about Al Capone and Chicago, but it wasn’t until I actually went to the city that I became enamored with the rich mob history there,” series creator and executive producer Jennifer Graziano said in a statement. “These women’s lives are right off the pages of a storybook!”

Graziano, whose father, Anthony, was reputed consigliere to the Bonnano crime family, cast her own sister, Renee, in the original New York-based series, which starts its second season on VH1 January 1. “The furs, the money, the parties, the respect — it’s all part of the intrigue of the world I grew up in,” she said. “But at any time, the other shoe can drop and these women find themselves going on prison visits. I have long thought that this was a story that needed to be told, and am so thankful that we can continue this journey with the original Mob Wives — as well as expanding the franchise to Chicago.”

Read rest of the story: VH1 taps into Chicago’s women of the underworld - Time Out Chicago

Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown broke the news of the spinoff Wednesday. He tried to pin down which Chicago women would star in it, but as noted he didn't get those names. VH1 was no help either. No matter who’s in it, Brown sees trouble ahead. “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,” he wrote. Well, maybe it's not so much a publicity stunt... who really knows?

Here is Brown's breaking-news column:

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.