Karen Gravano was on 20/20 Friday night, promoting her book “The Mafia, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano and Me!” For those of you who watch, you already know that Karen is a member of the cast of ladies who comprise the “Mob Wives” on VH-1 . She is also the daughter of Sammy the Bull, probably the most famous Mob informant to have ever been placed into the Federal Witness Protection Program. Sammy was responsible for at least seventeen murders, but only served five years for racketeering. He is currently serving a twenty year sentence for running an “Ecstasy” ring. Perhaps he didn’t realize that the Feds only give you one “get out of jail free” card.
“Mob Wives” is a popular reality show, and I, along with many others, watch it for a number of reasons. I am as fascinated by the mob culture as anyone else is. They have their own ways of doing business, and have been at it for a very long time. The mob and its’ wiseguys have changed how others run their businesses and labor unions. There are honor codes, known within their circles as omerta, which is the Cosa Nostra’s code of silence. There is an actual pledge of this oath that must be made if someone wants to be a made man. Sammy must have been absent from class that day. The upside of Sammy’s act of self-preservation is that it brought a whole bunch of wiseguys to justice, including the Teflon Don himself, John Gotti.
We don’t often hear or see much about the women who live in this world, and that was how it was meant to be until recently. The women don’t get involved in the business. Suddenly, they are everywhere. It might be that they have a lot of free time while their men are in prison. They certainly aren’t sitting around watching soap operas or sewing badges on scout uniforms. These women have their own wars and their own soldiers. They also are guilty of some other aspects of their behaviors. I am not visiting the sins of their fathers or grandfathers or husbands on them, although the women come from families that have earned their place in the mobsters’ Hall of Fame. Their part in the family business is simply staying silent.
These women absolutely love their wiseguys and their lifestyles. They are showered with houses, cars, jewelry, and clothes. They just don’t want to know where or how it was obtained. It’s the mob wives’ version of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. Each and every one of them is aware of the crimes their men have committed, and it’s an extensive list. Murders, bank robberies, drug dealing, extortion, illegal gambling – but none of this matters when you are handed a new fur or the keys to an Escalade. Angela “Big Ang” Raiola appeared on a special sitdown version of “Mob Wives” with fellow cast mates Renee Graziano and Drita D’Avanzo, and gushed about the boots, fur and jewelry she was wearing, all courtesy of her favorite made man. Drita nearly swooned talking about the swagger that the wiseguys all possess. I wonder if any of these women has ever asked the question, “How was work today honey?”
The women also have a particularly interesting standard as to when they are no longer going to tolerate their men’s activities. Lee D’Avanzo, Drita’s soon to be ex-husband, has served prison sentences for both bank robbery and drug trafficking. That didn’t seem to bother Drita very much. No, the straw that broke the camel’s back was his history of infidelity. Guns and bank tellers are alright, cheating is not. Renee Graziano is madder than hell right now at her ex-husband, Hector “Junior” Pagan. Junior turned informant against Renee’s father, Anthony “TG” Graziano, and Anthony was arrested on January 28, 2012, partly due to the information provided by Junior. Renee doesn’t mind that her father was a major player in the Bonanno crime family or that he’s still a loan shark. I’ll bet that she’s rethinking that reconciliation thing, though.
These women are enchanted with their status and all of the things that come with it. The problem is that they know that none of what they own was the result of their men teaching school or painting a house or selling insurance. The life that they so enjoy, all too often, was and is the result of some very innocent people being hurt. Money and fame – no remorse, no responsibility – the perfect combination for reality TV.
Laurie Kelsoe with Dr. Drew
Also on Friday night, Russell Armstrong’s sister, Laurie Kelsoe made an appearance on Dr. Drew. She did not command the hour-long segment granted to Taylor Armstrong, but, then again, Ms. Kelsoe is only trying to defend her deceased brother and try to find some answers. I’m afraid that she wasn’t given the opportunity for either. Drew Pinsky is squarely on the side of Taylor Armstrong, her champion of sorts in her crusade. If you happened to see it, well, you were probably as put off as I was. If you didn’t, then you really didn’t miss anything.
Dr. Drew gave Ms. Kelsoe approximately fifteen minutes of his time, because he was very excited to tell us about some guy who is in love with his car. He interrupted her answers, came to Taylor’s defense, again, and talked about her problems with drug addiction. He then went on to give his diagnosis of Russell’s problems, which he claimed were a form of bipolar disorder, a combination of hypomania and depression. I don’t believe that Dr. Drew ever even met Russell Armstrong, so I am left with the notion that maybe he and Dr. Sophy shared more than coffee in the CNN cafeteria.
Ms. Kelsoe attempted to explain her confusion regarding the circumstances regarding Russell’s death, as she and her family have been left completely in the dark by Taylor. She also harbors the belief that Russell was murdered, something about which I am not quite as certain. I’m no psychiatrist, but this sounds much more to me like a loving family member whose grief is overshadowed by an infamous sister in law, and whose pain might really come from a suicide survivor’s guilt. It wasn’t something Dr. Drew was interested in discussing in any open and honest way. She and her family are irrelevant, and Taylor is selling commercial time.
After shutting her down, Dr. Drew set his sights on us, the delusional, hate driven and jealous viewers. We are just wrong, and we don’t know what we’re seeing, reading, hearing or writing about. We have no right to cast doubt upon or question anything regarding Taylor’s accusations. Through the magic of television, he has also diagnosed us and we have been determined crazy. That may be, but I do know that I have never tweeted myself. He then threw down the gauntlet, stating that we, the doubters and naysayers, would be responsible for those women in domestic violence situations who, because of our tweets and Facebook comments and blogs, would remain where they are and not seek help. Their blood, according to the good doctor, is on our hands.
That may make for very good television, but it doesn’t say much for him. I think most of us know what his motives and interests in the story are. He tells us he believes Taylor because her demeanor and words are exactly like those of other women who have been battered and abused. I would agree with him that her words certainly sound like they come straight from a textbook, but as for her behavior, well, what do I know, he’s the doctor. Taylor has been labeled by some as a narcissistic sociopath. If there is any truth to that, then she is perfectly capable of pulling the wool over his eyes, never mind Dr. Sophy’s. We are pretty much in agreement that she is a professional con artist. Why does he have a problem believing that she might very well be playing him, too? It wouldn’t be the first celebrity doctor-celebrity patient relationship based on lies.