RedEye

Interview: 'Mob Wives' walk the walk -- shakily at first

The stars of “Mob Wives Chicago” did their best to look all-business while filming the VH1 reality show’s intro behind Cassidy Tire (344 N. Canal Street) Wednesday, but the five women couldn’t help but laugh at themselves and their mishaps during the long shoot.

Christina Scoleri tripped while strutting with her fellow “Mob Wives” toward the camera and nearly took cast member Pia Rizza down with her. Co-star Leah DeSimone didn’t fare much better. “I need to take walking 101,” DeSimone announced to the camera crew after stumbling.

Besides high heel-related accidents, the show’s stars also had to worry about bazooka-shaped fans meant to blow their hair back for dramatic effect (but occasionally blowing it in each other’s faces instead). During one take, the fans blew Renee Fecarotta Russo’s long scarf directly onto Rizza’s face.

Even when they would nail a take, the cast members found something to poke fun at themselves for afterward. “I look mean,” said Russo while watching the previous take.

Russo, who was raised by her uncle and alleged hit man “Big John” Fecarotta, owns Eye Candy Optics in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood. The show has been filming at her store (in addition to The Fifty/50, Roots Handmade Pizza, Hubbard Inn, Fishman’s Fabrics, Brunch and Newport Bar & Grill), and she said she hopes to see a bump in sales when the show premieres in June. Still, she said her reasons for joining the cast are more than business-related.

“I want to be a voice for people who aren’t embarrassed about their Italian heritage,” said Fecarotta, the lone blond in the group and the only cast member not wearing fur. “Some Italian-Americans probably think they’re not really seeing (their culture) the way they should. I’m proud of my heritage, proud of my family and proud of my uncle. I adored him.”

The outgoing DeSimone, daughter of alleged Mob associate William “Wolf” DeSimone, joined the show because she felt it was her calling. She was already referring to her Twitter followers as “my fans” last week, even before reaching the 150 followers mark. “Cameras don’t threaten me,” DeSimone said while taking a cigarette break. “The first scene I did with Christina, it was like the cameras weren’t even there. Everyone told me this is definitely my calling because I’m very comedic. I have personality. When I annunciate my words, I say them with (pizazz).”

Scoleri said she wasn’t as enthusiastic about the show at first. She originally turned down the opportunity but then warmed up to the idea after seeing how excited Rizza was and after speaking to the show’s creator, Jennifer Graziano. “The first thing I did was tell my dad,” said Scoleri, whose father Raymond Janek was an alleged “fence” (one who buys and sells stolen goods) for the Mob. “I would never do it without his support. He was excited for me. That’s what made my decision, otherwise I’d never do it.”

Nora Schweihs’ father, Frank “The German” Schweihs, an alleged Outfit hit man, served time with Graziano’s father, Anthony Graziano. Schweihs remembers her dad fondly and hopes to clear his name. “This is my time to tell my story,” Scweihs said. “What you’ll learn from (me) is who my dad really was. He was an amazing person and businessman. I wouldn’t trade him for the world.”

Unlike Scweihs, Rizza watched the New York-based “Mob Wives” regularly before joining the Chicago spin-off. Once Schweihs told her that she would be a part of the Chicago version, Rizza, daughter of Vincent Rizza, a dirty cop who worked for the mob before testifying against them, volunteered her services.

“I love the (original),” Rizza said. “I love the girls and think they’re great. They’re like the girls I grew up with. I have no idea (how we compare) at this point, but the girls put on a great show out there and hopefully we can follow in their footsteps.”

Twitter @aboutluisgomez

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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