You likely have never heard of the five women who will star in VH1’s “Mob Wives Chicago” – the spinoff to the successful New York-based “Mob Wives” – but people who are up on their local mob history may recognize the infamous men who raised each of them.
The reality TV show stars Nora Schweihs, daughter of alleged Mob enforcer Frank “The German” Schweihs, Pia Rizza, daughter of Vincent Rizza, a dirty cop who worked for the mob before testifying against them, Christina Scoleri, daughter of Raymond Janek, an alleged “fence” for the mob, Leah DeSimone, daughter of alleged mob associate William “Wolf” DeSimone and Renee Fecarotta Russo, who owns Eye Candy Optics in Ukrainian Village and was raised by her uncle and alleged hitman “Big John” Fecarotta.
“I was looking for 100 percent real authentic relationships and friendships,” said show creator Jennifer Graziano over the phone from New York Tuesday. “That way we feel their pain and we feel their happiness. I was also looking for people with deep mob history. People who were right off the pages of the books.
"They all know each other and get along, but like any group of women you put together, they have issues."
Graziano, whose father is Anthony Graziano, former “consigliere” of the Bonanno crime family, said she knew Nora because their dads served time together in prison. She met other “Mob Wives Chicago” candidates through friends and family. Some of the bigger names gave her a “hard no,” as she put it, while other women contacted her through Twitter and Facebook hoping to land a spot on the show.
“It’s an interesting way of being able to tell your story,” Graziano said of the show. “I know a few (cast members) were in the process of writing books. This is a way for them to express themselves and say ‘Yeah, I may have been this person’s daughter, but this is who I am and why I am who I am,’ whether it's good or bad.
“And obviously, TV is appealing for the opportunities that can grow from there.”
The controversial show has been shooting in Chicago since December and is expected to wrap in May. Camera crews have mostly filmed in the cast’s homes and workplaces, but have also shot in Chicago clubs and restaurants, including The Newport Bar & Grill in Lakeview and The Fifty/50 and Bleeding Heart Bakery & Cafe in Ukrainian Village. Graziano said some locations refused to allow her show to film in their venues, but only about one out of every four or five.
“I would say what we were doing, and they would give a polite ‘No,’” Graziano said. “I never took offense to it. I understand. And it never got to the point where we had nowhere to go.”
As for whether she considered calling the show “Mob Daughters” because of the lack of actual mob wives in the cast, Graziano said “’Mob Wives’ is about being married to a lifestyle and mind set, not literally being a wife. I would have called it ‘Married to the Mob,” but that’s already the name of a (1988) movie.”
“Mob Wives Chicago” is scheduled to premiere on VH1 in June and will join a handful of other reality TV shows that have filmed in the Chicago area, including MTV’s “The Real World: Chicago,” Bravo’s “Top Chef Chicago,” TLC’s “Pawn Queens,” Style's "Giuliana and Bill" and VH1’s upcoming “House of Consignment.”
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