Breaking family tradition can be tricky. But for the four women on MTV reality show Families Of The Mafia, who’re set on protecting their kids from their infamous crime families and keeping them away from the mafia lifestyle, it’s also potentially deadly.
These ladies have first-hand experience of joining a gang and eventually serving time in prison for being on the wrong side of the law. There’s nothing they’d like more than to stop their kids from repeating their mistakes. All they want is to see their kids attend university and live “normal” lives -- lives that don’t include ducking and diving from the cops at every second.
One of the most recognisable cast members is entrepreneur and Mob Wives star Karen Gravano, from the infamous Gambino crime family (the most powerful gang in New York throughout the ’80s and ’90s). Her former hitman father Salvatore “Sammy The Bull” served 17 years in prison after he confessed to 19 murder charges. He later agreed to be a state witness in the case that took down Gambino boss John Gotti and other powerful gang members in 1991.
The entire community turned against the Gravanos following Sammy’s arrest and soon after, Karen and her family moved to Arizona to separate from Sammy’s crimes. But old habits die hard and the entire Gravanos clan, including Karen, got involved with the wrong crowd and were sentenced to 5 years’ probation on drug trafficking charges in 2000.
Karen has cleaned up her life now. She returned to Staten Island, New Jersey to rebuild her life with her 20-year-old daughter Karina in 2017, the same year as Sammy’s early prison release. “Now that my father is home, I don’t know what to expect,” says Karen in the first episode. “Karina and I are back in Staten Island, and we’re trying to set a new path. It’s a whole different era. If people want to talk, I’ll give them something to talk about,” she adds.
Sins of the father
The majority of Karen’s storyline on the reality show centres around her close-knit bond with her father, which she also describes in her 2012 tell-all memoir Mob Daughter: The Mafia, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, And Me!
In the book, she recalls a time when she was 13. While most of her friends were worried about impressing their crushes and submitting their art projects on time, Karen was coming to terms with the fact that her affectionate and loving father figure was actually a murderer. She also learnt that the construction company and nightclub that he ran was merely a front for his drug business. But that didn’t stop her from loving him, and Karen is still a daddy’s girl at heart to this day.
You’ve been served
But for all Karen’s talk about reform and living life above-board, it’s clear that the struggle continues. Families Of The Mafia landed in hot water after Spyglass Media Group, the production company that owns the rights to VH1 reality show Mob Wives, sent a cease-and-desist letter to MTV for copyright infringement. Aside from both the shows following families who’re involved with the mafia, another similarity is that they have Karen as the main cast member. “Mob Wives focused on the women. This show [Families Of The Mafia] focuses on the parents raising their kids. It’s a multigenerational show that really comes full circle when you see the struggles the parents come from and wanting the kids to do better and learn from their mistakes,” explains Karen, who is also the executive producer of Families Of The Mafia.
Watch Families Of The Mafia S1 on Wednesdays on MTV (DStv 130) at 21:30
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