Monday, August 2, 2004

Gotti's reality: Raising three sons

By Colleen Long / The Associated Press

Mob relations aside, don't mess with Victoria Gotti.

The curvy blonde raises three teenage boys by herself (ex-husband Carmine Agnello is in jail for racketeering and tax evasion) and cooks and cares for their huge Long Island, N.Y., home. She is the author of five books, a columnist at the Star and is starting her own magazine, Red Carpet, where celebrities will write articles about their lives.

She's confrontational, quick-witted and isn't afraid to speak her mind. Then again, she IS the daughter of deceased mob boss John Gotti.

"Look, I loved my father and I love my family," she said. "But this is my life. I don't represent anyone else, it's about me and my children, and I want to make sure they do good in their lives."

Gotti and her sons are the subject of the new reality show that debuts tonight, Growing up Gotti, (9:30 p.m. today, A&E). She said she did the show to clear up talk that she's "The Godmother" or that her family is the real-life Sopranos.

"I'm tired of everybody labeling us as the 'first mob family,' " she said. "I have three young boys that have their own paths in life chosen."

Gotti said growing up in the spotlight, even for being a member of an infamous family, made it a bit easier to have the show's cameras there. Her name, too, has helped her in her job as a gossip columnist.

"A lot of celebrities out there are just as curious about me, having read stories about me," she said.

"And many of them want to meet me too, so we both get something out of the interview."

Speaking of her job, Gotti still sticks by a story she published in June claiming Jennifer Lopez was "extremely brokenhearted" over her breakup with Ben Affleck. Lopez's people claimed they never talked to Gotti.

"I will say this: It's really disappointing when you work with someone so closely and in the end a situation that you think you're doing to help them and their client blows up in your face because of their change of mind and change of heart," Gotti said.

Gotti is careful with her stories because she knows what it feels like to be the target of false information. But she says celebrities forfeit some of their rights to privacy.

"I feel mine was given away for me many, many years ago," she said. "I didn't have a say."

She remains tight-lipped about her family, and said she hadn't yet spoken to her imprisoned brother John Jr. since he was indicted on charges of plotting the kidnapping and attempted murder of talk-show host Curtis Sliwa in 1992.

"I haven't talked to him, I don't know what's happening and so I can't really say anything," she said.

Her TV show is a weird glimpse into the family. John Gotti's picture sits on a table. The huge home is ornate, but it's also messy and lived-in, the byproduct of three sons.

In the first episode, her brother Peter drops by for dinner as she's telling her boys - Carmine, John and Frank - about going on a blind date. No one's happy about it.

It turns out the date, a bald guy named Ed, is less than perfect. He hints that she's spoiled, and that she's spoiled her kids.

"I'll give you a thousand dollars if you take him to a ditch somewhere and roll him in," she jokes afterward to the limo driver.

The show is laden with such statements, which are hilarious and kind of scary at the same time.

In the interview, Gotti said she doesn't watch The Sopranos, and turned down repeated requests from writers asking her about the show.

"I just find it offensive," she said. "Forget the mob stuff, it's the way the women walk around cracking gum and talking about trivial nonsense. Italian women are stunning and cultured, and they're smart. It doesn't portray them like that."

And just about every time Tony Soprano whacks someone, she gets a call from a reporter asking her what she thinks about it.

"It's a show, remember?" she said. "It's not real."

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