Giana Volpe, 20, and her mother, Renee Fecarotta Russo, do the red carpet… (Leonore Vivanco/RedEye )
With all the F-bombs, drink throwing and hair pulling, you'd think we were watching "Bad Girls Club."
Instead, "Mob Wives Chicago" delivered all that drama Sunday as cast members, their families and other invited guests watched during a premiere party at Eye Candy Optics in Wicker Park.
With typical reality TV hoopla, the red carpet was rolled out in front of Eye Candy Optics on Sunday as its owner, Renee Fecarotta Russo, and her fellow cast members posed for photos before the party. Russo, whose uncle was known as "Big John" Fecarotta, a loan collector and hit man who helped raise her before he was killed, is one of the five women with family ties to the Chicago Outfit and make up the cast of the reality TV spin-off.
Although the women are quick to add "allegedly" to any sentence linking them to the mob, history shows those ties. Nora Schweihs' father was indicted in the Operation Family Secrets investigation for his role as an enforcer but died before he could be tried in court, while it was reported that during the Family Secrets trial, her ex-husband testified he was a bookie. Pia Rizza's father was a corrupt cop who worked for the mob and became a government witness. According to the series, Christina Scoleri's father was a thief for the mob while Leah DeSimone's father is an "associate" of the mob, although it isn't clear what that means.
While Russo, DeSimone and Scoleri all wore little black dresses with blinged out accessories to Russo's party, Schweihs and Rizza threw their own parties elswhere in the city.
The 60 guests at Eye Candy Optics did shots and ate an Italian feast that included meatballs, sausage and mostaccioli. Halfway through the episode, though, technical difficulties shut down the Direct TV signal before guests could watch an explosive fight between the women that was caught on camera at the Wit Hotel's rooftop bar last winter.
"It was disgusting and it should have never happened," Russo said about the bar brawl.
Series creator Jennifer Graziano said she knew Chicago cast member Schweihs because their fathers served time together in a Minnesota prison. Bringing the series to Chicago seemed like the next natural step for the "Mob Wives" franchise, Graziano said.
"The mob to me, if you think about the mob, it's either New York and John Gotti or Chicago and Al Capone," she said. "The history is here. The city of Chicago itself is a character. You'll see the city come to life as a character.
"I don't want to say the entire city is mob-related, it's not. But honestly, you know the history. It's here."
Explaining her family's history was one of the reasons Russo decided to do the series.
"I thought it'd be exciting and give us a chance to tell our stories of what we have to go through in this lifestyle," she said, "having family in jail and prison, especially what's going on with my daughter Giana, growing up with her father in prison most of her life."
Although the premiere focused on how the women grew up with fathers who had alleged ties to organized crime, the show isn't "Mob Daughters" because it's more about the mob mentality and life.
"At the end of the day when I created the show, I meant 'Mob Wives' to not be very literal--it's more like [they are] married to a lifestyle," Graziano said. "So once you're in it, you're in it. Your mind is in it. You can't get out of it. You can't change the way that you think. So it's more about the lifestyle than it is about a person."
After Sunday's premiere, viewers took to Twitter to insist the original "Mob Wives," which focused on Staten Island women, is better.
Graziano insists the shows are not much different from one another.
"The lifestyle and mindset and way they were raised and the values that have been instilled in them are very much similar to that of New York," she said. "But it's very cliquey in the sense that mob mentality is engrained in these women since birth. So the way they think, the way they talk, the way they don't like certain things, they're very guarded and protected, it's very similar. The biggest difference is really going to be the setting and the accent."
Graziano expected the show reviews to be mixed. But she pointed out that it's a combination of reality and entertainment. Of course, that makes for good TV drama.
"It's not giving up anybody's secrets and it's not talking about things that haven't already been public knowledge. It's really from the women's perspective and showing what the effects of this lifestyle are on women and how it changes them growing up and it changes their mindset and makes them who they are," she said.
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