WHO: Karen Gravano
WHAT: Signing "Mob Daughter: The Mafia, Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano, and Me!"
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Books & Greetings, 271 Livingston St., Northvale; 201-784-2665 or booksandgreetings.com
HOW MUCH: Free with purchase of book ($24.99)
Imagine if you had Meadow Soprano on the phone and could ask her everything you always wanted to know about her relationship with her infamous mobster father.
That’s what it’s like to talk to Karen Gravano, star of VH1’s "Mob Wives" and author of the new "Mob Daughter: The Mafia, Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano, and Me!" – a book her dad has not yet read.
"In the beginning, he was like ‘What story do you have to tell?’ " Gravano says. "And I’m like, ‘You don’t understand what we went through. Maybe I didn’t go shoot someone on a street corner, but I still went through things that were emotional.’ "
Her father was the mob underboss who, as part of an agreement to cooperate with the government in the takedown of John Gotti and the Gambino crime family, confessed to killing 19 people. They included his wife’s brother, Nicholas Scibetta – the author’s beloved uncle.
"My father and I discussed it, and … I know the gist of it. I know basically it was an order. … I know that my father didn’t want to do it. I know that that’s something that eats away at him every single day," Gravano says. "But I don’t want to know the details … and I just choose to look at it like, if I can forgive my father for murdering other people, I have to put my uncle in that category.
"This is a lifestyle that these men chose, and unfortunately, there’s a very dark side to it. America is fascinated with … what Hollywood glamorizes, but they don’t really see the pain and suffering that comes along with it."
In her brutally honest book, co-written with Lisa Pulitzer, Gravano describes how she first started to suspect Dad wasn’t just in construction when she was in middle school and saw him jamming a revolver into his waistband – the night before she saw headlines about the murder of one of his business rivals.
But she learned to put things like that out of her mind. And Gravano, 39, grew up on Staten Island, with friends whose dads were like hers. Plus, there were good times, like her Sweet 16 party, when "Uncle" John Gotti gave her an envelope with $1,000 in it.
But denial was no longer an option after federal agents arrested Gotti and Sammy Gravano in 1990. In 1992, her father testified against the "Teflon Don," in exchange for up to 20 years in prison for all previous crimes.
Gravano, fearing she’d be known as "the rat’s daughter," was furious with her father, and this led her to make some poor decisions in her life, she says.
After Sammy served five years in Arizona, he was released in 1995 into a federal witness protection program in Boulder. But he quit the program and moved to Phoenix, to be near his family. In Gravano’s telling, her father, still calling himself Jimmy Moran, was determined to go straight, but took the fall for an Ecstasy-dealing business being run behind his back.
The entire family was arrested on drug-dealing charges in 2000, along with the father of Gravano’s new baby, Karina. The women got probation. Gravano’s younger brother Gerard got 9 1/2 years and her dad got 19 years in prison, with no possibility of early release.
The author has hope for the next generation.
"My brother and I grew up with the glitz and the glamour and the restaurants, and the drivers, lavish gifts. … People would come over to the house and I’d get diamond bracelets for Christmas," Gravano says.
"My daughter has never seen that. She’s seen the down side. She was just an infant when my father and brother and her father went to jail. So, the first nine years of Karina’s life was visiting people in prison. ... [And] she’s like, ‘Mom, put your seatbelt on, I don’t want you to get in trouble.’ "