I have a great best friend and she is a wonderful mother to three grown sons in their twenties who choose to live with her. Choose to!
Sue Carswell: My friend is Victoria Gotti who just wrote a memoir called, This Family of Mine: What It Was Like Growing Up Gotti. I've known "Vic" since 1995, when I was an editor at Pocket Books back when they refused to publish her first novel (ironically, fast-forward 14 years, they are her current publishers). It has always been interesting to be a close confidant to Victoria Gotti; sometimes I fill in mob terms that I am her capo, or her Sammy the Bull, as he was to her father, John Gotti -- but without all that backstabbing!
Wherever we go in public, perhaps because of her distinguished looks and that familiar chin with the dimple she shares with her father, people are amazed, or dumbfounded, to see they are looking at someone born of such mafia legend. Rao's restaurant is a particular mob and celebrity hangout in Manhattan and we have often dined there, bodyguards watching over her, regulars begging to pick up her dinner party bill. It was where her father once dined -- and I think the place brings her father's memories alive for her.
When I was Victoria's editor, years after we first met at Random House Inc., I often sent her father books to read in prison. He wrote me the most beautiful thank-you notes, and had the penmanship of Emily Post! When we would work our long hours on her book, Victoria amazed me by balancing making gravy (marinara and spaghetti) for her boys and other Italian traditions nightly, remembering to fill my glass full of wine, having dinner ready for her then mobster husband, all the while thinking out loud about the structure of her then novel, "I'll Be Watching You." Unlike what you saw perhaps on "Growing Up Gotti," her three sons, Carmine, John, and Frankie, are the nicest young men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
Carmine wants to be a musician and sounds like Justin Timberlake, John wants to be a lawyer (A Gotti in court? Yes, but this time on the other side), and Frank has dreams of being a chef and opening up several restaurants. Sunday dinners matter the most to Victoria. It's when Mrs. G. (Mrs. Gotti) comes over, as well as close friends, including sometimes me. Photographs of her now deceased father adorn her palatial home, dubbed by Victoria after her favorite book, "Tara in Old Westbury." At night, sometimes she worries about her boys because of her own health problems, and it's often that I receive a midnight phone call for a chat or a brainstorm session of creativity.
She doesn't fall asleep until early in the morning, as she is busy conceiving other ideas for books and enjoying reading her favorite authors, like Mary Higgins Clark and James Patterson. Victoria is a single mom. She is the wings beneath her sons, steering them on the right course. Perhaps there was a time when some thought (or maybe even still think) her children would go into the "family" business, but that is so far from the truth. Victoria Gotti has raised her boys into men -- gentle yet passionate men who will prosper the right way. One of Victoria's favorite songs is indeed the theme song from "The Godfather" ... "Speak softly, love, So no one hears us but the sky, The vows of love we make, Will live until we die..." I find these words true of the Victoria I know -- mother, sister, aunt, and daughter.
A truer friend -- in my life there is no other.
|Sue Carswell is a Vanity Fair reporter/researcher. She is a published author, former senior story editor for "Good Morning America," contributing launch editor for "O, The Oprah Magazine," former executive editor for Random House Inc, senior editor at Simon & Schuster, and former correspondent for People magazine.|