The NY Times Styles section this week features a story on Victoria Gotti, daughter of late murderer John Gotti. Perhaps she was an appropriate subject for the Styles section because the mob boss was famed as “The Dapper Don.” Any excuse will do to monetize dirt-bags in the media.
Highlighting Victoria’s “body of work” – the feature merits a full Times-sized page – that began in 2005 with the A & E reality show Growing up Gotti. The article gave her credit for inspiring the various trash series Jersey Shore, Real Housewives of New Jersey, and Mob Wives. Moreover, her mob roots opened media doors at the tabloid NY Post and scandal sheet The Star, where she was a columnist. She appeared on Celebrity Apprentice facing ax-man Donald Trump, and turned down an offer she could refuse from lecher Harvey Weinstein and F-mouth Bobby DeNiro for book rights to her father’s life.
It may be inappropriate, though, to label her an Italian American voice because she is technically Jewish, Her mother (DiGiorgio) was half-Russian Jew. Jewish law identifies ethnicity as matrilineal, so if her grandmother was Jewish, so was her mother (DiGiorgio), and so is she, as well as her notorious brother John Gotti, Jr. Mazel Tov!
By the way, as I write this, the Lifetime Channel is showing Victoria Gotti’s movie My Father’s Daughter. What a coincidence!
Another “Italian” voice loved by the media is Steve “Bobby Baccalá” Schirripa who was also born of a Jewish mother. His nickname comes from The Sopranos, but the shocking surprise is that his maternal grandfather was a real mob guy. Maybe Baccalá channeled his goniff (Yiddish = crook) gramps to play a fictional Italian hood.
Another talent shared by these two bi-ethnics is media savvy. Both parleyed their mob relations into mini-entertainment empires – Baccalá publishing multiple “goombah” manuals and wheeling-dealing in Hollywood. I once spoke to him via long distance and he invited me “to do lunch” – very generous, indeed, a real mensch!
This Jewish/Italian thing is carried on elsewhere, in comedy circles. It’s all part of the Italian American voices that promote our negative image.
Comedian Adam Carolla is part Italian (mother: McCall) and has a popular podcast as well as penning satirical books on American society. An admitted political conservative, he is still liberal with both the f-word and sex talk. In his 2014 book, President Me, Carolla has this to say about Italy:
I’m a paisan (sic), so I can say this. Italians are essentially dumb Jews. You’re personable, you love to eat and talk, you’ve got the importance of family, the nappy hair, and the bigger-than-average schnoz. You just don’t have the brainpower Jews have. You have the same qualities minus twenty-five IQ points…I’ve always said if you want a sports car, go to an Italian, but find a Jew to help you with financing.”
Another voice America has gone bonkers over is stand-up comic Sebastian Maniscalco. I’ll admit his jokes are doubly funny when accompanied by his on-stage gyrations and his exaggerated Chicago accent. But watching one of his acts recently on YouTube bothered me. The theme was about each culture having special talents. “Not many Italians go into the medical field. Ever go to the ER and they tell you Dr. Acqualani will see you now? Wait, you gotta a Ginzberg back there, a Lipkowitz, a Falkenberg, somebody I know that studied?”
To some apologists, both these jokesters show their own ignorance of Italian professionalism. But, that’s not what comes across, is it? The laugh-at-yourself argument is also bogus.
I married into a family with two Italian American doctors. The father of my Italian American roommate at college was a doctor. I attended a wedding this weekend of the son of close Italian American friends. He is a young doctor who frequently serves in Africa. We have followers of our Institute who are doctors. The father of my Institute colleague Rosario Iaconis was an Italian-trained chemist. Where is their recognition in these jokes?
The truth is, too many voices in our community ill-serve us. -JLM