Toni Marie Ricci got the surpise of her life when she found out she was married to a mobster. Michael 'Mikey Scars' DiLeonardo wooed her in, but forgot to metion that he was a Gambino capo working for John Gotti, Jr. After discovering that her husband had an illegitimate child with his mistress, Toni Marie did not get mad - instead, she got even - by testifying against her ex-husband at his trial. Toni Marie was recently on the hit show, I Married a Mobster, which features a different woman each episode, who shares her story about the rise and fall of their marraige. We chat with Toni Marie about her reasons for doing the show, what she's up to now, and the importance of advocating for women who have suffered abuse.
What made you want to do the show?
Originally, I always wanted to write a book about my story. My ex-husband originally brought out the story of what he did to me in open court. I actually wanted my story to be told on my end and I got an offer to go on the Mob Wives show, but I decided to put that aside. I didn't want the fighting or any of that so I looked into Kevin Kaufman's show, which I had seen last season, and I thought it was more on the level of what I was looking to do, as far as telling my story, being alone with no interruptions, so that's what I decided to do. I went with Kevin Kaufman and it was just the time and place to get my story out there without having to hear it one-sided (from my ex-husband).
Has doing the show been therapeautic?
It actually has been. Doing it was a little nerve-wracking, but when it was over and done with, and when I saw it - I happened to just see it for the first time the night of the premiere - I was very pleased with it. Kevin Kaufman did a great job and I did feel a very big relief. A big burden was lifted off my shoulders; it was something that I needed to do.
Can you tell me a bit about the book you are working on?
I was looking to do a book about my story and I also wanted to incorporate some cooking recipes. In my family, we've been cooking for years and I learned a lot of good recipes coming from a big Italian family and I enjoy cooking. Cooking was also therapeautic for me during times when I was upset or depressed. So I wanted to do a book about my life and incorporate a cookbook with it also.
Do you have any favorite recipes that will be in the book?
Oh gosh. Yeah, I have plenty. One of them is Sunday Sauce, which we used to call gravy, some people still call it gravy, with all the meatballs and stuff like that. That's one of my favorites. Pretty much every Sunday that's what we cook, we get together, either by house or my mom's or another family member, we always stick together on Sundays.
Do you cook every day?
Pretty much. On a Saturday I might not cook or my husband will take me out to dinner, but pretty much during the week I just cook. I enjoy it.
I'm a terrible cook.
You know what, most of my dishes are really quick - they're fast and they're easy. It's really not complicated. So that's what I'm going to try to incorporate - in this day and age women have to work. It's not easy coming home after work and have to cook for their children and make a big meal. So if I can spread the word with some quick recipes that are delicious, then I'm all for it.
When does your book come out?
We're working on that. I don't have a set date right now, so I can't give you an exact date, but hopefully soon!
You really advocate for women who have suffered abuse. Is that a cause close to your heart?
Yes, absolutely, because I've been through all this, I feel the need to get it out there to all women that fighting hard to get up and leave in that situation, whether it's physical or mental (to me they're both the same, they're both bad), I thought that I could never pick myself up and move on. And the scary part is the unknown. You don't know what's going to happen - are you going to have a place to live, you have to go to work if you don't have the money - you have to have a good support group. Whether it be family or friends, or even a lot of times I would go to church and just sit there by myself and pray. To me, any kind of outlet, someone you can find to support you, is great, and that's why, since I went through this, I would love to be an advocate for women who have been abused.
It's great to see that these days, advocating for others who need help.
There's a lot of people out there, a lot of woman that maybe don't have that support, who don't have their family behind them or a really good friend that you can trust that can help you in the right direction, hold your hand and lead you out of that situation. I know who that is, I have my family behind me and I'm lucky for that. So if I can speak to women who don't have that, maybe give them inspiration and say, 'you know, I did it and you can do it.' The unknown is scary but once you do it and move on and go out into the world, make a new life for yourself, you'll think to yourself, 'I should've done this a long time ago.' But it's the unknown that's scares you more than anything. If I help one woman, then I'm grateful for that.
You mentioned that you saw the show for the first time at the premiere party. Were there any surprises?
Actually, it was a little difficult to hear at the premiere party, obviously there's a lot of people. So I went home and DVRed it and watched it. But there were no surprises. Kevin Kaufman did a really unbelievable job and his staff as well. They were really great to me and really helpful. It's only about 22 minutes and Kevin touched on pretty much all the subjects that I wanted him to, although I did get a lot of feedback that a lot of people wished that it was longer - longer than a half hour show. So that's good, I was very pleased with it. It came out exactly as I was promised it would; Kevin promised I would be pleased with it and he hit it spot on.
Would you ever consider doing a follow-up if the opportunity presented itself?
If they gave the opportunity, absolutely. I have a lot more to tell and explain and if they gave me the opportunity, I would definitely do that.
Is there anything else that you'd like people to know about you?
Well with all these shows about mob life there's a lot of misconceptions. If you've watched Goodfellas or some of those types of movies, you wouldn't know that the majority of women are the last to know what's going on in the men's life. A lot of people say you know what you're getting into and that's not true. You don't know what you're getting into - they keep secrets very well, none of their business is discussed with you, and you're pretty much a product of your environment. So you can't fault falling into this kind of lifestyle - some of my family members were involved in it, so you can't fault the person for being in a certain environment, it's all you know. The fact is that a lot of these women, including me, suffer with this life. It's glamorized a lot in the shows and movies, but in reality, it's a tragic life to live.