Apparently even if he's a Mafia capo, father knows best.
In the Lifetime TV-movie "Victoria Gotti: My Father's Daughter," premiering 8 p.m. Feb. 9, mob boss John Gotti (Maurice Benard) tells his daughter Victoria (Chelsea Frei) that her boyfriend Carmine Agnello (Elijah Silva) "is not for you. … He's a common street guy.” And whaddya know — dad was right: Agnello, whom Victoria married in 1984, cheated on his wife and in 2001 was convicted of racketeering. By then she already had filed for divorce.
"I never knew of that side of him," Victoria Gotti, 56, speaking in a midtown Manhattan hotel, swears of her ex-husband. "I never knew until I read what I read." But her father "knew a lot more than I did and my ex was not what he wanted for his daughter. He had different expectations for me: A doctor. A lawyer. He really believed and dreamed about an Ivy League guy. That was his thing with my ex, that my ex was this kind of rabble-scrabble, runaround, neighborhood-laborer type."
Regardless, the two wed and had children together: sons Carmine, 32; John, 31; and Frank, 28, all of whom starred with their mother in the 2004-'05 A&E reality show "Growing Up Gotti." It was shot largely at her estate in Old Westbury, where she and her youngest still live. "Carmine bought a home recently, so he's living on his own. John and his wife," Alina Sanchez, who married at Oheka Castle in 2015, "are living on their own with the baby," her grandson John.
The movie — based on her 2009 memoir about growing up in Howard Beach, Queens, ignoring signs and news reports of her father's true business — was in gestation for years. After one screenwriter spent eight months on drafts she calls "very, very bland," Gotti wrote a script and a second draft herself. Screenwriter David Schneiderman, a Great Neck native, then worked on it, and by early October the trades were reporting the film as co-written by him and Gotti.
Then just before Christmas she says, the Writers Guild of America, which confirms screenplay and teleplay credits, gave Schneiderman sole standing due to what Gotti calls "logistics and bureaucracy." Schneiderman's agent did not respond to Newsday requests for comment or to speak with the screenwriter.
Yet what Gotti calls Schneiderman's lackluster work led, she says, to her appearing on-screen to narrate parts of the movie.
"When David did his last pass, it was so flat that I just said let me try something here. I'm going to try to incorporate some of my writing skills" as an author of mystery novels and other books and as a former newspaper columnist. "So I put a few pieces of narration in" that she wrote. "And then after those few, whoever was reading it loved it and I got a call back saying they wanted more. And I said OK and put a lot more in."
As for what her late dad thought of her writing, she says he had harshly critiqued her first novel, "The Senator's Daughter" (1997). "I was very upset because he was brutally honest with me. I thought I was going to tear up a little. But he looked at me that day and said, 'I must tell you, I am so proud of you. I really am.' "
That meant a lot to her. Because despite the crimes that put John Gotti in prison, she is still a daughter who wants to believe that even if he's a Mafia capo, father knows best.