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Victoria Gotti: still growing up

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It seems like only yesterday — could it really be a decade? — since Growing Up Gotti was lending an ear to the fortissimo life of mobster daughter Victoria Gotti and her three boisterous lads.

Now A&E is bringing back the family for a one-hour retrospective, Growing Up Gotti: 10 Years Later, inviting viewers to revisit the Gottis’ Long Island manse for reminiscing and vintage clips from the series (which aired in 2004-05). The new special airs 9 p.m. Monday.

Mom, now 51, is still the dolled-up matriarch while sons John and Carmine are all grown up and no longer so reliant on hair gel and swagger. (But domestic drama remains: Youngest son Frank, 24, blew off the retrospective taping, claiming illness, according to the network.)

“We laughed! Boy, did we laugh,” Gotti tells The Associated Press, describing their collective reaction to those clips.

She still considers herself a writer by trade — she is a bestselling author and was a columnist for the New York Post — but her wayward career has also found her competing on Celebrity Apprentice and starring in an off-Broadway musical.

Nonetheless, she spent life before Growing Up Gotti chiefly known as a daughter of John Gotti, the late “Dapper Don.” So, a decade ago, she allowed cameras into her home in an effort to recast her identity.

But once the first round of filming was complete and the premiere date loomed, “I became physically ill,” she recalls. “The apprehension, the anxiety! I remember thinking, ‘Just let it come out. One, maybe three episodes will air. It’ll be a complete flop. Three people will tune in. Then we’ll be done!’”

Things didn’t turn out that way, of course, and when instead the series was an overnight hit, she asked herself, “Now what?”

What happened was, she sums up, “a blast! I think it’s one of the better decisions I’ve made, and I got to work with my kids. What better job for a working single mom?”

The series also fulfilled Gotti’s goal of presenting herself not as the daughter of a legendary wiseguy but as a liberated woman who was raised by a devoted dad: “He and my mother, they were great.”

Victoria Gotti is a personality who doesn’t hold back, as reflected by her frequent reminder: “What you see is what you get.”

But one thing you don’t see suggested by her public persona: her professed preference for dressing down. She’s no committed glamour-puss, she insists, despite at that moment being swathed in mink with her platinum tresses spilling almost to her waist.

“This is not me. This is playing dress up,” she declares. “When I’m home, I don’t wear makeup, and I lounge around in sweats.”

Long divorced, she was seen on Growing Up Gotti playing dress up to the max as she suffered through dates with insufferable men.

So how’s her romantic life these days?

“Quiet. Very quiet,” she says with a laugh. “You couldn’t believe how quiet. But I think the right men are afraid. I hear it a lot: ‘You’re so high maintenance.’ No, I’m really not! And I get the other end of that: ‘You’re too smart and savvy for me.’ No, I’m really not!

“I’m cool! I’m fun!” she proclaims. “But all the wrong guys hang around. So I’m usually home on Saturday night. My sons and their girlfriends are, too. We watch a movie, and there’s Rocky Road [ice cream].”

Not that she’s complaining. More than once she says she wouldn’t change a thing, least of all her decision to face the world on Growing Up Gotti.

“Regrets? None. Surprises? Lots,” she says, then muses, “I was most surprised that this thing caught on!”

FRAZIER MOORE

Associated Press

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