It’s all parties and drama on the reality hit Mob Wives, but Suzanne Corso knows the real deal (diamonds and everything!). She dated a mobster for years—and now she wants to set the record straight on this whole gangster-glam craze.
by Liz Brody
I was 15 the summer I met Tony.* I remember the exact moment: My friends and I are standing on the corner of 18th Avenue and 73rd Street in Brooklyn, during the Santa Rosalia Feast, when he pulls up on his motorcycle. He’s wearing these little shorts, the sleeveless muscle T-shirt, the gold chain with the cross. He gets off his bike just like John Travolta. He’s gorgeous, the kind of guy I’m thinking would never look at me in a million years. All the girls are throwing themselves at him, and he comes over to me and says, “Hi. You wanna take a walk in the Feast?”
I hesitated because I didn’t know him, but he was so damn charming, I agreed. We strolled around, and he bought me a sausage-and-pepper hero, plus an extra one to take home. Later, when I gave it to my Jewish mother and grandmother, they asked, “Where’d you get this? We didn’t give you money.” A sausage hero was a big deal because we were on welfare and received food stamps. Neither of them liked the neighborhood Italians. My Catholic Sicilian father had walked out on my mom when she was 19 and eight months pregnant with me—at least that was my mother’s story. “Gangsters,” my grandma would say. But she ate the sandwich.
The next day, boom—Tony was like, “You should be my girlfriend.” He was 17, and we became inseparable. My mom and grandma were fishy about him, but he started coming to the house and was able to finally win them over. He took me out for lobster and steak, and oh, the gifts. He gave me a black fox coat with silver trim and a diamond bracelet. Soon, though, I realized he rarely went to school, yet he was picking me up in a silver Porsche.
“What do you do?” I asked him.
“I’m in construction.”
A lot of his friends were, I came to learn. Their hands were clean, not a callus to be found, but everyone was in construction.
From Jewels to Abuse
The first time we had sex, I was 15. I’m in his mother’s bed, it hurts, and afterward he says, “Go to the bathroom, wipe yourself and bring the toilet paper back to me.” I look at him like he’s cross-eyed. And he says, “You better do it.” So I do, and, oh my God, there’s blood. “Good,” he tells me. “Now I know you were a virgin.” I should have run so fast.
And I mean fast, because then he started smacking me around in front of his friends and family—backhanding me in the face, pulling my hair—and the girls would say, “Don’t worry. He just cares about you.” Afterward, Tony would come to me and say, “I’m really sorry. I’m under a lot of stress. Here’s a diamond necklace.” Honestly, if you’re a mob girl, getting smacked around is a way of life. And the abuse is taken to a whole new level because you’re going out with people who everyone says commit murder and chop up bodies so they can’t be found. So you don’t say anything; you just shut your mouth and put up with it.
The other thing is, you are never the only woman, ever. I was Tony’s “main girlfriend” and was expected to follow orders. “I need you to be home” is what he’d tell me. Meanwhile, he’s out doing what? “None of your business.” I’d find lipstick in his car, panties in his bed—one time right after we’d made love! But still I stayed. I even dropped out of eleventh grade because Tony didn’t want me in school anymore. Too many boys, he said. People think, How could you? Well, you know what, honey? You’re not in my shoes.
And when you are in these shoes, it’s a very scary situation with a guy who has friends who could kill you. I’ll never forget the time I opened Tony’s glove compartment and saw a gun. When I asked about it, he snapped, “It’s none of your business. Never open it again or I’ll beat the f—king s—t out of you!” I believed him.
Then I started reading news articles about local robberies that had his friends’ names in them. I wasn’t stupid—I knew everything these guys were giving their girlfriends fell off a truck somewhere. About two years into the relationship, I wanted out. I was determined to leave Brooklyn, have legitimate friends and become a writer. But when I tried to break up, Tony wouldn’t let me—and, of course, when you’re seeing a mob guy, you’re not just with him; you’re dating his whole network. You’re completely trapped.
Making a Break
What saved me was Tony’s arrest. I was 19. The judge, Leslie Crocker Snyder, was a big deal, and I went to see her. “You’re a good kid,” she told me. “You’re on your way to college. I’m putting him away. Just go on with your life.” [Tony would ultimately be convicted of two counts of manslaughter and weapons possession, among other charges, and serve more than 14 years behind bars. “I remember him well,” Crocker Snyder told Glamour. “He was very good-looking and had a slight gangster macho and a terrible record. And in the courtroom I could just sense the control his friends and family were exerting on Suzanne.”]
All I can say is that when he went to jail, I felt such a sense of freedom, like bricks being thrown off my shoulders. I wasn’t going to let that chance go. I got my GED and went to college. And I met a great guy who worked on Wall Street. Tony had sent his thugs to intimidate the first couple of men I dated, but this man said he didn’t care. We started going out, and he asked me to marry him six weeks later.
I still have other friends from the mob days. Renee Graziano [star of Mob Wives] was my maid of honor! I love Renee—we all grew up together. I just decided to take another path. I moved out of Brooklyn and became a writer; last year my first book was published, my second is almost done and there’s a movie in the works. Now I know what I didn’t know that first day I met Tony: When you date a mob guy, he controls your whole world. Today I can’t even imagine a man telling me to shut up. Forget the furs and diamonds; I’d rather lead my own life.
Suzanne Corso is the author of the novel Brooklyn Story.
*Tony is out of prison now; his name has been changed at Corso’s request.
"And lastly from that period I remember riding in a taxi one afternoon between very tall buildings under a mauve and rosy sky; I began to bawl because I had everything I wanted and knew I would never be so happy again."