OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. — The corpulent, pasta-slurping mobster is a stock image in pop culture. Just think of Tony Soprano. But Frank Gotti, the grandson of notorious crime boss John Gotti and the son of Victoria, wanted nothing to do with the image — particularly the fat part.
“My brothers’ friends would come to the house and say how big I was,” says the youngest Gotti of his days as a 255-pound, 5-foot, 10-inch 13-year-old. “They would shove food in my face.” When Frank, now 15, learned that “Growing Up Gotti,” a reality TV show featuring his family, was in the works, he made a resolution to drop 80 pounds.
With the help of his mother, his doctor and his lacrosse coach, Frank planned a special diet and fitness regime. He stopped consuming full pints of Rocky Road ice cream and stuck to small portions of low-calorie foods. By the time the show went into production, he’d slimmed down to a lean 177 pounds.
Then the publisher Judith Regan came over for dinner.
“She’s one of the show’s producers,” says Victoria, while filming a cooking show and a segment on “Extra.” “After she saw him, she came running over to me and said, ‘I’m so in awe. He has this whole plan and he knows what he’s doing. Would he consider writing a book?’”
Of course he would. The result is “The Gotti Diet: How I Took Control of My Body, Lost 80 Pounds, and Discovered How to Stay Fit Forever” (ReganBooks), a 215-page self-help manual that provides exercise instructions, low-fat recipes with catchy names such as “Frankie’s Chef Salad” and “Rappin’ Tuna Wrap” and a glossary of nutritional terminology that provides definitions for things such as anabolic steroids and triglycerides. There’s also a totally un-ironic, 18-page fitness guide with workbook pages where readers can chart their vital statistics, daily food intake and the number of crunches they do. (“Photocopy as needed,” it says in bright blue type at the top of each page.)
“I wanted to inspire other kids my age,” Frank says proudly. “To give them confidence and help them lose the weight.”
This story first appeared in the April 28, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Not surprisingly, the book has already elicited some smirks and eye rolls. The media-gossip Web site Gawker.com posted excerpts with snarky remarks on Gotti reflecting on his “hot, new body.” The bloated title, along with its before-and-after photos of Frank, captioned respectively, “From Fatty Gotti to Hottie Gotti,” don’t do much to elicit the attention of the literary elites. An editor at The New York Times Book Review said there were no plans to review it as of yet.
But for all the knuckle sandwich and leave-the-cannoli jokes, there’s something to be said for a 15-year-old kid, who, in a country where more than half of the adult population is overweight, can plan and execute a successful diet. The book is also touchingly candid, especially when Frank writes about the teasing he endured from his brothers and their friends, including taunting jabs of “fatty,” “fatso” and “blimp.”
Of course, not everyone in the Gotti clan was as unsupportive. Whenever Frank visited his late grandfather, John Gotti, who was in prison serving a life sentence for murder, the former Mob boss would offer up a heaping plate of unconditional love to his youngest grandson.
“No matter how fat I was,” Frank says wistfully, “he’d always tell me I looked good.”