We are sad to report that Angela “Big Ang” Raiola has died at 55, following a battle with throat and brain cancer.
A message posted by Vinnie Medugno on Raiola’s official Twitter account “on behalf of the family” Thursday confirmed that the larger-than-life VHI reality star died at the hospital at 3:01am. She had been battling pneumonia, sources told the New York Daily News.
“She was surrounded by nothing but love from her immediate family, and closest friends,” Mudugno’s statement read.
Despite living over the bridge, the raspy voiced matriarch from Staten Island — who affectionately referred to her fans as her “babies” — graduated from New Utrecht High School and had roots in neighborhood. The niece of low-level Genovese family crime boss Salvatore “Sally Dogs” Lombardi, who operated in Bensonhurst, Raiola embraced her mob connections and was unabashed about her love of wiseguys and plastic surgery.
“I’m not here for a long time, I’m here for a good time!” Big Ang used to say — just one of her many meme-worthy one-liners.
— Vinnie Medugno (@VinnieMedugno) February 11, 2016
Following her breakout role on “Mob Wives” — where audiences were charmed by her brash Staten Island attitude and nurturing streak — Raiola got her own spinoff show called “Big Ang,” which followed the entrepreneur’s daily shenanigans as operator of the Drunken Monkey Bar and Grill and Big Ang’s Secrets beauty salon on the Island. “Big Ang” soon spawned another spinoff called “Miami Monkey,” which documented Raiola’s attempt to set up a bar in Miami Beach.
Last year, we got a glimpse of Raiola’s vulnerable side when she appeared with husband Neil Murphy on VH1’s Couples Therapy to try to work out their marriage. In January, Raiola confirmed to E! News that she and Murphy had split up.
Raiola has been open about her health battle and has publicly urged people to quit smoking or avoid starting the habit. She initially was diagnosed with throat cancer last year, but after several surgeries it seemed that she had beat the disease. The cancer returned to her brain and lungs in December, and doctors predicted that Raiola had a 30 percent chance at survival, according to the Daily News.
Despite her health struggles, the flamboyant Mob Wife never stopped working. In November 2015, she dropped by the Pinot’s Palette in Dyker Heights to debut a new line of wines, looking fabulous as always.
Though I didn’t have the chance to meet Raiola, I was a fan of the show and like many, was drawn in by her realness and infectious attitude. Her zest for life will surely be missed by those who knew her, as well as her legions of television fans across the country. Our thoughts are with Raiola’s family and friends during this difficult time.
Update [4:47pm]: We just got word that viewings for Raiola will be held in Dyker Heights at Scarpaci Funeral Home (1401 86th Street) on Saturday, February 20 and Sunday, February 21. Her funeral will be held at the Basilica of Regina Pacis (1230 65th Street) on Monday, February 22.