Ralphie Report: Remembering Big Ang’s spirit, personality and trip to Wilkes-Barre
I’m in an SUV driving down Interstate 95 in New Jersey, heading toward Atlantic City. It’s Cinco de Mayo weekend 2013. In the vehicle: my friend, Melissa, who works for Mohegan Sun, myself, our driver and Angela “Big Ang” Raiola. We were en route to Resorts Casino, a property that Mohegan manages, where I would host a “Reality Check” event with Ang. The second and final stop of the tour was the following day at Mohegan Sun Pocono.
We had all been in the car for about an hour when we decided to divert to a rest stop for food. I wasn’t too hungry so I bought a coffee; Ang grabbed Auntie Anne’s. She got pretzel dippers with sauce. And if you know me and my eating habits, you know they usually don’t involve pretzel dippers, with or without the sauce.
“Honey you want one?” asked Ang. I politely declined. I could tell that she was a little annoyed but we continued making small talk.
She asked two more times before finally offering up a look that is all-too-familiar to fans of her show.
“No, really. Have one.”
Before I could respond the pretzels were right in front of my face.
If you’re like me and you grew up in an Italian-American household, you’re probably having flashbacks and rightfully so. Ang was a tough but loving mother from Staten Island; not one to mince words and, always making sure those around her were taken care of.
And like any good Italian mother, if she offered food, you’d better accept.
We arrived in Atlantic City with time to spare, so we headed over to the outlets by the boardwalk. Ang was looking for clothes to buy her grandkids (always taking care of others); I was just happy to spot H&M.
Being out in public with Ang was an experience in itself. Not only did everyone know who Ang was, but everyone felt like they knew Ang. She was as authentic as they come, especially for reality TV, and surely that’s what endeared the “Mob Wives” star to so many fans.
“Ooh look at you! You made out!” she exclaimed when she saw the amount of clothes that I purchased. Of course, Ang had accumulated a few bags herself.
The event in Atlantic City went well and the next day we took off for Wilkes-Barre. The trip from AC to Northeastern Pennsylvania was a long one. Traffic on a side road the driver took was brutal, and by that point in the weekend, Ang had grown a bit tired. We made it to Mohegan Sun Pocono just in time for the appearance at Breakers and of course, it was the best of the weekend. Ang was in great spirits on stage, trading barbs with me and the crowd while sipping on an alcoholic beverage.
“I’m not here for a long time; I’m here for a good time,” she said during our chat at MSP, one of the last quotes she offered up before we wrapped.
I surely won’t forget that either. Raiola passed away Feb. 18, after a battle with cancer. She was 55.
Ang – thanks for the memories and the pretzel dippers.
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