Angela Raiola, the brassy New York bar owner known as “Big Ang” on the reality TV series “Mob Wives,” died early Thursday after battling brain, throat and lung cancer, the show’s producer said. She was 55.
Raiola “passed peacefully surrounded by friends and family,” Jennifer Graziano, executive producer of the VH1 series, said in a statement. “Her presence brought sheer happiness to anyone that was around her and I am honored to have called her a friend.”
Her death was also announced on her official Twitter account by her friend, Vinnie Medugno. He honored her in a tweet quoting her playful personality: “I’m not here for a long time, I’m here for a good time!”
Raiola was initially diagnosed with throat cancer in March 2015. It spread to her brain and lung.
Even as she fought the disease, the native New Yorker remained the candid, colorful figure that viewers came to know on “Mob Wives” and its two reality spinoffs, “Big Ang” and “Miami Monkey.” Family members — including her son, Anthony, and her sister, Janine — were among those who joined in her TV fame.
During a pre-taped segment on the “Dr. Oz” show that aired Tuesday, Raiola — nicknamed Big Ang for her nearly 6-foot height — told Mehmet Oz she was trying to keep her spirits up as chemotherapy and radiation failed to check the disease.
She had already undergone several surgeries, and her trademark flowing black hair was gone, replaced by a short, blond cut.
“I look at my kids and my grandchildren and I know how much they need me,” said Raiola, speaking in her trademark husky voice. She lived with her daughter Raquel’s family on Staten Island, where Raiola had run the Drunken Monkey bar before it closed.
She wasn’t technically a mob wife: Raiola’s inclusion on the cable show’s second season in 2012 came courtesy of her uncle, the late Salvatore “Sally Dogs” Lombardi, a reputed captain of the Genovese crime family.
A cigarette smoker for 40 years, Raiola said she stopped immediately after her first cancer diagnosis last year. Her doctors told her the disease was “positively” caused by smoking, she said, and she called for people to quit the habit or resist picking it up.
Her sister and brother-in-law were key members of her support team, Raiola told Oz, but she said her husband, Neil Murphy, was no longer part of her life.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
The other stars of “Mob Wives,” which is currently on its sixth season, shared their condolences on Twitter: