What most differentiates Las Vegas from other cities that cater to vice? Its Mob origins. Now, the desert destination started by Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, has a new museum celebrating its dubious but fascinating beginnings.
The long-awaited National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, A.K.A. the Mob Museum, opened yesterday in Sin City’s historic downtown district. It’s located on Stewart Avenue, inside the former federal post office and courthouse where the landmark 1950 Kefauver hearings on organized crime were held. It’s the very spot where Las Vegas’ former “Happiest Mayor on Earth,” Oscar Goodman, defended real-life wiseguys like Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro. (Goodman, by the way, played himself in the movie “Casino,” defending a film version of “The Ant.”)
The Mob Museum features interactive exhibits, films and high-tech displays that aim to give an insider’s look at the events and people on both sides of the ongoing battle between organized crime and law enforcement. One of the museum’s prized pieces is the bullet-ridden brick wall against which members of the Bugs Moran gang were lined up then shot and killed by members of Al Capone’s gang. That notorious mob hit, known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, marked the beginning and the end of Capone’s reign.
Vegas has tried to cash in on its mafia legacy before, with mixed results. Will Vegas win big on this publicly-funded bet? Will tourists flock downtown to check out the crime scene photos and ommy guns from Vegas’ Mob-run past? Given the ruthlessness and brutality, why are we so fascinated by Mob culture?
Oscar Goodman, Las Vegas Host Committee Chairman; former Mayor of Las Vegas (1999-2011), who was once the Mob’s go-to defense attorney