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February 29, 2012

LaBar's Beat

Mob Museum a “hit”!

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Written by: Ron LaBar
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Unless you’ve been in a coma or visiting Mars over the past few weeks, haven’t read a newspaper or turned on a TV or radio, you know the Mob Museum – officially, the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement – is now open for business.

Rather poetically, it opened Valentines Day, Feb. 14th, as a sort of commemoration of the infamous Saint Valentines Day Massacre in Chicago in 1929, where seven mobsters were lined up against a wall and shot to death by rival gang members.

I got an invitation through my editor to attend “Known Associates Night’ at the Mob Museum representing the Bullseye, Nellis Air Force Base’s newspaper.

As a history buff, this was right down my alley, and I was not to be disappointed. I’ve visited more than my share of museums devoted to just about everything imaginable, but very few measure up to this museum. I did a quick walk-through of the very upscale cocktail party (a classy tent erected in the parking lot) and headed straight for the museum, the renovated former Federal Courthouse and U.S. Post Office. Located in downtown Las Vegas at Stewart Avenue and 4th St., the building is listed on both the National and Nevada register of historic places.

You start on the 3rd floor and work your way down to the first floor, beginning with the  origins of organized crime in America in the 1890′s, to its heyday in the prohibition era and the 1940′s and 1950′s, to mob-controlled Las Vegas and the war on organized crime.  This is a  journey well worth taking.

The design was right-on, and the myriad of exhibits are amazing. Several mini-theaters told the story of organized crime through film clips, photos and narration featuring about every mobster I’d ever heard of. Some were quite graphically bloody and not recommend for young children.

I observed that mob assassins were pretty good marksmen and seemed to specialize in headshots.

I spent three hours in the museum and know I still missed some areas – literally hundreds of exhibits are still waiting to be explored.

A not-to-be-missed highlight was the presentation in the Federal courtroom about the 1950 Las Vegas Kefauver hearings on organized crime – right where the hearings took place.

I think the Mob Museum can be viewed from a couple of angles. For the hard-core history buff it could be an absorbing all-day journey with many return trips. For the “just curious” visitor or local, plan to spend a couple hours, and you’ll emerge knowing much more about this important era of American history than you knew before.

The 41,000 square foot Mob Museum’s development and operation is overseen by the non-profit ’300 Stewart Avenue Corporation’, whose President, Ellen Knowlton, is the former FBI Special Agent in Charge, Las Vegas Division. This $42 million project was funded by the City of Las Vegas and historic preservation grants from Federal, State, and local sources.   Board members include former Governor Richard H. Bryan, Sheriff Doug Gillespie, Mayor Carolyn Goodman and former Mayor Oscar Goodman.

Still want to learn more about the mob in Las Vegas? How casino “skimming” worked?

The Kefauver hearings? Want to read bio sketches and see film clips on everybody from J. Edgar Hoover and Elliot Ness to Tony “the Ant” Spilotto, Moe Dalitz, Joey Cusumano, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, Albert Anastasia, Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, and many others? Here’s a little known fact: Moe Dalitz was a First Lieutenant, U. S. Army during WWII. It’s all here.

The Mob Museum is open Sundays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is $18 for adults, 18 years and older; $12 for children, age 5 to 17 years, and students, age 18 to 23 years with ID; $14 for seniors, military, law enforcement and teachers; and $10 for Nevada residents.

Was Las Vegas a safer place to live or visit when the mob was in charge? Popular opinion was that when the mob ran things, anybody who interfered with mom and pop from Peoria, Illinois, having a good time and spending a lot of money, was dealt with quickly and quietly – maybe just a broken arm or so, but possibly a deep dive in Lake Mead with concrete shoes, or a midnight one-way trip to the desert.

You’ll have to decide for yourself – and have fun doing it!



About the Author

Ron LaBar
If you have an article covering Veteran issues, Airmen who are doing something special in the Las Vegas community, or other human interest stories you'd like to see about and for our Nellis Airmen, just e-mail the Bullseye@aerotechnews.com and we will hook you up with Ron and he'll contact you.


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