Vegas' splitting headache: Mob mouthpiece elected mayor!

Jeepers creepers, voters follow bouncing peepers! New goodfella-in-chief has never been accused of engaging in oral sex, or giving "Leaves of Grass" to young women. In other words, he's squeaky clean by today's standards.


Douglas Cruickshank
June 10, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

Here in America, land of participatory democracy and plenteous opportunity, we cherish two things beyond measure: gangsters and movies. So, first let's take care of the cinema references. (The gangsters can take care of themselves.) Oscar Goodman, elected mayor of Las Vegas on Tuesday, and onetime lawyer for mob financial wizard Meyer Lansky and Chicago crime boss Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro, played himself in Martin Scorsese's "Casino." Actor's Studio founder Lee Strasberg played Hyman Roth, a character modeled on Meyer Lansky, in the "Godfather Part II." And Joe Pesci played the "Casino" character based on the fiery Mr. Ant, I mean Mr. Spilotro.

To lay the cards on the table from jumpstreet: I have no beef with Goodman's defense of mobsters; after all, he's an attorney. Besides, I'm as fond of gangsters as any American is. I am, however, very alarmed about a dirty little secret that got swept under the carpet during Goodman's campaign: namely, that he was once counsel of record for La Toya Jackson, a known associate of psychic hotline operators. That's a revelation Goodman will never live down -- even if he lives as long (and frequently) as Shirley MacLaine.

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I guess the aspect of the Vegas mayoral race that I'll miss the most is the campaign reporting. The local media, and, later, news outlets around the globe, were endlessly fascinated by one particularly colorful event (not to put too fine a point on it, the color in question was scarlet) in the career of one of Goodman's former associates. Said event worked its way into virtually every story published about Goodman's campaign (this column, naturally, was no exception and here we go again). It's the sort of story -- involving a couple of tiny, grape-sized organs -- that could end the career of a lesser man, but had no apparent effect on the Vegas voters' impression of Goodman (who, in the end, squeezed out a victory with 32,765 votes, as compared to opponent Arnie Adamsen's 18,620). The ubiquitous little item to which I refer, as repeated for the umpteenth time in Angie Wagner's June 5 Las Vegas Sun article on Goodman, was this: "Anthony 'Tony the Ant' Spilotro," Wagner wrote, "once reputedly placed a rival's head in a vise and squeezed his eyeballs out."

Okay. Imna get an Excedrin and I'll be right back.

Phew. Now, being even loosely associated with such an indelible and gooey image -- though Goodman has never been charged with a crime himself -- would have your average politico's career swimming with the fishes. But Goodman thrived! "I'm proud of what I've done. I'm not ashamed of anything," the new mayor chirped to one reporter recently. "I've made America a better place ... I'm colorful and that's what got me in the limelight. If I were a podiatrist running for mayor, you wouldn't be here."

What precisely do you mean by "you wouldn't be here," Oscar?

Skip it. I'm sure Goodman will do a fine job of keeping Vegas vise-free. We can't begrudge the guy his success, even if some of his former associates haven't done so well. Tony the Ant now sleeps with the ants: He was buried alive in an Indiana cornfield. Spilotro's longtime buddy and onetime co-king of the Vegas underworld, Fat Herbie Blitzstein (not a Goodman client) was killed in an apparent mob hit two years ago. Meanwhile, Blitztein's pal Ted Binion, a co-owner of the Horseshoe Club casino, is also extremely non-living. (Binion's girlfriend, Sandy Murphy, most recently represented by Mayor Goodman, is, according to the Las Vegas Sun, the focus of a grand jury investigation into Binion's death, which has been ruled a homicide.) And La Toya Jackson was sentenced to be La Toya Jackson for the remainder of her days.

As for Arnie Adamsen, who lost the election to Goodman, there is no truth to the report that he was recently invited to go fishing with Fredo Corleone on Lake Tahoe at sunset.

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Here at the Center for Investigative Surrealism, numerous stories come our way that we're just not able to pursue in depth. Nonetheless, in the interest of keeping you informed of the type of issues we're constantly tracking, here's a quick summary:

The Japan Times reports that "Four arrows apparently shot from a crossbow were found May 30 embedded in walls inside the home of ... the Justice Ministry's Secretariat." This potentially lethal, albeit charmingly low-tech and Nottinghamesque, action was taken by persons unnamed in protest of a police wiretap bill.

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The Times of London last week revealed that "an investigation has been launched into why a community support worker took an unstable woman to the notorious suicide spot of Beachy Head," where the woman promptly jumped off the cliff. An authority said, "There is no policy to say whether social services should advise taking clients to Beachy Head or not. This is being reviewed." I'm no expert, but I would suggest not.

A few days ago, the Associated Press reported that school administrators in Pensacola, Fla., "recommended the expulsion of a 15-year-old girl for taking to school a nail clipper with a 2-inch knife. Tawana Dawson, a sophomore, said she thought the attachment was simply for cleaning fingernails." Yeah right, and I suppose those Q-Tips are for cleaning your ears, huh Tawana? And the lipstick?


Douglas Cruickshank

Douglas Cruickshank is a senior writer for Salon. For more articles by Cruickshank, visit his archive.

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