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Sunday, 1 April 2012

In Godfather We Trust,In one room, a ghastly photo wall of bloody, uncensored images showcases the mob's greatest hits.


14:25 |

 

In one room, a ghastly photo wall of bloody, uncensored images showcases the mob's greatest hits. In another, visitors are taught to load a revolver. And for when a gun just won't do, an oddball collection of household items - a shovel, a hammer, a baseball bat and an ice pick - show the creative side of some of America's most notorious killers. Sin City is honoring one of its earliest relationships with a museum dedicated to the mobsters that made this desert town. There are tommy guns, money stacks and a bullet-riddled brick wall from the 1929 massacre that saw Al Capone seize control of the Chicago mob. Las Vegas has long been enamored with its gangster roots. But the publicly funded, $42 million Mob Museum represents a new height in Sin City's lawlessness devotion. Even the local FBI agents are in on it. "We wanted to make sure the truth came out," said Ellen Knowlton, a former special agent brought on to legitimize the downtown attraction. It's the second mob-themed attraction to open in Las Vegas in the past year. The Mob Experience at the Tropicana casino on the Las Vegas Strip quickly shut down because of slow ticket sales and other problems. It's slated to reopen this year under the name Mob Attraction Las Vegas. City officials said their version will perform better because it's an authentic examination of the decisions and circumstances that made Las Vegas an international symbol of debauchery and excess. The museum is housed in a former courthouse where a U.S. Senate hearing on organized crime was held in the 1950s. The proceedings ntroduced the mob to most Americans. Nevadans and mobsters have a long, storied history. Casino workers and longtime visitors alike are known to wax nostalgic about the days when mob bosses kept drink prices low and streets violence-free. Their casinos became celebrity playgrounds and architectural icons. The Stardust, El Cortez, Tropicana, Dunes Hotel, Desert Inn, Flamingo and Fremont hotel were all backed by the mob at one point. Elvis and Priscilla Presley tied the knot at the mob-controlled Aladdin resort and Wayne Newton later purchased it. More recently, Las Vegans thrice made former mob attorney Oscar Goodman their mayor. And when he was term-limited from running again last year, they gave the job to his wife. The mob, the story goes, helped build out the remote highway that would become the Las Vegas Strip. Gangsters took over resorts, skimmed the profits and built nightclubs, country clubs, housing tracts and shopping centers. Increased law enforcement scrutiny and competition from business titans such as Howard Hughes saw Las Vegas turn corporate in the late 1960s. These days, Las Vegas feels more like a raunchy version of Disney World than a mob hangout. Museum officials deny they are sensationalizing the mob experience to sell tickets, which cost up to $18 each. One exhibit shows the modern reach of organized crime through the drug cartels of Mexico, money laundering schemes in the Bahamas, counterfeit rings in China and human trafficking in Brazil. The museum attempts to show the personal motivations behind the mug shots. There are pictures of a baby-faced Anthony Spilotro marking his First Communion, Frank Costello relaxing in a hammock at home and Meyer Lansky with his daughter at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. All three were among the mob's most powerful men. But the museum's photography collection depicting cratered heads, imploded cars and full body bags likely will be its biggest draw among fans expecting a hefty dose of mob violence. There's Jack "Machine Gun" McGurn, his body splayed out in a Chicago bowling alley in 1939. Another photo depicts the death of Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria, assassinated in a New York restaurant in 1931. A small gift store also plays up the mob's bloodthirsty reputation. The shelves lined with novelty items feature mobster paper dolls and gangster teddy bears dressed in striped suits and armed with plastic machine guns. A T-shirt reads: "In Godfather We Trust."


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