The best mobster stories take at least two volumes to tell, three if you include flashbacks, cooking advice and a couple generations of offspring added to the family drama. My Vegas tale isn't quite as epic, but needs at least two posts to do it any justice. And when we're talking about justice, The Mob Museum delivered it in spades.
Sitting pretty in the heart of downtown Las Vegas, The Mob Museum resides in a gorgeous old building once a US post office and Federal Courthouse. In 1950 it was one of 14 locations around the United States to participate in the Kefauver Committee hearings on organized crime. Broadcast live on TV, these hearings put 600 witnesses, mafia kingpins and henchmen on the hot seat, nose to nose with US senators, facing allegations of interstate commerce violations and the uncovering the overwhelming influence of organized crime all around America.
Spanning three floors, with fun, and informative interactive exhibits and films, the museum delivers the goods on federal crime history, showing both sides of the loaded coin, profiling the thugs who did the deeds and the cops and legislators who uncovered the corruption and introduced legal oversights and justice to the chaos.
I'm a geek for crime history, so it was a delight to spend an afternoon exploring the exhibits and an even bigger treat to be doing a book signing of Criminal Crafts at the gift shop. To really see the museum you'll want to set aside two or three hours, longer if you've seen Goodfellas, Casino or Donny Brasco more than once, because all those cats, and their homeboys are here. I really could have spent a full day, as the exhibits were completely fascinating, and gorgeous, high tech and inviting all at once and the bad side of being a gangster never felt glamorized.
Of course I kept an eagle eye out for genuine criminal crafting memorabilia and insights into the minds mobsters, and was rewarded by this "interestingly" executed pen and ink sketch which I think was done by John Gotti. Serving 10 years time prior to his death, one can only hope Teflon Don spent a little more time refining his skills and this was only and early attempt. I pity the poor guy who had to stand for hours posing for this one.
Around the museum were numerous quotes from famous mobsters and officers as well as clever presentations of background information. I especially liked the chalkboard drawing of criminal traits- perusing through the criteria, I seem to hit most of the deviant tendencies for an older miscreant.
Seeing the mob connection to Vegas history was especially compelling, lots of great memorabilia and back story from the city's seedy past. The book on card sharking was behind glass so I couldn't get any tips but there were a few slot machines tricked out for fake wins and other cons of the day. A room next door was plastered with stacks of fake money illustrating how much revenue the government lost to skimming scams, astronomical sums.
Luckily for me the tour winds up in the gift shop where I had a table for the afternoon. The gals who work the shop were good sports, indulging my corny jokes and trying on the spy glasses that I made. Special shout out to the super troopers who came in on their day off to get signed copies of my book. Can't wait to see what they make, will be posting photos here!
I couldn't leave empty handed and aside from getting souvenirs for myself, belated father's day gifts I decided to start my Christmas shopping. The museum had some really unique stuff, biographies of famous cops and mobsters, movies, crime scene tape, loaded dice. shot glasses shaped like pistols and costumes for kids and adults. Since I couldn't fit everything in my carry-on I'm glad the gift shop's collection is on-line too.
Had to share pics of the treats I got for myself- an awesome book of mobster paper dolls. I'll be making the Goodfellas set 1st. Skinny Ray Liotta, looks absolutely scorching here and I'm putting him on my desk to oversee all the hard work I'm doing. Sad though that there isn't a version of him in his underwear, and it's pretty telling that the Joe Pesci doll is missing a head.
And I could not pass up on the tape gun, nothing, nothing quite says Criminal Crafts like this bad boy. With any luck (or a good bribe) I'll have a chance to do the SCRAP Rebel Craft Rumble again this year and can use it as my secret weapon.