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THE MOB AND LAS VEGAS

The entertainers and folks I know who worked in Las Vegas pre-1980 liked it better than what came after, When the big hotel chains muscled in on Sin City the mobsters, even with the skim, didn't have the money to compete. They were eventually marginalized and Vegas became a corporate playground.

But in the days of the mob it was a much more personal place. You went to one person and they could give you an answer, comp a room, book a night spot. You didn't have to go through layers of corporate lackeys like you do today and apparently pretty much left everyone alone to do the best job they could. Of course, there were those who felt the sting of the Mob - if someone ran afoul of the wrong people or they tried to rip off a casino.

 

The casinos were go-go-go from the late-1940s on, and there were rivers of cash to be made on all sorts of gambling schemes - slot machines, card games,

In the 1950s big name entertainers were the lure that brought in the suckers, that and the chance to hit it big if you bet the right numbers on the Roulette wheel or hit a lucky streak in Blackjack.

It was also an elegant place where men wore coats and ties to the casinos, ladies were decked out in their finest with glittering jewelry and designer dresses.

Beginning in the 1980s, just as mob influence was waning, slovenly tourists were arriving wearing tacky vacation wear, short shorts, jeans. Las Vegas lost that high class edge it had.

Time magazine cover story, May 16, 1977:
Why does the Mafia attract so much attention? Many Italian Americans complain that the notoriety is excessive, and damaging to millions of law-abiding citizens; to assuage their sensibilities, the Justice Department has stopped referring to the Mafia by name. No matter what the organization is called, it dominates much of American crime. Many nonmember gangsters are allied to it, usually kicking back a share of their take to the dons; some criminologists estimate that at least 50,000 hoods can be considered confederates of the Mafia. The Mafia is by far the best organized criminal group in the U.S. and the only one with a national structure: 26 families— five of them in New York City—of from 20 to 1,000 "button men," or soldiers.

 

Helen Costa, wife of Frank Sinatra’s musical arranger Don Costa:
Don did a few things for the mob so they liked him; he wasn’t really involved too much with them, just on the fringe. I don’t know how much influence the mafia had, they just needed something done so that if you ever needed them to do you a favor there was an exchange of favors there. You just don’t say no, that’s all.

 

YOUR GO-GO HOST: Billy Ingram

Punk Book
Punk - a look at the gay and Punk / post-Punk landscape in Los Angeles in 1980.
 

 

 


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