Mob Lawyer To Mayor? Really?
When folks are asked who they associate with Las Vegas, the answers will vary. The senior crowd may mention Liberace, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, or Sammy Davis Jr. Others may associate Elvis, Wayne Newton, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, or Elton John.
Probably, few would bring up Oscar Goodman. However, Goodman is a unique and important personality in the Vegas historical lineup. If you are not from Vegas, you may ask, “Who’s Oscar Goodman?”
In more recent history, Goodman served two terms as Mayor of Las Vegas. He was one of the most, if not the most, popular Mayor ever elected. He won his first term in 1999. When he ran for re-election in 2003, he garnered a whopping 86% of the vote. Now, that’s popular!
It is his history before his political career that infuses the Goodman story with such interest. His bio has captured the attention of movie producers, writers, and historians.
For more than 35 years Oscar Goodman was the mob’s lawyer. He defended the likes of Meyer Lansky. Natale Richichi, Vinny Ferrara, and others. One can ask the question, and many have, as to how someone could associate with the mob for so long and not be involved. Was he just a lawyer doing his duty or was there more to the story? It depends on who you ask.
In the 1970s, Goodman was the attorney for Lefty Rosenthal and Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, both known mob associates. There has been much literature and film dedicated to these two crime figures.
Spilotro was a mob enforcer, hit man, and ran a theft ring known as the “Hole in the Wall” gang. Rosenthal operated a sports book and secretly ran several casinos for the mob including the Stardust.
Spilatro met the fate of many of his own victims. He was murdered by his own kind. He was beaten to death along with his brother Michael and buried in a remote cornfield in Indiana. Rosenthal died in 2008 at 79 due to natural causes.
The book and movie “Casino” tell the story of these two mobsters. In the movie, Oscar Goodman plays himself.
It’s not really shocking with Vegas’ love of the mob motif to have a mayor who was associated with the mob, legally, of course, but it sustains the interest and lore of the man.
His wife, Carolyn, is the current Mayor and has served since 2011. She is the 2nd female Mayor in Vegas history.
If you want to learn more about Oscar Goodman, check out the biography by John L. Smith, “Of Mice and Men.” You can find it here: