The Las Vegas Mob Museum is a hit, man
LAS VEGAS — Just-opened The Mob Museum here packs a lot of punches — from Tommy guns, film clips, artifacts of real mobsters and a Hawaiian shirt worn by TV mafioso Tony Soprano, to part of the wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago, to interactive exhibits that clue you into casino scams and mobster trivia.
Wednesday night, in a surreal grand opening party scene, it packed in some former gangland figures, including a police informant and alleged hitman seen in the film Casino as well as the inspiration for GoodFellas, former protected witness Henry Hill. I chatted with the affable Hill, who told me he used to be “a scumbag” when he was doping and killing, and with Meyer Lansky II, the dapper grandson and namesake of the organized crime boss whose gambling empire included early Vegas casinos. Both say they’re working on TV shows dealing with mobster exploits.
Museum honcho Dennis Barrie was a force behind the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and The Spy Museum in Washington, so it’s no surprise that the downtown museum — in a renovated courthouse where Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver held 1950 hearings that exposed organized crime — is no penny-ante deal. “The idea is to be as immersive as possible,” Barrie says, and that means “participating” in a police lineup, reading actual files of mobsters, punching in a city and seeing its mob crime history, watching how agents spied on mobsters and listening to actual wiretaps and tapes of gangster schemes. Photos from mob hits are chilling.