“Museums are boring. Attractions are fun!” This was the advertising come-on for Mob Attraction in Las Vegas at The Tropicana. Ruth & I went there in early winter, 2013. It boasted more than 500 artifacts, 3D Holograms, and Live Actors whom we had to interact with in a crime scenario that was kind of silly. I wrote about it on April 9, 2013, but you won’t find that blog in the archives because I deleted it. Mob Attraction closed in November, 2013. But another attraction dealing with Las Vegas’ criminal history is truly thriving. Ruth and I spent at least four hours there in January, 2014, and we still hadn’t seen it all. It’s called The Mob MUSEUM.
Its other name is a bit more descriptive but rather unwieldy–National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. It’s in the part of downtown Las Vegas at 300 Stewart Avenue that is undergoing a complete redo and within walking distance of the Fremont Street Experience and Container Park. The building it’s in, an old post office and federal courthouse, is as interesting as the displays that take up 3 floors. The 2nd was the most interesting to me.
The Kefauver Hearings in the 1950s were held in a courtroom on the 2nd floor, and MUSEUM visitors can choose to sit in it and watch a 9 minute film about The Hearings and their impact. A crime syndicate figure during World War II boasted that organized crime was bigger than U.S. Steel, and by 1950 the Federal Government finally had the guts to push back. Senator Estes Kefauver, who ran for President in 1952 and 56 but didn’t get nominated, presided over a committee that traveled to many cities with organized crime connections. It called 800 witnesses to tell what they knew. When before the committee for the first time, most denied any knowledge or claimed they couldn’t remember. When the committee wisely came back, many discovered that they actually did remember and some cooperated. This made TV history. People with brand new black and white sets watched in record numbers, creating the first mega-event in TV history. Today’s equal would be The Super Bowl. The other exhibit on the 2nd floor that I really liked was a film connecting Lee Harvey Oswald to the mob and speculating about the assassination of President John Kennedy.
But visitors to the Mob MUSEUM begin on the 3rd floor where the roots of organized crime are examined beginning with the 20 million immigrants who came to the United States between 1892 and 1924 and ending, roughly, with mob control of professional sports. What’s between is truly fascinating and a real time swallower.
By the time I reached the first floor I was experiencing serious burnout. This was unfortunate because its exhibits explored such interesting subjects as surveillance of citizens with suspected mob connections, witness protection, and the media’s long-term and continuing fascination with crime–The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, CSI, etc. Surveillance is especially relevant since it is, or should be, in the news due to The Government’s purposeful tracking of supposedly every citizen to learn about possible terrorist connections. There’s even some info about ABSCAM, the subject that inspired the much-awarded, 5 Compass film American Hustle.