Las Vegas tales from Oscar Goodman: mob lawyer, mayor, showman

Oscar Goodman, the former Las Vegas mayor, branded the city with a larger-than-life persona.
(Julie Jacobson / Associated Press)

LAS VEGAS -- Of course, there would be showgirls.

Man-about-Sin City Oscar Goodman has published a tell-all memoir and is turning up the wattage around this brightly lit wagering mecca to promote the event.

The cover of the book, entitled “Being Oscar: From Mob Lawyer to Mayor of Las Vegas -- Only in America,” shows a white-fedora-wearing Goodman flanked by two buxom showgirls in blue and fuchsia headdresses. They’re standing -- where else? -- in front of the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign on the Strip.

And oh, Goodman is holding a martini. And the words have been changed to “Being Oscar.”

Ahhhh Vegas. A showman’s dreamscape.

“The book is a love story,” Goodman told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a love story of my family and my wife and the law, being a very jealous mistress. It’s also a love story of the city.”


The book’s promotion has been breathless. On Thursday, he returned to Las Vegas from New York, where he pitched the memoir on radio and television. On Thursday night, he held a book signing at his steakhouse here (named Oscar’s: Booze, Beef and Broads) before rushing off to another event at (of course!) the Mob Museum.

Once there, he gave a speech thanking people for buying his book. In his hand was a mammoth martini glass, half full.

The promotional materials for the book have flown out to the press with the fury of those Wizard of Oz monkeys lighting out the window at the behest of the Wicked Witch of the West.

“Known as the ‘mob’s lawyer’ for more than three decades, Oscar Goodman was the go-to defense attorney for some of the biggest gangsters in America,” the press release trumpets. “Written with coauthor George Anastasia, one of the most respected crime reporters in the country, ‘Being Oscar’ candidly reveals never-before-disclosed details of his service to a Who’s Who of mob bosses such as Meyer Lanksy, Anthony ‘Tony the Ant’ Spilotro, Nick Civella, Vinny ‘The Animal’ Ferrara and ‘Crazy’ Phil Leonetti.”

The book promises to divulge how, as Las Vegas mayor, Goodman threatened to cut off the thumb of a young graffiti tagger; how he suggested that every man in Vegas get a lap dance to give a “rise” to the local economy; how he snubbed President Obama in retaliation for a speech in which Obama trashed gambling in Vegas; and how he shamelessly enacted city policies requiring that he have a cameo appearance in every movie/TV show filmed in town.

And then there were the showgirls. During his mayoralty it was hard to find Goodman at a public event where he wasn’t accompanied by a pair of feathered and sequined beauties.


Goodman told The Times he’s already exhausted from talking about himelf. (Not.)

“The best thing that people have said about the book is that it’s in my own voice,” he said. “I don’t think anyone who writes a memoir could ask for more. It’s like sitting at a bar, ordering a martini and have me telling my story.”

He said people who live inside Sin City and out will get something from his candor.

“I go back into the history of the place from the 1960s on,” he told The Times. “I was a pretty good lawyer and my take pretty much destroys the perception that the bad guys were all bad guys. Often, the so-called good guys were the bad guys.”

So, um, were any of his made-guy clients a little nervous of appearing in the book?

“Not at all,” Goodman said. “Fifteen of my former clients are coming to the party tonight.”

He said his only letdown writing the book was not being able to get the rights to run a picture he took of a Playboy model he took at a suite at the Palms.

“I tried, but I couldn’t get permission,” he said. “The book could have used a little more nakedness.”


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