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VIDEO VAULT | Mob Museum explores the Hollywood's obsession with the mafia in Vegas

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People who like movies about gangsters might be interested in a recent addition to the Mob Museum, which—for the most part—showcases true-life artifacts and stories from the world of “Organized Crime and Law Enforcement”.

“But we also talk about pop culture, and how the mob has infused our pop culture,” says Mob Museum Senior Content Director Geoff Schumacher. “And there's no better way to talk about that than through the movies.”

However, he cautions locals to enjoy the movie artifacts on an entertainment level rather than as history.

“The depictions of Las Vegas may not be completely accurate as far as how the mob was running things at the time. But seeing the landscape. You know, seeing the images of that time. Seeing a little more of the city is just fascinating.”

But often there are fictional parallels to actual events, such as a famous United States Senate investigation into organized crime.

“The movie ‘Captive City’ came out in 1952, right on the heels of the Kefauver Committee Hearings,” notes Schumacher. “Of course, we had a Kefauver Committee hearing right here in our building in the Museum in 1950.”

A short film in a small theater adjacent to the static exhibit helps sort fact from fiction. It’s voiced by someone who knows the difference.

“Nick Pillegi, the writer of ‘Casino’ and ‘Goodfellas’. He narrates the film.”

“People like movies about the mob because they are life writ large,” says Pillegi in the voiceover.

The author collaborated with director Martin Scorsese on the ‘Casino’ screenplay, which was brought to life using former Las Vegas mobster Frank Cullotta as a technical advisor.

“And Marty Realizes that Frank Cullotta had actually done the murder,” says Pileggi, referring to a hit fictionalized in the movie. “He had been given immunity and was able to skate on a homicide. So Marty got rid of the actor, got Frank Cullotta to dress and said ‘You do it’.”

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The display also has artifacts from the most famous mob movie of all time.

“An original script from the Godfather that was used by the special effects team,” says Schumacher. “And so when you look through the script, you can see where there are hand-written notes. ‘Well we need blood here, and we need a special effect here’."

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If there is an over-arching theme to the exhibit, it's summed up by a man whose Las Vegas mob associations nearly cost him his life.

“[Frank] ‘Lefty’ Rosenthal used to say that the American Dream is great wealth with no work.” Narrates Pillegi. “That's the dream of the gangster movie.”

After surviving a 1982 car bombing in Las Vegas, Rosenthal died of natural causes in 2008. Frank Cullotta still lives in Las Vegas more than three decades after being targeted for a contract hit when he turned federal informant.

The Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement (the “Mob Museum”) is located on Stewart at 3rd Street in downtown Las Vegas. Locals receive a discount with Nevada ID.

Information about the exhibit can be found at themobmuseum.org.

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