Mafia tales always a hit at annual Mob Month


Former wiseguys and G-men plan to join forces for Mob Month at the Clark County Library every Tuesday in January beginning Jan. 8.

The library, 1401 E. Flamingo Road, is playing host for the popular event for the fourth year.

"These events have been very popular with our audience," said Julie Okabayashi, scheduling specialist for the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District. "People like to reminisce, and I'd guess if you polled the audience, you would find that the majority liked Vegas better when the mob was in charge."

Plans include panel discussions with former mobsters, law enforcement, authors, historians and other witnesses to the mob's rise to power in the 20th century, including question-and-answer sessions and book signings.

The annual event began when Henry Hill, a mobster-turned-FBI informant whose escapades became the inspiration for the movie "Goodfellas," came to the library with the idea of telling people the real stories behind the mob's chokehold on Las Vegas.

Hill died in June, and the Clark County Library plans to honor the "goodfella" during the Jan. 22 event. Ex-mobster-turned-author, actor and film producer Sal Polisi plans to talk about his relationship with Hill and show an interview he conducted with Hill days before his death.

"We want to shine a spotlight on his life," Okabayashi said. "His was the typical life of a wiseguy and demonstrates what attracted so many young men to the lifestyle."

The Jan. 8 panel discussion, titled "When the Mob Ran Vegas," is scheduled to feature former Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Miller, former Las Vegas Sun reporter and true crime author Cathy Scott and mob wife and author Wendy Mazaros, among others.

"It's an interesting part of Las Vegas history, a history that people are fascinated with," said Scott, author of "Murder of a Mafia Daughter: The Life and Tragic Death of Susan Berman." "There are a lot of unique stories that came out of Las Vegas, and we get to talk about them."

The mob shared an interesting relationship with the people of Las Vegas, Scott said.

"All of the mobsters had their names in the phone book. They lived among the people," she said. "The city knew the mob was here, knew who they were. Their kids went to the same schools as everyone else's."

"The IRS vs. the Chicago Outfit" discussion, scheduled for Jan. 15, is set to feature former Chicago mob associates Frank Cullotta, Tony Montana and author Dennis Griffin, along with current and retired agents from the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation division.

The panel plans to talk about "what really happened and how Hollywood got it wrong." Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith is scheduled to moderate.

"IRS Criminal played such a key role in combating organized crime, but Hollywood may not portray as much," said Paul Camacho, the special agent in charge of the IRS's Criminal Investigation division in Las Vegas. "These are stories of great leadership."

Camacho added that it was the mobsters' tax evasion that brought them down, not so much the other criminal acts.

"We turned their greed trail into their Achilles' heel," he said. "We became very good at that. The impact of our work can be seen today. Because of the IRS, the mob had to change the way they operate."

Former Clark County Sheriff Ralph Lamb, whose experiences are being dramatized in the new CBS television series "Vegas," and special guests plan to share stories of his time in office, memorable encounters with the Hells Angels and Chicago gangster Johnny Rosselli and Lamb's involvement as a technical adviser on the TV show during the discussion scheduled for Jan. 29 titled "When the Law Kicked the Mob Out of Vegas."

"This year has really been exciting for us," Okabayashi said. "We just wanted to push the envelope a little more. It's always best to hear it from the people who lived it. That's priceless."

The Clark County Library box office is scheduled to open an hour before each week's event at 6 p.m. to hand out free admission wristbands. All seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

All Mob Month events are intended for mature audiences. For more information, call 702-507-3458 or visit lvccld.org.

Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Nolan Lister at nlister@viewnews.com or 702-383-0492.