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Last days of Oscar’s reign

On the 10th floor of Las Vegas City Hall, Mayor Oscar Goodman’s staff shoos him out the door for his next appearance.

It’s his final luncheon with the Clark County Bar Association as the mayor of Las Vegas. Someone makes the mistake of calling it his “last.”

“Last? Last?!?,” he asks in disbelief. “Everyone’s talking about it’s my last this or my last that. It’s not like I’m dying or anything.”

Discussing the quickly approaching end of his 12-year reign as the “World’s Happiest Mayor” is, understandably, a touchy subject. He gets a bit emotional. After all, he swears in the new mayor July 6.

When the 71-year-old talks about what’s in store for his “future life,” he makes it clear he has to be busy, even if he needs two or three jobs, to stay as active as he has been in office.

“I’m concerned that if I’m not busy in my next life, that could lead to a little depression,” he admits. “I honestly believe this job has kept me very young. If I had large periods of time where I wasn’t doing something, that would make me very uneasy.”

As he strolls through the office, Goodman slows his pace — much to the dismay of his staffers — to point out the truckloads of memorabilia hanging on the walls. There are photos with presidents and dignitaries, autographed footballs, helmets and large canvasses with his likeness hand-painted from artists around the globe.

Neon signs made to look like the classic “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign bear his name.

“It’s a rare art form, when you think about it,” Goodman told a group gathered to celebrate the opening of the new park at the Neon Boneyard that morning. “New Orleans has jazz, and Las Vegas has neon.”

His office resembles a museum full of artifacts from his time as mayor and as the mob lawyer. A fake horse head sits on a couch in the back of the office. A large, black rat is propped on its cushions.

And there are more tchotchkes where this came from –16 boxes are stored somewhere in the underbelly of City Hall, Goodman added.

The mayor jokes about how his wife won’t allow him to bring most of the items home, however; some of them will go to auction. The more important material will probably head into a new office with the convention authority — if he has a job there, he quickly explains — as a promoter for Las Vegas.

He steps into the elevator and chats about fishing in Alaska. Someone points out that his long “antennae hair” is sticking straight up. Goodman sighs, pulls out a black plastic comb and smooths down the rebellious hair.

He clambers into a white Suburban with dark-tinted windows, and it’s down Interstate 15 to head to the luncheon at Morton’s — a fancy steakhouse near the Strip.

“I won’t eat anyway,” Goodman explains. “I don’t eat breakfast, and I don’t eat lunch. That’s from my old lawyer days. I’ve always had a bit of a nervous stomach. I found that if I ate lunch it would make me tired, and I wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be.”

So, basically, the first thing that “touches my innards,” is gin around 5 p.m., as long as he isn’t working, Goodman said. And it’s always a late dinner.

He gets out of the truck only to be told that the stubborn hair is standing up. Again. Goodman grumbles as he fights to keep the stray hair down and heads inside the restaurant, shaking hands and schmoozing along the way.

The mayor gives an annual speech to the county’s bar association to recap the city’s achievements. This year’s speech included the developments in and around Symphony Park, the economic boom on East Fremont Street and in the Arts District and the welcoming of Zappos.

He’s not a legacy type of guy, he says, but he thinks people will remember him the most for the revitalization of downtown. He’s still trying to lure that professional sports team and arena to the valley.

Hopefully, in Symphony Park, he added.

Then, Goodman talked about the opening of the Mob Museum, which is pushed back to Feb. 14, commenting on how he wanted to “take the contractors (out back) and shoot them” because of the project’s delay. The new scheduled opening date coincides with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Not surprisingly, this came from the man who suggested cutting the thumbs off graffiti artists caught tagging city property.

After the luncheon, Goodman returns to the Suburban to head back to City Hall. It’s at this moment he realizes he has forgotten a gift of expensive cigars someone gave him the day before.

Goodman pulls out a Samsung flip phone and dials his wife’s number by memory. It doesn’t appear that any numbers are in the phone’s directory. After a quick conversation, he hangs up dissatisfied, and the mysterious case of the missing expensive cigars continues.

Now, it’s story time.

He reminisces about the time about five years ago when he read to a group of fourth-graders. One of them asked that infamous question, “What would you do if you were on a desert island by yourself in the middle of the ocean? What would you want to have with you?”

“So I said, ‘A bottle of gin,’ ” said Goodman, who is contracted with Bombay Sapphire. “The teachers all thanked me for being there and said they couldn’t wait to have me read again next year. Then, I get back to my office, and they’re in a tizzy.”

Someone had called the media.

“Those fourth-graders wouldn’t know a bottle of gin if they fell over one,” Goodman said, laughing. “But somebody had to be pretty mean-spirited to drop the dime on me. … I think some of those kids now might be of drinking age.”

He tells stories “I haven’t told anyone before.”

His former clients, reputed mobsters, cut off all contact. They won’t pick up the phone for fear they would “interfere or cause embarrassment” to this part of Goodman’s life.

“If they’d call me I’d certainly talk to them,” he said. “I would never deny a relationship to someone who has been good to me no matter how bad other people think they are. The day I was elected mayor they stopped dealing with me, stopped talking to me, stopped being a part of my life.”

When it comes to leaving office, Goodman finds himself too emotionally invested to fully prepare for that day.

“It will be very, very difficult not to have that adulation,” Goodman said. “I’ve been treated like royalty wherever I go. It’s almost like a narcotic. You get used to it, and when it’s not there you miss it. It can’t be replicated by anything else other than being the mayor of Las Vegas.”

Contact Downtown and North Las Vegas View reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@viewnews.com or 383-0492.

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