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Oscar Goodman’s glow infuses Beef, Booze, Broads

The blond hostess at Oscar’s steakhouse is what polite Vegas guys once euphemistically called statuesque.

That’s statuesque, as in showgirls and bombshells, and va-va-va-voom. There’s a good reason the restaurant and bar flies under the tag line : Beef, Booze, Broads.

“I’m Antoinette,” she purrs. “I’m one of Oscar’s broads.”

I remember you. You almost got Roger Rabbit killed.

“You’re not bad, you’re just drawn that way,” I mutter to myself as a gaggle of media types angles toward the free booze on press night.

Antoinette is one highlight of my brief visit to the restaurant and bar that bears former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman’s name inside the new-look Plaza downtown.

“The only ones who don’t love these girls are envious,” Goodman says, attempting to wave away all possible controversies over his choice of tag lines for his business and the quaint notion that feminists and Alan Alda knockoffs might take offense at an establishment featuring a bevy of buxom hostesses.

For those who haven’t set foot in the Plaza recently — and you can’t be blamed for that — Oscar’s is located in the space first occupied by the rooftop pool at the hotel-casino located at 1 Main St. Simpatico, his top-shelf bar, once served as the pool’s clubhouse. The space later evolved into the Center Stage Restaurant, and more recently was the downtown home of the Spanish-themed Firefly restaurant.

When the new operators of the Plaza began polishing the careworn casino and upgrading the rooms, the dilemma was in deciding what to do with a restaurant space that just happens to feature one of the best views in all Las Vegas. For all the Plaza is not, this space has real marquee value and carries the potential of a “wow” experience on a visit to evolving Fremont Street.

Goodman, the immensely popular three-term mayor, spent a majority of his dozen years in office speculating on where he might open a restaurant and speakeasy downtown. His decision to choose the Plaza might have surprised some — especially considering he once suggested the hotel be imploded to create a gateway to the 61-acre heart of his redevelopment dream — but it’s hard to argue with that view and the potential of the place.

On press night, Goodman and his classy replacement at City Hall, Mayor Carolyn Goodman, play the gracious host and hostess and are interrupted constantly by fans and satisfied customers who were impressed by their steaks, lobsters, and service. If they’re shills, they’re pros.

As the new mayor works the crowd, she passes out personalized gaming chips of the sort her flamboyant husband made famous. Along the way, she rattles off downtown redevelopment plans like a seasoned political pro and invites everyone to watch the latest developments at the Neon Museum.

While she acknowledges that she’ll never match her husband in the flesh-pressing comic one-liners department , it’s becoming clear that she’s increasingly comfortable with her mayoral duties.

In keeping with his reputation as a connoisseur of Bombay Sapphire gin, Goodman keeps an office behind the bar. Whether he maintains office hours or merely Happy Hour remains to be seen.

As Scorsese’s “Casino” plays on television sets in the bar, and ironically reaches the point in the gangster picture that features a cameo by a certain former mob attorney, Goodman raises his martini glass to his customers. In a few years he’s transformed himself from notorious attorney for killers to beloved mayor and now to three-olive restaurateur.

Between the two Goodmans, Antoinette and her fellow hostesses are nearly lost in the crowd.

Out of one eye, I think I see Rod Serling standing off in the corner of Oscar’s place, smiling and shaking his head at this surreal city.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.

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