Las Vegas Mob Museum Update

From our friends at the Las Vegas Review Journal comes this update on the Mob Museum:

The first rule of the Mob Museum is do not talk about the Mob Museum.

In fact, you must deny the Mob Museum exists.

Technically, of course, it doesn't. The museum -- formally called the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement -- starts construction in the fall and has a planned opening date in 2010.

But the city of Las Vegas is now ready with a branding strategy and marketing plan that turns a federal penchant for redacting interesting information into an advertising hook.

("Redacting" is Washington-speak for "crossing out." Pass it on.)

So the logo has the words "The Mob Museum" with the word "mob" almost completely blacked out. The formal name is surrounded by thick black lines, and the museum's Web site catchphrase is, "The only museum where you can say you didn't see anything."

On Wednesday, City Council members also received T-shirts that said, "There is no such thing as a Mob Museum nor have I ever been there."

A Pittsburgh firm called Wall-to-Wall Studios came up with the plan. Company founder James Nesbitt said it is "a good balance between law enforcement and organized crime, and injects a sense of wit."

"Only in Las Vegas do you have the gumption to mark out the main name of the museum," Nesbitt said.

The museum will be in the historic post office building on Stewart Avenue next to City Hall. The building was also Las Vegas' first federal courthouse and the site of a hearing on organized crime in 1950 held by U.S. Sen. C. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee.

Planned exhibits include Las Vegas' development during the days of Prohibition and bootlegging, the influx of organized crime and how organized crime operations across the country were connected.

The FBI has promised to lend archived evidence and artifacts for the displays, and the search is on for other memorabilia, said Bob Stoldal, who's working with 300 Stewart Avenue Corp., the nonprofit that will operate the museum for the city.

"Organized crime was not known for keeping good records, but I'm sure there's still something out there," he said.

The $50 million project has long been championed by Mayor Oscar Goodman, who was an attorney for many organized crime figures in his pre-mayoral career and even played himself in the mob epic "Casino."

Stoldal revealed that Goodman has a collection of courtroom drawings from his trials, and the mayor confirmed that he has other material that will be part of the museum's exhibits.

"I can promise you there will be some personal memorabilia in the museum," he said. "I didn't realize how much I really had. It's stacked up in a warehouse."

His past led to some cracks at the mayor's expense.

When mob memorabilia came up, Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian said, "Does that mean the mayor's going to clean out his garage?"

Councilman Larry Brown chimed in: "Why don't you just do an illegal search and seizure?"

For his part, Goodman played the good lawyer and maintained deniability.

"For 35 years, I was representing 'reputed' people," said Goodman, pretending to be grouchy. "There is no such thing as 'the mob.' "

The museum is being paid for with $7 million in local, state and federal grants, $8 million in city funds and $35 million in bonds from the city's Redevelopment Agency. The goal is to time the museum's opening with the reopening of the Lady Luck next door.