"When The Mob Ran Vegas"
played to a full house
The old mobsters are spinning
graves over what Vegas has
INSIDE VEGAS photo by Mike Christ
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
January 14, 2013
LAS VEGAS - An elderly man pushed his way
to the front of the overflow line. "Do you know who I am?" Nobody knew
who he was, but his over confident demeanor indicated he expected to get
his way in Sin City. The lady holding the curtain advised him and his entourage
to go to the theater downstairs. I expected the man to try to slip her
a couple of $100 bills which would have gotten him a ringside table in
any main showroom three decades ago, but he knew that wouldn't work in
this setting and he stormed away.
On that icy cold Tuesday evening, a line
had formed outside the Flamingo Road branch of the Las Vegas - Clark County
Library starting at 5 PM. An eclectic gathering of Las Vegas types
stood in line impatiently waiting for one of the 450 first come, first
served seats for the 7 PM event.
It was night-one of Mob Month's second
year, an event held every Tuesday in January to preserve the memory of
the infamous people who built Las Vegas - whether they deserved the honor
or not. (Only in Vegas!) Based on my eleven years writing for AmericanMafia.com
and 52 year history in Vegas, I was invited to be on the first panel of
this year's event.
(On Tuesday, January 15, "Hole In The Wall"
gang member Frank Cullota will be on a panel with the agents who busted
him. Cullota once said that the gang run by Tony Spilotro planned their
heists in the conference room of Oscar Goodman's law firm. It's uncertain
if he will repeat that allegation on Tuesday.)
At 7 PM, event organizer Julie Okabayashi
and her staff shut the curtain at the door and announced there were no
more seats available in the auditorium, but seats were available in the
downstairs movie theater where a big screen TV was being set up so another
100 could view the now delayed "When The Mob Ran Vegas," an event that
was supposed to tell about a time when Las Vegas was much different than
it is today. A time when the skim was the only crime, and the Mob who perpetuated
the skim wanted to keep Vegas on a low profile in the eyes of the feds
. An era before crooked
strip clubs, pay day loan stores, drugs, human
sex slave trafficking, escort
bureaus, street walkers and pimps.
At 7:20, panel moderator Cathy
Scott opened the discussion. She gave her personal background including
her years as a police reporter and author of four best selling novels about
organized crime. She then gave background on each of the scheduled speakers.
Several minutes into the program, we were joined on stage by an unannounced
panelist, Amy Hanley, daughter of Wendy Mazaros and one of the stars of
the new reality TV program Sin City Rules (second from right).
Within several minutes it was clear that
Wendy and Amy were on a mission to tell the story of Tom Hanley, Wendy's
late husband and Amy's biological father.
After author Elaine McNamara and I talked
about the better old days, and Cathy told the sad story of Susan Berman,
one of my classmates at Las Vegas High, it didn't take long for the discussion
to turn from how the original Mob kept our town safe and clean, and how
locals didn't need to lock their doors, to a time when a new Mob fought
for power on the Strip and within the powerful unions.
Tom Hanley was a union hit man, and his
widow and daughter spoke in detail about the men he murdered in his decade
long Vegas history. As her Mom spoke, Amy would whisper reminders into
her ear. Much of what Wendy told us was new information and could have
helped police in the 1970's to find and convict Tom Hanley and his accomplices,
but at the time Wendy refused to cooperate.
Wendy described how her husband killed
Ralph and Don Alsup, two of his henchmen who he feared would testify against
I told of how I knew the Alsups when they
were teenagers. That they were my eyes and ears at our rock concerts and
the Teenbeat Club.
How the Alsups would let me know who broke the rules or jeopardized our
license. Wendy asked if they "snitched" on the other kids? I answered yes,
and that I comped them and their friends for their help. Now I know how
the Alsups died, and I guess I inadvertently confirmed Tom Hanley's suspicion
on why he needed to whack them.
One of the men Hanley killed was union
boss Al Bramlet who I had once presented the Opportunity
Village Man of the Year award.
Wendy's revelation that her husband murdered
Bramlet gave me an opening to ask, "How many more of my old customers or
people I gave the OV Man Of The Year Award to did your husband kill?" which
added some much needed comic relief.
The audience soon learned that Wendy fully
knew what her husband was doing for a living. In fact, he offered
to teach her how to be an assassin but she didn't show an inclination so
Tom dropped the plan. Luckily, Amy was still in diapers at the time or
Tom might have created a killing team like no other!
Later that evening, I did some research
and found the one hour documentary "In the Company of Killers" produced
in 2001 by KLAS TV award-winning investigative reporter George Knapp.
The documentary has been preserved on two
videos. I highly recommend that you watch it to learn the consequences
our city suffered after the Kinder and Gentler Mob died off and guys like
Hanley became active:
PART ONE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xhe8TLEqRYw
PART TWO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ro_h__7KuWU
Hanley and his cronies couldn't have remained
in business here unless they had connections, and I revealed who their
attorney and his judge were in last
week's INSIDE VEGAS.
Oscar Goodman was a man who later would
rise to great prominence in the new, crime ridden Las Vegas. With
his help, a "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign could have been erected on I-15
beckoning small time criminals to our city. Impeached Judge Harry Claiborne
would take his own life and die a disgraced man. With their help, street
level crime took hold in our city.
The most emotional moment of the evening
came when Cathy Scott asked Wendy how she met Tom Hanley, a man forty years
With her lips quivering, Wendy told of
a night in the late 1960's when she was a troubled 15 year old. Her
parents had given up trying to control her and decided to have her committed
to Child Haven, a juvenile detention facility in downtown Las Vegas.
Wendy said that she knew the late Ted Binion
in his early years, and when her father stopped for a red light at Main
and Charleston, she jumped out of the car and ran to the Horseshoe Club
where she said Binion took her in and protected her from her parents.
As the weeks rolled by, Wendy said Binion
gave her cocaine to keep her awake and let the 15 year old girl stand next
to high rollers while they gambled as a "good luck charm." One of those
gamblers was Tom Hanley who she said did hits for Ted's father Benny Binion.
Wendy said she returned home briefly after
her stay at the Horseshoe, but soon after turning 18, ran off to marry
Amy Hanley told the audience that she didn't
know her father because he died when she was three. Amy described Wendy's
next husband Robert
Peoples as the man who raised her. Coincidentally, Peoples was also
a Mob hit man.
As the evening came to a close, I again
was convinced that in Vegas, truth is stranger than fiction.
After the event, I mingled with members
of the audience including John
Flood, a former Chicago cop and member of the Chicago Crime Commission,
and the legendary Bernie
Sindler, now 88, the last surviving associate of ?Bugsy" Siegel,
Moe Dalitz, and Meyer Lansky.
Somehow I felt the presence of Siegal,
Dalitz, and Lansky throughout the evening. If they were there, they would
have in no certain terms let the present day Vegas Mob know their displeasure
for bringing murder, street crime, and danger to our town, its tourists,
Availability of videos to be announced soon on this LINK