As you step out of the taxi onto East Stewart Ave situated in the older part of Las Vegas, the one thing that hits you straight in the face is an incredible silence. Having just driven up from ‘the strip’ where continual noise bombardment sometimes becomes intolerable, this is paradise. Surrounded by older buildings, some in desperate need of renovation, some already renovated, it was abundantly clear to me that this part of Vegas was where the ‘poorer’ people came to gamble, and also to stay. With hotels dating back 50 years or more and streets that felt like they belonged in the wild west, not modern-day Vegas, I was amazed to see a line, longer than that at any casino buffet I’d visited, spread some 200 meters down a sidewalk that was littered with the smell of gangsters, both past and present. Yes, here I was, outside the famous, or should I say infamous, Mob Museum of Las Vegas.
Lansky, Siegel, et al, captured within these very walls, walls I was about to explore and to enjoy, but first I had to navigate this inconceivable line that I hadn’t planned for nor expected. I was grateful to have purchased tickets in advance and with one foul swoop, I exposed my Press pass to the lady at the end of the line and was immediately ushered inside the front door and ahead of all who were left gazing at me from street level. It’s amazing what an accent and a Press pass can actually achieve.
I had been told by a friend that her father spent hours meandering through this museum, and although at first glance the building itself didn’t look that large, my excitement had my mind raring to go and as soon as my wrist band was attached, I was off! I had been informed that the line outside was because it was Valentines Day and that massacre we all know about, depicted in movies and documentaries, was being celebrated this very morning, along with demonstrations by an FBI weapons expert on how a Tommy Gun used in that very same massacre was preserved and then restored into full working order. How exciting, especially if you are a would be criminal! I just couldn’t wait. After all, what man in his right mind wouldn’t want to fire a used Tommy gun? Ah, the second amendment! Pure heaven!!
And so off I went, inside an elevator taking me to straight the top floor, which was number three to be exact, where the exhibition began and then meandered downwards towards the lobby and that inevitable gift shop we always have to endure as we exit any theme park or museum on the planet.
With so many others joining in on this Valentines day, it was a priority for me to get in front of the mob, ( get it??), and into pole position inside the exhibit hall. I didn’t want to be stuck behind some know-all who read every word on every board. You know that type? Lip reading until they need Blistex! To do this required serious stealth and navigation skills along with a desire to win a race that no one else wanted to lose. I was out, free, and ready to barge into anyone I didn’t care for or who just got in my way! The first corner came easily, passing at least 20 of my new-found foe. I was on a roll. And then, just around that next bend, where a picture of Sinatra, Moretti and Tarantino came ever so close to being toppled by my unsociable vortex, there it was! Right in front of me. THE electric chair, or at least a version of it. In the flesh, close up and ready for use. So, why not give it a spin? And I did, quickly, but with just enough hesitation to not only take the picture above, but to also feel panic in my wee breastie, that this antique had actually fried more than one despicable criminal. Imagining what it might be like to be sitting there watched by 20 or so friends, family and haters, brought chills to my whole body. But, in the flash of another camera’s lens and the desire to be out of here before the first Tommy gun bullet could be fired, I was up and running once again, heading right towards the stairwell that would take me down one level and without a doubt, a massive stones throw away from anyone who might have the same inclination as I, to finish first!
The second floor was all about the FBI and with the crowd still upstairs, the coast was clear for me to zoom round without hesitation and fear of being trapped. Within 10 minutes I was on the ground floor and headed straight for that dreaded gift shop. I purchased a great book filed with Mob humor, signed by the author and after entering the building at 10 15 am, finally made my way outside, fully satisfied that my mission had been accomplished, at 11 am. 45 minutes to go from top to bottom. 45 minutes that could have probably been 30 if the crowds had been thinner on that top floor and I hadn’t stopped to buy the book. Once you’ve seen Al Capone lying dead in one picture, you’ve seen them all. No need to wander or indeed dawdle, just get in and get out and get back to reality.
Reality came in the form of Chris and Jane. See picture below. They were doing their best to celebrate Valentines day in as flamboyant a way as their fruit and veg stall at the Farmers market would allow. Not married, not divorced and not even dating, their purpose? Well they had decided that if they couldn’t get to the Mob museum for the free champagne and Tommy gun demo, then they would portray their own version of Bonnie and Clyde live and in person and for the whole world to laugh at. After all, this was Vegas and Elvis, along with about a thousand other dead Mafioso, had definitely left the building! If you do end up visiting Vegas and have any incline to go see that the Mob used to rule, be prepared for a short trip and certainly not a full day out. Perhaps you too can go dressed like Chris and Jane and perhaps you too will end up on that wall of infamy!