LAS VEGAS (CBSLA.com) — From mob lawyer to Las Vegas mayor, Oscar Goodman’s life is the stuff of legends.
The 74-year-old opened up to CBS2’s Suzanne Marques about his first love – Las Vegas – and how he spearheaded the change that made the city into what it is today.
The former mayor made a made a name for himself representing some of the mob’s most notorious crime bosses, including Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal and Tony “The Ant” Spilotro.
“I was always representing the underdog. As one of my clients Tony Spilotro once said when he read the indictment and it said “Tony Spilotro v U.S.”, “What kind of odds are those?”
In a town built on odds, Goodman took a gamble earning the trust of those clients.
On the way, he had his share of run-ins with former sheriff Ralph Lamb.
“The sheriff was a very interesting fella; he spoke very softly but, like E.F. Hutton, you listened,” said Goodman, citing a stock brokerage firm’s ad from the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Goodman and Lamb butt heads from time to time.
At one point, the former mayor filed a lawsuit against the sheriff on behalf of his former clients.
The door of Goodman’s office today reads “Hizzhonor”. His card is a $100 casino chip.
The former lawyer and mayor now owns “Oscar’s” steakhouse inside the Plaza Hotel. He has been conducting business the same way for years, on a throne and without a computer, from behind the bar.
Goodman came to Las Vegas in 1964 with nearly $90 in his pocket.
“You talked about coming to town and seeing tumbleweeds. We didn’t have the fancy freeways; it was just a two-lane road,” Goodman said.
Today that two-lane road is more than just a city of sin, with nearly 700,000 people calling Vegas their home.
Goodman was a visionary politician who saw Las Vegas like no one had before. During his 12 years as mayor, Goodman helped transform the city into its current status as an entertainment landmark.
“Time took us to the right places. We had the wonderful years when I was the mayor, and everything we touched turned to gold,” Goodman said.
With that gold, Hollywood and dignitaries came calling.
“We had President Carter come to town. After breakfast he was deluged with people,” Goodman said.
“President Obama said some unfortunate things about Las Vegas…not exactly buddies in that one,” Goodman said.
Goodman always has a glass of gin by his side, and a laugh playing upon his mouth.
“Let’s put it this way: life is short and I have never taken myself seriously. I have taken my work seriously as a lawyer, protecting people’s lives and freedom, and I took my job as mayor seriously, but I was always able to be self-deprecating and laugh at my own jokes,” Goodman said.
In 2011, Goodman left political office.
He is currently penning a memoir of his life.