Thursday, June 10, 2010 | midnight
Those artists from Visioneering Studios are wizards with “experiential” imagery.
They’re pretty fair with words, too.
“The gangster ghosts will be the hosts,” Visioneering Studios President Mel McGowan said Tuesday morning during a news conference formally announcing that the long-discussed Mob Experience would indeed be moving into the Tropicana by the end of this year.
Visioneering and Plain Joe Studios are the two outfits bringing members of “The Outfit,” to life. Having specialized in such attractions as Downtown Disney and Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim, Calif., Visioneering is teaming with interactive display company Plain Joe Studios developing the eerily real-life 3D holograms of such long-deceased mob figures as Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Tony “The Ant” Spilotro.
“We’ll have these figures address the visitors directly,” said Jay Bloom, whose real estate investment company, Eagle Group Holdings, owns Murder Inc., the company financing the Mob Experience. “We’ll have Benjamin Siegel approach you and say, “Hello, John from California …”
Not yet ready to unveil these resurrected, largely notorious figures of organized crime, Mob Experience officials did offer a collection of their real-life descendants. On hand to be seen (but not yet heard) were: Millicent Rosen, daughter of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel; Meyer Lansky II, grandson of Meyer Lansky, and Cynthia Duncan, who was raised as Lansky’s granddaughter but is technically his step-granddaughter. Antoinette Giancana, daughter of Sam Giancana, was also there and so were: Nancy Spilotro, who was married to Tony Spilotro; Vincent Spilotro, the only son of Tony Spilotro; and Janice Sachs, who was married to former Tropicana investor and Stardust president Allan Sachs.
Officials refer to them as the “dream team” of the mob culture. They turned up to pose together on a red carpet, having been dispatched to the Tropicana pavilion area by way of stretch limousine, and left as they had arrived: smiling for the cameras.
“They have provided us more than 1,000 artifacts, many of them jaw-dropping,” Bloom said. He held up as an example the diary of Lansky, a longtime partner of Siegel’s and the statistical mastermind behind the National Syndicate’s financial empire. Lansky’s journal was jotted into four notebooks, 200 pages in all, and was displayed under a glass case at Tuesday’s event.
“It’s fascinating reading,” Bloom promised. Also displayed were bow ties worn by Lansky; a .38-caliber pistol once belonging to Spilotro, color photos of Tony and Vincent during Vincent’s youth; a small transistor radio given to Sam Giancana from a person described as a young female companion, a pen Jimmy Durante gave to Giancana; and a handwritten letters penned by Siegel and Giancana.
Visitors will embark on a walking tour that will feature three “acts” depicting mob history: its rise, heyday and decline. The tour will allow visitors to make decisions along the way, and at the end you’re either “made” or “whacked.” The saunter through the mob universe is a delicate balance, as McGowan reminded, between “glorification and horrification.”
In competition with the $42 million Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement in downtown Las Vegas, Mob Experience officials are energetically recruiting business on the Strip. Three decommissioned, restored prison buses were parked in the 25,000-square-foot space where the Mob Experience will be housed. These lumbering rigs will be driven to 15 stops along the Strip to pick up and deliver to the Trop anyone who wants to visit to the attraction.
There will be a means of ticketing passengers for the walking tour even before they arrive at the hotel, and the buses will run from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.
“We’ve thought of everything,” said Bloom, whose partners in the project are Louis Ventre, a New York stockbroker and associate of Bloom’s for 14 years, and longtime Las Vegas resort executive Michael Unger, whose casino management resume includes stops at the Aladdin, Dunes, Frontier, Showboat and Caesars Palace.
The Mob Experience is one segment of Tropicana’s $165 million makeover, which is an ongoing process that won’t likely be completed until next year.
The mob attraction takes up half the Trop pavilion area. The remainder will still be open for other events, ranging from sports to gatherings of business people wearing lanyards.
“We plan to continue to have boxing events and trade shows here,” Tropicana President Tom McCartney said after the news conference. “We plan to use all 50,000 square feet of this space.”
In his earlier comments from the podium, McCartney sounded like anything but a “made” guy.
“I’m a grandfather,” he said, “but I’m not a Godfather.”
Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.