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September 19, 2019

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Oscar Goodman saddened at the death of his friend and mentor Arlen Specter

The D Las Vegas: Grand Opening Party

Tom Donoghue/

The grand opening of the D Las Vegas with owner Derek Stevens, left, Mayor Carolyn Goodman, former Mayor Oscar Goodman, right, and Prince impersonator Jason Tenner in downtown Las Vegas on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012.

Oscar Goodman

Oscar Goodman sits in a booth at his Oscar’s Beef Booze & Broads steakhouse at the Plaza on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011, in downtown Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Oscar Goodman remembers not liking his intensive studies at the University of Pennsylvania law school too much. But he liked having to live off his new wife, Carolyn, while attending college even less.

So Goodman sought work in his chosen profession and walked into the District Attorney’s Office in his hometown of Philadelphia. The young law student was directed to the man who would help shape his career.

Arlen Specter.

In the years he studied at Penn and before making his oft-referenced move to “the land of milk and honey” of Las Vegas, Goodman was an aide in the office of Specter, who was then the Philadelphia assistant district attorney.

Goodman was saddened to learn of the death of his longtime friend and onetime mentor this morning. Specter died this morning of cancer, from which he had suffered for seven years. He was 82.

Goodman tried reaching Specter about four weeks ago to check in on Specter’s health. The former Republican senator, who would shift party affiliation in 2009, announced in August that he was suffering from a recurrence of non-Hodgkins lymphoma and had undergone treatment in Philadelphia to fight the disease. Goodman spoke to an associate of Specter, but the two never connected.

“I am very sad to hear about this,” Goodman said in a phone conversation this morning. “I met Arlen when I was in law school, and I just wanted to earn a little bit of money because Carolyn had been supporting me. I walked in cold to the D.A. office in Philadelphia, and they told me to talk to Arlen Specter.”

The two chatted, and Goodman was hired “on the spot” for an entry-level, 40-hour-a-week job that paid $1 an hour.

“Arlen was brilliant, he was a Yale graduate and very, very smart and meticulous in the way he prepared his work product,” Goodman recalled. “He taught me research techniques that nobody was using at the time.”

Those techniques, drilling deep into legal documents to find cases that would support arguments being made by the D.A.’s Office, would become a hallmark of Goodman’s career.

If Goodman had not teamed with Specter, it is unlikely he would have ever moved to Las Vegas. Goodman was assigned to investigate a murder of a wealthy widow who was slain in Philadelphia, and the accused took $3,000 in cash taken from under the victim’s mattress to launder at a Las Vegas craps table.

This was in early 1964. Goodman returned to his wife and asked the famous question, “Do you want to move to the land of milk and honey?” and Carolyn responded that she was not interested in moving to Israel.

The next year, the couple made the cross-country trek.

“I ran into Arlen years later, and he told a different version of that story,” Goodman said, chuckling. “He said I came out to Las Vegas to find that money and never came back.”

Goodman said the two kept in frequent contact despite the distance.

“I always felt there was a fatherly quality to our friendship,” Goodman said, though the two were not far apart in age (Goodman is 73). “Arlen always made sure I had my work done, that the work product was right on target. It was a lot of work at the time, very hard work when you are going through it at the time, and he was a stern taskmaster. But he was very much responsible for instilling the work ethic I used throughout my career.

“We were separated by 3,000 miles, but he visited our house when he came to Las Vegas. He was very special to me.”

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