Saturday, May 25, 2013 | 7:10 p.m.
John Katsilometes and Tricia McCrone talk to former Mayor Oscar Goodman about his new book, "Being Oscar."
The second part of John Katsilometes and Tricia McCrone's chat with former Mayor Oscar Goodman about his new book, "Being Oscar."
Oscar Goodman at The Mob Museum/Richard Corey
Oscar Goodman returned Thursday afternoon just in time to attend the first of a series of media events to promote his new book “Being Oscar.”
In this case, “Being Oscar” means he showed up just as the 5 p.m. book signing at the Plaza restaurant boasting his name and image, Oscar's Beef Booze & Broads, was to begin.
“I didn’t even have time to shower,” he said before signing about 200 books for those waiting in line, a group that included Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority chief Rossi Ralenkotter.
While in New York, the Goodmans (his wife, Mayor Carolyn Goodman) also attended a performance of “Book of Mormon” at Eugene O’Neill Theater. “I loved it,” he says, “but the guy sitting next to Carolyn must have been a church elder. He sat there with his arms folded the whole time and didn’t laugh once.” The Goodmans also ate dinner at Daniel, Daniel Boulud’s restaurant in New York. The Goodmans had no reservations to dine there, but Oscar called over to say he was a friend of Boulud’s, having met him in Las Vegas once at a Vegas Uncork’d event.
“We had no reservations,” Oscar says, “but we had the best seats in the place.”
Today, Goodman led a half-hour bus tour of Downtown Las Vegas, pointing out all the development of which he is so proud (The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health) and also noting a man sleeping on a bus stop bench. “Well, there’s our homeless,” he barked into the microphone.
In the afternoon, he helped judge an Oscar lookalike contest. One of those recruited to review the contestants was onetime Tony Spilotro confidant Joseph Cusumano. Cusumano is still listed in Nevada’s “Black Book” of individuals banned by the state’s casinos. That means Cusumano is permitted to participate in promotional functions at The Mob Museum but not at such events as Goodman’s book signing around the corner at the Plaza. This is one of the many ironies in Goodman’s world today.
Before any of that transpired, the ex-mayor and current author sat for the first of a two-part interview on “Kats With the Dish” on KUNV 91.5-FM. The two shows have aired, the first at 7 a.m. May 14 and the second Friday morning. Those two shows are linked in atop this column. Highlights of Part 1:
On why he chose to write “Being Oscar” now:
“There are a lot of different reasons why I chose to write it. One, my wife said, ‘You have so many stories, why don’t you tell them?’ Two, with my job as the chairman of the Host Committee of the LVCVA, my time really is my own. It’s a part-time position I’ve made full time as I did the mayor’s job. I had a lot of time on my hands up there, and I started to jot down little notes of things I thought people might be interested in. That’s the hardest thing when you are writing a book is to think that somebody who doesn’t know you is going to like to read about you. I would write a chapter and I would show it to Carolyn and I’d show it to one of the ladies who works in the office, and they would say, ‘Gee, this is good. This is interesting.’ It kept on going and going and going.”
On his famed absence of computer skills:
“I am computer illiterate, and I don’t mean to change it. I wrote this whole book out in long hand on yellow legal pads. I didn’t have a choice because even if I got it up on the (computer) screen, I wouldn’t know how to get it off. It was the same even in my legal career. A little-known story is that I didn’t really take notes when I was in a trial. I drew pictures. Little cartoons of things that reminded me of important things that happened during the trial. A judge at one point in time ordered the court bailiff to seize what I was doing. I asked ‘Why?’ and he said, ‘I told you not to draw pictures of the jurors. This is an anonymous jury.’ I said, “Judge, I’m taking notes!”
On being a “Mob lawyer”:
“People would say, ‘How can you represent someone you know is guilty?’ Well, I don’t make that determination. The law is a technical science as well as an art. The way our system is designed, and it’s a great system, the lawyer doesn’t make the decision. The lawyer represents the client. Since many of my clients were not articulate, I could not put them on the witness stand, so the way I represented my clients was to put the government on trial.
“I never had a client, no matter how the public perceived him, who complained about being convicted and even sent to prison, if they felt that the government did its job without abusing The Constitution and without engaging in misconduct. If I caught the government in a lie, I made them eat it. I rubbed their face in it, and I was not a good winner. One of the things that made me a good lawyer is that I cared about The Constitution and I cared about people’s rights.“
On why he has been so successful:
“A lot of people think that I am arrogant, but I think that I am confident. There’s a big difference. I am sure of myself, and the reason I am that way is the way my parents raised me. My parents used to say I was the smartest and I was the handsomest, believe it or not, and I was the kindest. I began to believe my parents. I think that is a real lesson for parents. If you give the child that confidence the child needs to be successful, the child can do anything.”
On his relationship with his client Tony Spilotro:
“Martin Scorsese and myself have a little issue with this because they portrayed him in the movie (“Casino”) in such a way that I believe was unfair to him. They portrayed him in a way that law enforcement would like people to look at him. I will say this, for all of the years I represented him, from 1972 all the way until the time he was killed and buried in the cornfield in Indiana, he never did any time in jail. He was never convicted of anything. The only time he ever spent in time in jail was waiting for me to come back to get him out on bail because he wouldn’t let anyone represent him other than myself.
“With me, he is the same as the two of you. If you see my wife, you are kind to her. You don’t use profanities around women. He never used profanities. He always thanked my staff, and he was kind enough when I was on the road, which was most of the time trying cases, to call Carolyn, who was at home raising the four kids virtually by herself, and say, ‘Is everything OK? Can I do anything for you?’ Of course she’d say, ‘No. Everything is fine.’ He never asked me whether or not he could kill somebody. I think the FBI thinks I was some kind of a consigliere. I really believe that.”
On the discovery that he once was on a hit list:
“While I’m writing the book, somebody told me that during the case where they were trying some people for killing Tony Spilotro, Frankie Schweihs, they call him “Frankie the German Schweihs,” was interviewed while he was in the hospital, and he said that he had gotten an Uzi, and he was going to kill Michael, Tony’s brother, Tony and myself. That is the only time I ever heard any kind of a reference that my life was in danger. The good news is he was dead when I found out about it years later.”
On his support of The Mob Museum, which celebrates the victory of law enforcement over his former clients:
“I started my practice when it was the Warren Court, and The Fourth Amendment was given great attention, significance and protection for the American citizen. They enacted the Omnibus Crime Bill in 1964, which authorized legal wiretaps. I had the first wire tap case in the United States, and I would file my motions to have the cases dismissed based on violations of the statute and based on violations of The Fourth Amendment. Every time I would file one of these motions, I would win. When you win, the other side, if they’re smart, and these were not dummies that I was against, would correct the error. What happened over the years is I made them perfect.”