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Las Vegas Mob Experience: Part museum, part interactive adventure

July 8, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Las Vegas is well-known for its mob history, and now some of it is on display in the Las Vegas Mob Experience.

"They would rob and steal and cheat but they were incredibly generous," said Jay Bloom, managing partner of the Las Vegas Mob Experience. "You know, they would kill but they were deeply religious. I mean, this is really the greatest mob story never told."

Until now. The Las Vegas Mob Experience at the Tropicana includes more than 1,500 artifacts from the families of mobsters along with several dozen other items of interest.

"We have Meyer Lansky's diaries," said Bloom. "He kept a handwritten diary. We have Meyer Lansky's Medal of Freedom that he got from World War II from President Truman as a war hero. We have Bugsy Siegel's home movies that have never been in the public domain."

The Las Vegas Mob Experience is part museum, but it's also a high-tech interactive adventure offering a different look at the mob life.

"The families of these gangsters have been very reclusive for decades," said Bloom. "And this is the first time they're coming out to tell their side of the story. They've been very bitter and resentful about how their family members are portrayed through the movies and through Hollywood. So they're seeing this as their opportunity to voice their side of the story to millions of people that come to visit us here at the Mob Experience."

"Any movie, any book you pick up, they're trigger-happy murderers," said Luellen Smiley, daughter of reputed mobster Allen Smiley. "No, they were protectors of their neighbors, of the Jewish people, the Italians protecting the Italian people. So this experience with the family members is able to illustrate there was another side to these guys."

While not widely known, Allen Smiley was with Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel when he was fatally shot in the head. Luellen said it haunted Allen forever.

"He did have nightmares, even in the hospital," said Luellen. "He called me in the middle of the night and said they were coming to get him."

"So what this has done is it's actually shown both sides of who these people were," said Bloom. "You know, some of them were brutal, vicious killers during the day and then at night they go home and they're loving fathers and caring husbands, so it's such an incredible dichotomy."

Las Vegas is also planning a more traditional organized crime museum.

"The big difference that I draw, the distinction that I draw is they're more of a restaurant where we're more of a nightclub," said Bloom. "You can get drinks in both but it's a very different experience."

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