Like many Las Vegans who’ve lived in the city for more than three decades, I have about five or six mob stories I could share. But only one that I’m willing to write about.
In the late 1970s and early ’80s, the town was littered with organized crime figures, and dozens of faux-thugs who wanted you to think they were “connected.” The two most notorious mobsters of those days, Frank Rosenthal and Anthony Spilotro, were immortalized in the film Casino, starring Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci playing the respective parts.
Sharon Stone earned an Oscar nomination for portraying Geri Rosenthal, the wife of the former and mistress of the latter. I used to see Geri grocery shopping at the Lucky supermarket. She was far removed from your basic Walmart shopper, usually decked out in an elegant dress or a fur wrap in winter. In today’s terminology, she would be your classic cougar, aware of her attractiveness and on the lookout for future adventures.
The man who lived directly behind my townhouse was a known mob associate of Spilotro’s. In fact, according to a Metro homicide detective who’d investigated him, my neighbor was a certified hit man, thought to have eliminated half a dozen adversaries of his group, which would come to be known as the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang.
It just so happened that my neighbor, who we’ll call “Carmine,” had a 10-year-old son who was my newspaper delivery boy. When I first became aware of the neighbor’s occupation, I determined that I should tip his kid generously. It just seemed like the smart thing to do.
So at least once a month, I slipped the kid a $5 bill. After I’d done this a few times, I noticed his dad actually bothered to wave and say hello whenever I passed by. When he’d first moved in, he was about as friendly as a pit bull with an abscessed tooth.
Over a period of about a year, four homes on my side of the alley were burglarized. And it wasn’t only jewels and silverware that the thieves were interested in. One woman two doors down had all of her appliances removed. She had been out of her house only an hour when she returned to find it empty. The burglars obviously had sentries posted on nearby street corners using walkie-talkies—this was before cell phones—to signal when a resident was returning home.
When the Bertha’s furniture store robbery of July 1981 was solved, and it was reported that the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang was responsible, it also came out that this motley crew was responsible for the home invasions on my street.
Those $5 tips turned out to be the least expensive homeowner’s insurance I could ever have purchased.