This Thing of Ours

Outsiders take aim at the Mob Museum

The opening of the Mob Museum on Feb. 14 was a big day for Las Vegas, but it was also another opportunity for the world to say what they think of us. Here’s a sampling of national and international media takes on the House That Oscar Built:

Gary A. Warner, The Orange County Register

That a colorful ex-organized crime lawyer could be a three-term mayor, then be succeeded by his wife, says a lot about how Las Vegas views its longtime relationship with the mob. What outsiders might view as the bad old days are seen from inside the Clark County line as the good old days.

It’s an attitude that Mob Museum executive director Jonathan Ullman is acutely aware that he has to deal with. He has to satisfy—or at least not enrage—those who see the mob’s 1950s to 1970s heyday as a golden age for Las Vegas, while telling a story filled with gambling, prostitution, graft and murder.

Ellen Sterling, The Huffington Post

The story told in the Mob Museum begins where organized crime in the United States began—with the immigrant experience. With interactive exhibitions (such as having your photo taken in a police lineup), film and an endless number of artifacts, the Mob Museum tells this very American story.

John Walsh, The Independent (U.K.)

Apart from offering a loving mock-up of a wall pocked with tommy gun bullets from that event, the museum tips a fedora to gangsters, mobsters, wise guys and flamboyant killers down the years. Implements of terminal dispatch are on riotous display, as are stove-in heads and body bags, though not, sadly, an exhibit of someone sleeping with the fishes.

Cristina Silva, The Associated Press

Museum officials deny that they are sensationalizing the mob experience to sell tickets. … But the museum’s extensive photo collection depicting cratered heads, exploded cars and body bags likely will be its biggest draw among fans expecting a hefty dose of violence.

Edward Rothstein, The New York Times

Like many things in mob-related American culture, the museum mixes attraction and repulsion, sentimentality and hard-edged realism, relish and disgust. Like a gangster movie, it seduces us with these figures on the one hand, and with the other reminds us of the demands of justice. … While the museum seeks a kind of romantic appeal by opening on Valentine’s Day—the 83rd anniversary, it points out, of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago … it also makes sure to deflate gangster romance by reminding us that this cold-blooded episode was so horrific that it led to a turning point, spurring expanded federal investigation.

The tension between allure and disgust recurs throughout. … The museum never leaves behind hints of mob romance—one gallery includes heart-warming family photos of mob figures—but such fascination is never allowed to go unanswered: the next gallery is a chronicle of thuggery and blood.

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