Museum breathes life into Vegas’ mob history

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Digital reader boards and artifacts allow visitors to know the real story behind these famed mobsters.

Las Vegas’ newest attraction brings the mob to life – literally. 

 The $25 million Las Vegas Mob Experience at the Tropicana Las Vegas uses character actors, hologram celebrity guides and interactive elements to bring you into the world of the mob.

“Our goal was to create an environment like a theme park – they’re very successful in immersing you in the story,” said Jay Bloom, founder of the Las Vegas Mob Experience.

“We set out to do something different, create something  that was dynamic, something that had interactive technology that you find at major theme park attractions, things like holograms and projections.”

The interactive experience starts when you purchase your ticket. You’ll get to pick a celebrity hologram tour guide who shares fun facts and leads you through the experience.

Choose from James Caan, Mickey Rourke, Tony Sirico, Steve Schirripa or Frank Vincent. As you walk through the different rooms, these actors appear as digital projections dispensing history and trivia.

“I like how you go through all the rooms and he knows that it’s you and follows you,” said visitor Anthony Lemos. 

During the experience, you’ll wear a badge around your neck that has an RFID chip in it allowing the museum to keep track of your whereabouts and record the decisions you make.

Each  visitor’s badge also has a funny mob nickname such as Ha Ha, Bananas, Lefty and Pretty Boy, to name a few. This, combined with the RFID chip,  is how your celebrity guide and actors are able to greet you by “name.”

bigleo

Visitors have to answer to Big Leo as part of the interactive element of the experience.

Will you help Big Leo in a deal? Or will you be a good guy and spill the beans to the police and FBI agents? Character actors throughout the experience talk with visitors and make the experience come alive.

“You forget about the real world,” said Bloom. “When you get to the end, you experience a final fate based on the decisions that you made during the course of the hour. You have all these potential different endings.”

“I got shot,” admitted Gwen Dudrow, a visitor at the Mob Experience. “[But] I liked that!”

The Las Vegas Mob Experience is more than just playing along with actors – you’ll get a sense of who these famed mobsters really were when you tour the artifact exhibit.

“It really is setting the bar worldwide for museums, exhibits and attractions,” said Bloom.  “There’s nothing like it in the world – the first to marry artifacts with an attraction.”

“There’s a bizarre fascination with the mob,” said Bloom. “We hate crime and the acts that they do but at the end of the day, we love hearing about it. There’s a real allure to this.”

As you walk through the 27,000-square-foot Mob Experience, it takes you through a physical timeline from the beginning of the mob days to its downfall in Vegas. Different areas include Meyer Lansky’s library, a replica of Bugsy Siegel’s living room, a theater room showing documentaries and movies about the mob and an area with two hologram figures of Siegel and Lansky discussing their vision in Vegas. 

In addition, there are several digital displays peppered throughout the attraction so you can gain an in-depth history of these men.

Bloom said the idea originally began as a traditional exhibition. “We started talking to some of the family members and collected artifacts,” he explained. “We found that the stories were so dynamic and so immersive that a traditional, static museum doesn’t do [it] any justice.”

For instance, instead of looking at Lansky’s journal under a glass, there’s a touch screen version where you can read and “flip” to the next page with a simple swipe of the finger. 

Chris Cecot, the Mob Experience’s historian, has his share of favorites. “It’s the little pieces,” he explained. “When you walk [around], they don’t seem like much of anything. It just looks like trinkets from somebody’s home.  But when you hear the story behind them [it’s] really cool.”

In order to get these artifacts, the staff at Mob Experience developed relationships with family members.

bugsycar

One of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel's cars from the 1930s.

“The family has been glamorized and [were] very frustrated how Hollywood portrayed their relatives,” said Bloom.

“We’re pulling back the curtain on what the real story is.

“There was a real dichotomy to these infamous figures because no matter what they did during the day, they’re like anybody else at home,” he continued. “For the first time, many of them are seeing this as an opportunity to tell who their relatives were as they knew them.”

One of these items includes a horse trophy owned by Siegel’s daughter. “When he lived in Hollywood, he would get all these random gifts,” Cecot said. “She used to dread her father getting gifts because every time he would get something, she’d end up having to take classes or lessons. You don’t think of Bugsy Siegel in that way – everybody knows him as an infamous gangster and here he is, a doting father [wanting] his daughter to be the best at horse riding. And she’s just another kid saying, ‘Oh my God, do I have to take lessons in something else?’”

You’ll also get to see home videos, such as Tony Spilatro dressing up as Santa Claus or seeing him at Disney World with his kids.

“That’s the type of thing people [don’t] associate with Tony Spilatro,” said Cecot. “Clearly he wasn’t a normal guy but in terms of his personal life, he very much was.”

Another item guests can see is Lansky’s Medal of Freedom, which he received from President Harry Truman for service in World War II.

Cecot added that Lansky also gave a lot of money to Israel to help get the country stabilized.

“[The] medal of freedom is the highest civilian award,” said Bloom.

“It’s got a mysterious history to it,” added Cecot. “It’s one of those things that the deeper we dug, the more info we found.

“What we would really like to do is not just tell the story that’s everybody’s heard,” he continued. “That’s always been the most interesting part of history –something random.”

Cecot sat with families and heard about everything from Lansky nagging his grandchildren about their homework to Siegel pruning rose bushes and owning ducks, pigeons and chickens.But he didn’t want people just to see them as just nice family men, either.

“I know I’m comparing them to a superhero,” Cecot said, laughing, “[but] it would be like seeing ‘Batman’ and only seeing his life as Bruce Wayne. But if you [show] that in contrast to the other stuff, it gives you a fuller picture of the character.”

“That lawlessness has this sexy factor to it,” Bloom noted. “We’re trying to let people know there were good times and bad, laughter and tears. That’s a big part of their history, and it gives you a better picture of who they were.”

In the end, the whole truth will be told.

“We’re not going to glorify them,” Bloom said. “Some of them did vicious things. They can be a brutal killer, but at the same time deeply religious. They would rob people blind but at the same time they were very generous. There’s such a dichotomy to their personalities.

“That’s the interesting thing about this experience,” he added. “You get to meet and know these guys…there’s no stereotypical mafia. It’s not what you see in movies.”

Comments

Most folks take their Vegas jackpot winnings back home, but my dad decided to stay here instead. That’s how I left Seattle almost 20 years ago. I moved from greenery and rainy days to hot summers, palm trees and desert. As much as I love my hometown, I decided to stick around Vegas. This city just has so much to offer. You don’t even have to be a gambler, bar hopper or an all-night partier. I love Vegas for its awesome vegan-friendly spots, concerts, swanky hotel suites and spas so big, they’re like castles. The pool scene is not too shabby either, which is why I love taking stay-cations. Besides living it up -- Vegas style -- I’m hanging out with my handsome hubby, adorable baby girl, two cats and super-fluffy Shih-Tzu. I’m also a huge fan of '90s music, shows and movies. You can find me on Google+ and Twitter.

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. dave mcmaster at 6:54 pm

    cant wait to see this but im waiting until feb when i know the mob museam will be fully open as well -will be on my own for the first time in 14 trips -should be intereting