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Inside Vegas - Steve Miller

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at:

MOBMONTH2 "When The Mob Ran Vegas" played to a full house

The old mobsters are spinning in their
graves over what Vegas has become

                                                                        INSIDE VEGAS photo by Mike Christ

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
January 14, 2013

LAS VEGAS - An elderly man pushed his way to the front of the overflow line. "Do you know who I am?" Nobody knew who he was, but his over confident demeanor indicated he expected to get his way in Sin City. The lady holding the curtain advised him and his entourage to go to the theater downstairs. I expected the man to try to slip her a couple of $100 bills which would have gotten him a ringside table in any main showroom three decades ago, but he knew that wouldn't work in this setting and he stormed away.

On that icy cold Tuesday evening, a line had formed outside the Flamingo Road branch of the Las Vegas - Clark County Library starting at 5 PM.  An eclectic gathering of Las Vegas types stood in line impatiently waiting for one of the 450 first come, first served seats for the 7 PM event.

It was night-one of Mob Month's second year, an event held every Tuesday in January to preserve the memory of the infamous people who built Las Vegas - whether they deserved the honor or not. (Only in Vegas!) Based on my eleven years writing for and 52 year history in Vegas, I was invited to be on the first panel of this year's event.

(On Tuesday, January 15, "Hole In The Wall" gang member Frank Cullota will be on a panel with the agents who busted him. Cullota once said that the gang run by Tony Spilotro planned their heists in the conference room of Oscar Goodman's law firm. It's uncertain if he will repeat that allegation on Tuesday.)

At 7 PM, event organizer Julie Okabayashi and her staff shut the curtain at the door and announced there were no more seats available in the auditorium, but seats were available in the downstairs movie theater where a big screen TV was being set up so another 100 could view the now delayed "When The Mob Ran Vegas," an event that was supposed to tell about a time when Las Vegas was much different than it is today. A time when the skim was the only crime, and the Mob who perpetuated the skim wanted to keep Vegas on a low profile in the eyes of the feds . An era before crooked strip clubs, pay day loan stores, drugs, human sex slave trafficking, escort bureaus, street walkers and pimps.

At 7:20, panel moderator Cathy Scott opened the discussion. She gave her personal background including her years as a police reporter and author of four best selling novels about organized crime. She then gave background on each of the scheduled speakers. Several minutes into the program, we were joined on stage by an unannounced panelist, Amy Hanley, daughter of Wendy Mazaros and one of the stars of the new reality TV program Sin City Rules (second from right).

Within several minutes it was clear that Wendy and Amy were on a mission to tell the story of Tom Hanley, Wendy's late husband and Amy's biological father.

After author Elaine McNamara and I talked about the better old days, and Cathy told the sad story of Susan Berman, one of my classmates at Las Vegas High, it didn't take long for the discussion to turn from how the original Mob kept our town safe and clean, and how locals didn't need to lock their doors, to a time when a new Mob fought for power on the Strip and within the powerful unions.

Tom Hanley was a union hit man, and his widow and daughter spoke in detail about the men he murdered in his decade long Vegas history. As her Mom spoke, Amy would whisper reminders into her ear. Much of what Wendy told us was new information and could have helped police in the 1970's to find and convict Tom Hanley and his accomplices, but at the time Wendy refused to cooperate.

Wendy described how her husband killed Ralph and Don Alsup, two of his henchmen who he feared would testify against him.

I told of how I knew the Alsups when they were teenagers. That they were my eyes and ears at our rock concerts and the Teenbeat Club. How the Alsups would let me know who broke the rules or jeopardized our license. Wendy asked if they "snitched" on the other kids? I answered yes, and that I comped them and their friends for their help. Now I know how the Alsups died, and I guess I inadvertently confirmed Tom Hanley's suspicion on why he needed to whack them.

One of the men Hanley killed was union boss Al Bramlet who I had once presented the Opportunity Village Man of the Year award.

Wendy's revelation that her husband murdered Bramlet gave me an opening to ask, "How many more of my old customers or people I gave the OV Man Of The Year Award to did your husband kill?" which added some much needed comic relief.

The audience soon learned that Wendy fully knew what her husband was doing for a living.  In fact, he offered to teach her how to be an assassin but she didn't show an inclination so Tom dropped the plan. Luckily, Amy was still in diapers at the time or Tom might have created a killing team like no other!

Later that evening, I did some research and found the one hour documentary "In the Company of Killers" produced in 2001 by KLAS TV award-winning investigative reporter George Knapp.

The documentary has been preserved on two videos. I highly recommend that you watch it to learn the consequences our city suffered after the Kinder and Gentler Mob died off and guys like Hanley became active:




Hanley and his cronies couldn't have remained in business here unless they had connections, and I revealed who their attorney and his judge were in last week's INSIDE VEGAS.

Oscar Goodman was a man who later would rise to great prominence in the new, crime ridden Las Vegas. With his help, a "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign could have been erected on I-15 beckoning small time criminals to our city. Impeached Judge Harry Claiborne would take his own life and die a disgraced man. With their help, street level crime took hold in our city.

The most emotional moment of the evening came when Cathy Scott asked Wendy how she met Tom Hanley, a man forty years her senior.

With her lips quivering, Wendy told of a night in the late 1960's when she was a troubled 15 year old.  Her parents had given up trying to control her and decided to have her committed to Child Haven, a juvenile detention facility in downtown Las Vegas.

Wendy said that she knew the late Ted Binion in his early years, and when her father stopped for a red light at Main and Charleston, she jumped out of the car and ran to the Horseshoe Club where she said Binion took her in and protected her from her parents.

As the weeks rolled by, Wendy said Binion gave her cocaine to keep her awake and let the 15 year old girl stand next to high rollers while they gambled as a "good luck charm." One of those gamblers was Tom Hanley who she said did hits for Ted's father Benny Binion.

Wendy said she returned home briefly after her stay at the Horseshoe, but soon after turning 18, ran off to marry Hanley.

Amy Hanley told the audience that she didn't know her father because he died when she was three. Amy described Wendy's next husband Robert Peoples as the man who raised her. Coincidentally, Peoples was also a Mob hit man.

As the evening came to a close, I again was convinced that in Vegas, truth is stranger than fiction.

After the event, I mingled with members of the audience including John Flood, a former Chicago cop and member of the Chicago Crime Commission, and the legendary Bernie Sindler, now 88, the last surviving associate of  ?Bugsy" Siegel, Moe Dalitz, and Meyer Lansky.

Somehow I felt the presence of Siegal, Dalitz, and Lansky throughout the evening. If they were there, they would have in no certain terms let the present day Vegas Mob know their displeasure for bringing murder, street crime, and danger to our town, its tourists, and citizens.

    Flood                      Sindler                      Siegal                  Dalitz               Lansky


Availability of videos to be announced soon on this LINK

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