Sunday, January 25, 2009

This week's LVW col: Defending the mob...museum

Here's this week's column in the Las Vegas Weekly defending not the idea of stimulus money paying for the mob museum but the idea of the museum itself. Believe it or not -- and I didn't quite believe it at first -- lots of people think it would be a clunker with tourists.

Lawyers, guns ... and money

Why a mob museum in Las Vegas would be criminally successful

By STEVE FRIESS

Every so often, I’m surprised to be holding a minority opinion among friends and journalism colleagues. There are truths that seem so blatantly obvious that it doesn’t even occur to me that anyone would disagree.

So here’s one: A legitimate mob museum at the beautiful, restored historic old federal building Downtown would be an enormous success for Las Vegas.

Now, that’s not the same as saying I support using money from the federal stimulus package to pay for the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. Aside from the fact that I can’t touch that matter because I’ve been covering it as a controversy for some of my newspaper clients, I don’t have a strong opinion anyway.

As I’ve covered that debate, though, I’ve been stunned to realize people actually question whether it could be an appealing tourist attraction.

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, for instance, was such a full-throated advocate for the Atomic Testing Museum that there’s a room that bears her name in the same building. Yet she detoured from the funding question in my interview with her to groan, “You know, we’re trying to show the world that Las Vegas is moving beyond its past, and then we do something like a mob museum.”

A few days later, my Las Vegas Weekly colleague Richard Abowitz came out on his Los Angeles Times blog as believing a mob museum “is a horrible idea. In 2009, Vegas has reinvented itself in so many ways and so many times that a mob museum already sounds quaint and dated.”

But the big epiphany came during last Friday’s taping of Nevada Week in Review, when I went 4-on-1 on this very question in a fiery scrum that resulted in 10 unusually entertaining minutes for PBS. Fox 5’s John Huck called a mob museum a potential “white elephant,” the Review-Journal’s Howard Stutz suggested it was Oscar Goodman’s legacy hail Mary, and show host Mitch Fox was baffled over what one would even put in such a place. And, most fun of all, Las Vegas Sun political maestro Jon Ralston nearly shouted his belief that people aren’t going to go Downtown for something like this.

Read the rest HERE

5 comments:

Dave Lifton said...

I know you didn't write it, but me likey the headline.

Mary Huber said...

Both my brother an I have visited the Atomic Testing Museum and found it to be a wonderful attraction.
We spent a lot more time there than we ever expected.
The only thing it's suffering from is lack of advertising so tourists know about it.

robertw4771 said...

vegas is not known for culture. no need for gugenheims or fancy paintings. a mob museum? great as long as it is funded from some of those deep pockets in vegas it sounds great. the government has enough issues. most of these museum things turn out to be a huge bust. Ask why the nfl hall of fame is in canton, oh. Who in the hell goes to canton,oh? If that was in a decent metro real city attendance would be 5 times greater. Same for cooperstown,ny which is a summer place. the idea to get people to go to the sticks for those places is nuts from people who dont know a damn thing about business.

Anonymous said...

Many cities have very good museums based on their infamy. A few I've been to include the Civil Rights Museum in Birmmingham, The 5th Floor Museum (JFK) in Dallas, the Murrah Bombing Museum in OKC. It's where the action was, and feels more authentic. I think the Mob Museum will be a great success.
I think cities that are growing, and trying to break into the major league category, get in a hurry to forget their past. Local opponents of the Mob Museum are typical new money who want to hide their less than Sterling roots.
Jeff in OKC

Tom M. said...

I have no problem with the concept of a mob museum. But do a simple market study first. That should answer the question on whether people are interested. I don't think anyone should spend a bunch of money on a hunch or what they think is a "good idea". Check it out with the Las Vegas going tourists first. I for one would go to see it, but it would not be the primary reason to go to Las Vegas. Also, if they do build the museum, I hope it is a museum that talks about the whole history of organized crime in America and not just the mob in las vegas.