Last week the Tropicana unveiled the Las Vegas Mob Experience, the Strip's newest "interactive experience." Imagine a museum crossed with interactive theater, and that's roughly what the Mob Experience is like.
The Mob Experience wisely opened in preview form with limited hours last week. They were still smoothing out a lot of glitches when I was there on Thursday--several displays weren't working. Disappointingly, I saw not a single hologram. Other than the actors/guides who led us through the first bit of the Experience, the interactivity was non-existent. I hope that the fully working LVME offers more to visitors because I didn't see anything that would induce me to return, especially not at almost $40.00 per ticket.
Truthfully, I had more fun waiting in line than walking through the Experience.
My son and I were standing in the very long line when an older gentleman got in line behind us. He smiled and said to my son, "I used to work for the Mob."
"So did his grandfather," I said.
And here's the truth of it: if you lived in Las Vegas back in the days when the Mob ran things, it was kind of hard not to work for the Mob, in one form or another.
We were soon trading Old Vegas memories with "The Grim Reaper," as his badge read (my son was "Creepy" -- presumably, when things are working properly, these badges do more than give you a funky name). Reaper's wife, Cathy, had been a cocktail waitress at the Flamingo, but from what we figured out, it was probably before my dad worked there.
Reaper, Cathy, Creepy, and I passed the time in line trading stories about the days when the people who actually knew mobsters didn't talk about them. I managed to remember most of the places my dad had worked, found out that I was the same age as Cathy's children, and traded the stories every long-time Las Vegan has, the "I remember when" stories--"I remember when Rainbow was a dirt road" is one of my favorites.
"What was your favorite restaurant that's gone now?" Reaper asked me.
"Chateau Vegas," I said. I loved their food, but I especially loved their harpist.
"That was a Mob hangout," said Reaper. Coulda been, but when I was a kid all I cared about was their veal scaloppini and that harpist.
It wasn't until I became an adult that I had any real idea about the people my dad knew. Looking back, I realize now that being the food and beverage manager at the Aladdin in the 1970s says a whole lot about the people he knew. When I was kid, it was more important to me that his job meant we got to eat at the Aladdin's Sabre Room, the gourmet restaurant that sat at the bottom of a long flight of stairs. No harpist, but great veal. That was also before I learned about where veal comes from.
Was Las Vegas better when the Mob ran things? That's such a standard piece of Vegas wisdom that it's mentioned briefly in an LVME display. I think the small towns and innocence of youth always seem better in hindsight, no matter where you grew up, with or without mobsters.
Photo courtesy of chewstroke