The back room machinations for control of this museum are complicated enough to slot into any any gangland novel. It opened and closed last year, and many assumed it was over and out. But now it's back, with some tweaks, and the hope everyone forgot it once failed to meet its financial projections and draw in the tourists.
The fine line between mythologizing and condemning illegal crime is at the heart of this museum. This is part fun ride, part history lesson. A split personality place. Much like the majority of mobsters featured in the exhibits. On the surface, they liked to portray themselves as devoted family men, deeply religious and charitable contributors who loved their adopted country. They also did astonishingly bad things on regular basis.
The first part of the Attraction could almost be considered a mafia theme park. Actors play roles and you interact. Capisce? Your journey begins as a fresh off the boat immigrant, trying to rise up the ranks of the mafia, to a shot at becoming a "made member" of a crime family. Along the way, hologram videos teach you a little about the secret process and codes of the mob, their history and how things "went down." In between is your interactive odyssey, making deals and thinking on your feet as you meet the actors helping and hindering you become a fully fledged mobster.
This was the part that initially worried us. It sounded hokey. Would it be bad dinner theater? In actuality, we found it enormous fun. The role-players we encountered were 100% committed to character, great at improvisation and acted their exaggerated mobster characters to a tee. We encourage you to really get into the spirit with these folks and act up yourself. They'll be ready for you.
The video displays were perfectly timed as you enter each new area. That was a technical concern and hurdle they've fixed from the previous incarnation. James Caan, Mickey Rourke, Frank Vincent, and Tony Sirico (Paulie from the Sopranos) star in the videos. This isn't an in-depth history lesson, similar to the ones you receive downtown. The mission here is brevity and clarity. Remember, it's still a walking themed ride at this point.
So, you get to do a favor for a mobster, tangle with the cops, see how the casinos handle cheats, have your say how to settle the score and, ultimately, learn your fate. We won't spoil how the last part works. There are different scenarios depending how you dealt with the "fake" mobsters.
On completion of learning your fate in the family, you enter the museum section of the Attraction. Six areas. Mostly dedicated to a "Golden Age" of mobsters. Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Sam Giancana. For the Vegas spin, they include a display devoted to Tony Spilotro (the basis for the Joe Pesci character in Casino). Certain scenes in the movie will make more sense when you see the real life possessions on loan from Spilotro's son.
A central difference with downtown is the minimal emphasis on law enforcement. They don't glamorize the mob at The Trop, but they have attempted to humanize it. Seemingly all the artifacts come from relatives of big-time made men. So, you'll see family photographs, personal clothing, sentimental objects, whole living rooms of furniture, cars. It's the human spin on very bad people. The documentation is much more personal, too. You aren't reading wiretap transcriptions. Here are love letters and diaries. Even Meyer Lansky's stock tips.
A Las Vegas room features touch-screen computer displays that will excite history buffs. You can navigate The Strip and downtown through the years on a map and see decade by decade, exactly where each famed casino is, or was, and how this city grew. Touch again, and discover how each mobster was connected to which casino, and see how their web of crime spread out to the rest of the country.
The museum displays are plentiful, but not overwhelming. And the the emphasis here is on physical items, not text. And naturally, there's a gift shop, too. Items are more low-brow than the Mob Museum. Along the line of "I Just Got Whacked" t-shirts.
The themed "sets" are similar to an upgraded version of the New York New York streets over the road. But, once you start walking those corridors, not knowing what's round the next corner, we think you'll have a great time. We spoke to a few tourists who literally had no idea the place was open or existed, and they ended up spending a couple of happy hours in the Attraction. One couple from London were genuinely scared at first by the mobsters. But, they loved the place. It screamed Vegas, to them.
And there's one more thing. Its still in its infancy, but they have just set up a bar. You can walk around the museum section with booze. Themed drinks are on the way, and maybe plans to turn it into a speakeasy. We asked those tourists how they enjoyed reading about crime history with a beer in their hand. All were enthusiastic. The Mob Attraction is less cerebral than its rival, but for the South Strip, and at its newly reduced entrance price, it's finally looking to be a perfect fit.
The Mob Attraction is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $25, reduced for locals to $22. And its located WAY at the back of the Tropicana.
[Disclosure: VegasChatter received a media tour of the new exhibit.]