Friday, Aug. 28, 2009 | 2:01 a.m.
Oscar Goodman remains the finest actor Las Vegas has ever seen.
And after his performance Thursday at his weekly news conference, I believe more than ever that Oscar deserves an Oscar. How else could Goodman, the former mob lawyer who portrayed La Cosa Nostra killers as victims, answer thusly when asked why having the infamous St. Valentine’s Day wall in his $50 million mob museum was so important:
“It represents one of the gory moments of the mob. And that’s part of what the mob’s all about. These were not nice people. They engaged in activity that wasn’t nice.”
These were not nice people? Did selective amnesiac Goodman forget that these not-nice people were also known as ... his clients?
Remember, his most celebrated client was Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, famously known for his violent outbursts and depicted as such by Martin Scorsese in “Casino,” a movie in which Goodman appeared as Joe Pesci’s attorney. Goodman’s appearance in the film essentially validated all that law enforcement had alleged about Spilotro before he was killed. But after his client was in the ground, Goodman apparently felt free to de facto acknowledge he had just been acting when he argued for years that Spilotro was an innocent man.
An Oscar for Oscar!
Las Vegas’ foremost revisionist historian made Thursday’s comments after fuming about a Chicago television report this week that intended to make him and other city officials look like fools on the purchase of the St. Valentine’s Day wall bricks, with an investigative reporter asserting that the city had exaggerated how much of the wall the mob museum would really have.
City officials dispute the story, saying the reporter got the information wrong because there was a miscommunication. The report from WLS-TV, Chicago’s ABC affiliate, can be seen here: http://tinyurl.com/lpqjsk
The piece itself was snide and condescending, rife with Vegas cliches (“What happens in Vegas isn’t always as billed”) and a more glaring factual error than the number of bricks — the reporter identified Goodman’s partner in crime at the mob museum dedication as “former Arizona Gov. Richard Bryan.” Former Nevada Gov. Bryan held a lot of political jobs, but not that one.
Goodman, always one brick shy of sincerity and class, sputtered on about the Chicago reporter during his news conference, repeatedly calling him a “moron” and doing his best imitation of Joe Pesci imitating Tony Spilotro. It was vintage Goodman.
An Oscar for Oscar!
Richard Abowitz, blogging for the Los Angeles Times on Thursday, noted the controversy caused by the Chicago report and added that Goodman “spends a lot of his time talking and thinking about this monument to so many clients from his former life back when he insisted that folks like Tony Spilotro were being persecuted by the government. He actually put this project, expected to open in 2011, on a list for government stimulus funding. That irony did not work out for him. But the idea that the mob lawyer-turned-mayor is building some grand tribute to his own ego does not seem to have occurred to his honor.”
Yes, Goodman, who is naturally bereft of a sense of irony, also is a method actor who actually seems to believe what he is saying, who seems unable to differentiate between his own artificial reality and reality.
People I trust, especially longtime newsman and nonrevisionist historian Bob Stoldal, tell me they would not be involved if they thought the museum would be a monument to the mob. But because Goodman is so full of ... himself, people such as Abowitz wonder. And avid Goodman-watchers know he could sell any role, even the notion he now believes “law enforcement won” in its battle with the mob. And he says it with a smile, as he did Thursday.
An Oscar for Oscar.
The city’s resident Olivier also continued his ongoing Hamlet routine when asked Thursday whether he was running for governor. “I’m seriously considering it,” Goodman replied. “I really am.”
It is hard to take seriously any sentence in which Goodman says the word “seriously,” so I think we are witnessing another Oscar-caliber performance and he will not run. But perhaps he is an even better actor than I thought. Reno Mayor Bob Cashell was at the 51s game with Goodman on Wednesday night talking up his Las Vegas counterpart’s run for governor.
Maybe Goodman really is going to enter the race and see if he can fool enough of the people come November 2010 to continue his thespian career in Carson City. Now that’s a documentary I would love to see. And so I join the chorus of those who want him to get into the race, so we will all have the chance to chant:
An Oscar for Oscar!