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Celebrating the Decades: The Seventies and the Mob

Vegas NYE

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Every decade in Las Vegas brings so many changes. As we approach the end of the 2010s and get ready for the 2020s, 8 News Now is celebrating the decades that have gone before.

Nate Tannenbaum has a look back at the 1970s, beyond bell bottoms and disco in what was then a much smaller community with some big city issues.

There were two huge cultural shifts that we take for granted today, one of them — the beginning of the end of “the Mob.”

Remember the scene from the movie “Casino,” where Robert De Niro’s character, Sam Rothstein, had his own Las Vegas TV show? That’s because De Niro’s character was based on the real-life Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal who did have his own weekly TV show during his time as a casino executive at The Stardust.

“To think that he could go on the air every week with a talk show and be accepted and admired as a celebrity in this town is now, in hindsight, vulgar,” said then-federal prosecutor Larry Leavitt. “It’s a joke.”

Leavitt was part of the 1987 Channel 8 documentary “The Mob on the Run” reported by the late legendary Ned Day.

To put all this in perspective, we went to a man long-time southern Nevadans should remember as a governor in the 80s. He was Nevada’s attorney general when these critical cases involving the mob and casinos came to head — Richard Bryan.

“I’ve often heard, ‘it was better when the mob controlled everything,’” said former U.S. Senator Bryan. “That is not correct. The mob didn’t care, as long as they were left alone.”

The senator and Nate also traveled back in time to 1973, when the Police Department of the City of Las Vegas merged with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office to form what we now know as “Metro.”

“The idea of merging those, I think, was to save money for the taxpayer and to create more efficiency,” Bryan said. “The cultural differences took a while. I mean, obviously there were differences, but the merger, I think, essentially, quite smoothly.”

Karen Curnutt spent 30 years as a civilian employee, and she saw those early cultural differences first-hand.

“At briefing, the city would sit on one side, and the county would sit on the other, and when they would come up from the basement from the briefing room you would see the county on one side and the city on the other,” said Curnutt. “Eventually they realized that they’re one department, and they became friends.”

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