Mobbed Up: The Fight for Las Vegas

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BONUS: Stories from the Steer

by Las Vegas Review-Journal | The Mob Museum
July 23rd 2020

"They didn't care if you were a mobster or a corporate executive or a politician or a federal agent." 

When Frank Cullotta arrived in Las Vegas in 1978, one of his first stops was The Golden... More

Frank Lada arrived in Las Vegas in 1978. And as you heard in part seven of this series, his first stop in Sin City was to check in with Tony Spilotro. I went I met him at the Gold Rush, which was then Sarah, Uh, the gold rush. Tony's jewelry store was located on the north edge of the Las Vegas Strip, 2 28 West Sahara Avenue, right next to the circus circus where Tony ran a gift shop in the early seventies and at the time, just a stone's throw from the Stardust Hotel and Casino Go west. Hello? Yeah, he don't. Good. How are you? Okay. How you feeling? Fine. That clip you just heard was an FBI wiretap recording of Tony answering the phone at the Gold Rush in 1978 the same year his friend Frank showed up in Vegas. I met him in front. I was with some broad in the car with me, drove down with her. So I get out of the car and Tony Herbie Blitzstein standard there. I know Herbie. So he tells her we stay over to her, be so we're going to side. He tells me. He's talking. We're talking with our hands like this. According to Frank, they would talk with their hands in front of their mouths so that anyone who might be surveilling them couldn't make out what they were saying.

He says, I'm glad you came. I saw Joe more or less ordered me, I said, But I'm hearing out. Tony, What do we What? What do you need? What do you need me to do? So he says, I need you to watch my back. His memoir, Hole in the Wall Gang. In my own words, Frank writes that he and Tony talked outside the gold rush for a couple minutes, then agreed to meet back up for dinner at six o'clock. Conveniently enough, the Gold rush was located right next to a steakhouse by the Golden Star. So they met back up later in the day and walked over to the Golden Steer Steakhouse to talk about their plans for the future, right? Mm hmm. Uh huh. For the Las Vegas Review Journal in partnership with the Mob Museum. I'm read Redmond. So it was just a great location. You're listening to a bonus episode of Mobbed up and they didn't care if you're a mobster or corporate executive or politician or a federal agent.

Mm. As you've heard throughout this series, the story of Las Vegas is one of constant transformation. With a handful of exceptions, Vegas hasn't physically preserved a whole lot of its history. And for the most part, the city no longer looks like the Las Vegas Frank Gallagher moved out to in 1978. But one spot that hasn't changed since then is the steakhouse Frank with Tony Spilotro. When he first arrived The Golden Steer. For this bonus episode, we're going to do something a little different than play an interview. I was able to sit down for a conversation with Dr Michael J. Signorelli, the owner of the Golden Steer Steakhouse since 2000 and one. I am thrilled to be joined by Dr Michael Signorelli, the owner of the Golden Steer Steakhouse in Las Vegas. Uh, to start, can you tell me a little bit about the history of the Golden Steer and how it first came to be? It started in 1958 and by Joe Collusion and some of his friends who came to town after world War two. And they had just a small spot in that first shopping center, which was, I think, when the first shopping center built in Las Vegas in 1950 it's called Frisco Plaza because that boulevard is be called San Francisco Boulevard wasn't called Sahara until the sand hotel was built and back in the day.

This year is obviously famous for being a place where all kinds of celebrities used to hang out and still is obviously. But, um, I want to talk specifically about the Rat Pack. I'm sure that's you get a ton of questions about the Rat Pack hanging out there back in the day, and I understand that started with Sammy Davis Jr coming in. Can you walk me through that story? Yes, I can, I think. And the in the late 19 sixties, one of Las Vegas less publicized paradoxes was the city was still in the throes of segregation. African Americans were not welcome in casinos, bars or restaurants. This was quite an enigma, as as most of the lounge performers, groups, bands and arc and people in the orchestras were predominantly black. The original original rat pack at the time, Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop. The Mountain Sammy David Jr performed at the Sands Hotel. But Sammy David Jr was not permitted to stay at the Sands.

The Golden Steer over had always been a progressive place, and we welcome Sammy or the restaurant did. At that time, I didn't own it to dine at the main dining room and treated him as an equal. So after the show is the Rat Pack and then started coming to the restaurant and joined in the Rat Pack didn't come and bring an extensive entourage finally known as the Rat Pack mascots. Angie Dickinson Juliet Prowse, who actually was one of the opening act for Frank so eventually found the Rat Pack always at the at the steer, and they brought other people in and from Hollywood and and business people and associates like that. Eventually, um, Oscar Goodman came to town in 66 then became quite famous as a mar between the seventies, brought in some mobsters as his clients as well, and the next thing you know, there was every breed of people from every walk of life was coming in a lot of very famous, like you know, like melon Monroe and and, uh, and other entertainers and celebrities, you know, and and so that's how it came about.

So one of the things that you just mentioned was that in the seventies, mob figures would come in pretty regularly to meet and to enjoy the stakes. I know you weren't the owner back then, but what else can you tell me about some of the steers, More infamous customers back in the day I was in town, but not not eating at the rest of myself in those days. Um, but you know, the I think the mob was runs running Vegas in those days and everybody knows that. And it went a lot of restaurants or five style type steakhouses or primary places off the strip, their primary in the facility because they didn't want people leaving the facility or the hotel because the business was on on premises, not off premises. So there wasn't something they promoted. But eventually people did leave and and went down there and and they're so any person who is probably in any of the rest hotels were probably mobsters. Actually, at the end of the day, operating the place. So everybody from any hotel that came in was, uh, a monster of related to associated with a mobster.

So anybody who ever was famous in town, you know, going back to the days or when you know, that we saw the movies about different people like Tony Spilotro and stuff way back when they would come in because their attorneys or some of their friends, they knew it would come in. And they wanted, sometimes just to get away from the hotel. So that's how that started. And then because Tony Spilotro was represented by Oscar Goodman, who eventually became the mayor, and so and then he became, you know, he unfortunately had an untimely demise in a cornfield and the movie showed. But a few days before that happened, he had actually had his last supper for lack of a better word after gold steer and back then, just to for For anyone who's listening to this that isn't, you know, familiar with Las Vegas or isn't doesn't live in Las Vegas. Back then, the Golden steer would've been situated right next to Tony's jewelry store, Tony Spilotro jewelry store, the Gold Rush and also just down the street just down Las Vegas Boulevard from the now imploded Stardust casino.

Can you, I guess, kind of situate our listeners as to where in Las Vegas the golden steer is and sort of how that I think, sort of contributed to, As you said, a lot of these casino executives and and mob figures coming in, you know, when they want to get out of the casinos. Sure, they were in the corner, essentially a few few, you know, 100 yards away or less from from the corner of Sahara in the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard, which is, you know, three minutes away from walking distance from the Sara Hotel, which is probably starts to strip on the north end. And start ups, which is imploded now, is just down the street, probably three quarters of a mile away. So it's pretty handy. Wasn't a lot of traffic in those days so people could walk or drive, so I made it very convenient for people to come over and get away and get out of the hotel a little bit. So that was one of the main reason was just very convenient. And as you just explained. The Gold Rush, which was next door, which was really the offices for Tony Spilotro and his group of associates were right next door. So maybe handed him to just walk next door. It took about 1.5 minutes just to walk in through the door and come in and eat and meet their associates there and and be meeting in a private setting with excellent food and service and and not be watched by a lot of people, you know, other than some people probably were following from the federal government or something.

Frank. A lot of regret. Leaving Chicago for Las Vegas was Lefty Rosenthal, As ruthless as Robert Niro portrayed him in the movie casino. What was it like to report on the mob? Let's find out. On August 4th, The Review Journal and the Mob Museum are gonna host a live Q and A with a bunch of the voices you've heard throughout this series. I'll be hosting alongside mom museum expert Jeff Schumacher, and we'll be discussing questions submitted by listeners, and that's where you come in. Please send any questions you want answered about this series or about the mob to me at our Redmond review journal dot com. That's r r E D M O N D at review journal dot com or post your questions to social media using the hashtag mobbed Up live and, of course, join us on the Livestream. August 4th at 7 p.m. On the Las Vegas Review Journal Facebook page. Mhm. Yeah, before I move on from the mob, I know that to this day the restaurant has a room called the Mob Room. What can you tell me about that space?

Well, that evolved into a little private room seats about 18, and the region was just a private room. But they started one and have a place Everybody did, too, when it came and had meetings to have some private meetings and have some fine dining and not be bothered and have a door and some privacy. So it evolved from our room to a room where a lot of major decisions made a mistake by governors and senators and congressmen and corporate executives occurred there. But it started as a mob because they wanted some privacy, sometimes for some meetings, and who knows who knows what they were talking about But they wanted some privacy where there wasn't being overheard in a booth somewhere. And that's how that evolved. And is it true that there used to be a secret door that led from that room out into an alley so they could, you know, spokes could sneak in there? Well, that's been perpetuated. I've been trying to find that door, but, uh, it's probably there. Maybe it's been covered over. I'm not for sure. I don't want to lie about something, but sure, um, that's that's been perpetuated for a while. And, you know, there's some people say we heard that story And what do you think? I said? Well, let's just go with the story.

So maybe you just got to You got to knock on the wall with the right sequence and it will open up. Yeah, maybe some money to fall out of the walls to There you go. So we talked about the Rat Pack, and you mentioned Marilyn Monroe and a couple other celebrities that used to hang out at the restaurant. But I know that the Golden Steer is still a spot where celebrities are known to hang out, and one of them that I know has a bit of an interesting back story. Is the famous racecar driver Mario Andretti. Can you walk me through that story? Sure I can. This is a 100% true story. I was at the rest of the night. Name was busy and I picked up the phone and and it was My injury was out there and he called. He said he had room for two tonight and I said, I'm sorry, Super booked. He said He squeezed me, and I don't think so. I said, Can you capacity come tomorrow night? And he said I would appreciate it. My name is Mario Andretti. He said, Just if I can just come in I appreciate it, really. And I said, You know, I hear stories like all the time people call in and give them names. I said, I'll tell you what, If you're marrying, dreading, you come in at nine o'clock, you'll get you'll get a seat for sure.

And by the way, when you come in, ask for Wyatt Urban, I'll see you myself. So what happened was I mean, back in the office, I fell asleep. Be honest with you. Few months later. Somebody can't mention Mike. Mario Andretti's here. I said, You really the real Mario Andretti said, Yeah, so I walked out, walked up to him, and I said, Hello, he says. He said, I'm Mary Andretti and you're not white up. That's how we met. And we become dear friends. He's a class act. He's contributed a lot to the rest of the publicity. Never charged me a dime. He's just a kind guy. Well, true living legend, no question about it. And that's how we met. I love that story. Can you tell me about some of the other I know in the restaurant there are, you know, booths with the names of some of the other famous guests that have come in throughout the restaurants. History. Can you tell me about some of the names on those booths that we haven't mentioned quite yet? Well, sure, there's, You know Joe DiMaggio there, of course, there's Marilyn Monroe. There's the Rat Pack John Wayne, who have the publicity out there quite a bit about that right now. And you know, that was Presley.

Muhammad Ali came in for his 70th birthday, and Oscar and Caroline have a joint picture over both their themselves got cleaners were there. Ralph Lamb has both used to be the former sheriff there. So we've got, you know, and go on and on to some people that, you know, even Betty Grable. We've got a lot of people there and that a lot of people today don't even know who they were. But we've kept their names there because they did contribute greatly to the success in the longevity of where we're at now, after 62 years and the and the reason we're iconic, truly iconic. And this not only in Nevada and Las Vegas, but this country. And we're very excited and proud to say that mhm and famously, the steer hasn't really changed in almost its entire history. Can you tell me, was that intentional on your part? At least to leave things as they were and stick with the old? You know, if if it ain't broke, don't fix it And that the Swedish comment, that statement, I think is right. And, uh and that's exactly why did It was a hard decision to make, but I felt if it was working, let's stay with it many times I sat down and said, Gee, we served too much food and this and that and but I was afraid that even tweak it a little bit.

I said, Well, just work at it and it's not easy keeping it the way it was, Um, because it works. And I think people like something that has some history to it, because history is sort of going away a lot of ways, particularly so we wanted to perpetuate that. And so, other than the price of the menu, I don't the pricing which had to change. We don't think anything else really change their we've had. We've had some chefs there. They've been there 30 years now. We have a waiter there. There's been there 48 years. So you know, you know, nobody comes there and works there really wants to leave. We were very proud of that. It's more of a family unit or anything else that I think that's another reason for his success. Be honest with you going along with that. Setting aside the Covid 19 pandemic and the safety measures that have been put in place as a result of that, is it fair to say that someone who walks in the doors of the Golden Steer today will have pretty much the same experience as someone who walked in 50 years ago. Ironically, you're correct, and that's how they believe what it is. And we've had people come in recently who actually were at the theory years ago and where they said they actually were having dinner one night.

They saw Frank not to come in, and I don't mean this in a disrespectful way, but he was quite inebriated. He went to each booth and serenaded every every booth of the restaurant, and they were there the night that happened. And they were telling me because therefore the anniversary or something. And they said that we don't think anything has changed here. They said, It's just incredible what you've done, and it's not easy to do that. Rick Kennedy. I think it's easy to make a change, and it is not to make a change. You always said, Well, we better do something to be competitive, where we're going to be passed by. Maybe we're Model a Ford and somebody else is gonna Maserati, but we don't want to be a Maserati. We'll go drive one, but we're going to stay at a model, a forward and be who we are, and I think it's exciting to be that way. So you've been with the steer now for a couple decades, and you've been in Las Vegas for a long time. Vegas tends to wipe away a lot of its history or even literally blows it up. In the case of a lot of old casinos, what do you make about the development of the city over the past few decades? And do you think it's maybe a mistake that the city hasn't preserved more of its history? That maybe it's lost some charm as a result?

But Kennedy I I think it has. But you know, when successful businessman come to the community with with lots of money, they're probably concerned about getting return on their investment and not worrying about preserving what's already here. So that's up to somebody else they feel. And I think it has lost its charm. Although I'm very I love the town and I and of course it's evolved like very few cities have in the world because I've been here since the sixties. I came in 61 left came back in 69 when I was here in mostly motels. But a lot of people don't know about the history Here. It be nice if, uh, if someone came back and really worked hard at trying to put something together knows all the people out there doing it now, it could be careful when I say that. I expect that I'm glad there's a mob museum, for example, and things like that. And But, you know, things only last so long. And there's an old saying that, you know, fame, money goes so long, and then it has this life expectancy. Then it goes away. Sure. Well, thank you so much for for chatting with me, Michael and and sharing this piece of history with our listeners.

Well, thank you for asking me, and we appreciate it on behalf of the staff and my associates, my daughter and my son in law, Amanda, signaling my daughter and Nick McMillen, my son in law. We're really proud of what we have. And we appreciate you taking the time to ask those questions and spread the word about the golden Steer and thank you very much. for having me on this podcast. Thank you once again to Dr Michael J. Signorelli for joining me on this bonus episode of Mobbed Up. I hope you all enjoyed the conversation as much as I did. We'll be back with the final episode of the series on Tuesday, so be sure to tune in. And if you're looking for more mobbed up after that, mark your calendars and join us for mobbed Up Live on August 4th at 7 p.m. Pacific.

BONUS: Stories from the Steer
BONUS: Stories from the Steer
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