Here is a question for you. What do you get when you have crime writer and Vegas historian Denny Griffin, Vegas author Jay Rankin, ex Chicago Mafia Tony (The Ant) Spilotro’s right hand man Frank Cullotta, and ex Vegas Metro Detective Louie DeTiberiis gathered around a ‘radio’ table? You have one hell of a great program is the answer!

This has been a program that I had wanted to do for some time.

The panel are undoubtedly the best experts I know on the subject Las Vegas.

Jay Rankin lived in Vegas for 10 years under the ‘corporate Vegas’ rule, but also was a visitor in the ‘old Mob days’. He spent six years working as a night doorman at the MGM Grand. His book Under The Neon Sky is a great peek behind the facade of glitz that the average visitor does not see. In many ways Jay’s book could be used as a primer of what to expect, and what actually happens. The guest arrives on Friday, full of energy and a wallet full of cash. When he leaves on Sunday his is sleep deprived, malnourished, hating life, and with barely enough money to buy a bag of peanuts from the vending machines at the airport.

Denny Griffin has been a resident in Vegas for quite some time, and his books on the history of Las Vegas are on the ‘Must Read’ list for anyone interested in this city. The Battle For Las Vegas should be on everyones reading list.

Frank Cullotta was Tony (The Ant) Spilotro’s right hand man in Vegas.  Frank was also part of the infamous ‘Hole In The Wall Gang’. Earning that nickname from the local police because of their penchant for avoiding alarm system by punching a hole one of the walls instead. Frank was a much reared member of the Mob up until 1982, facing the grim reality of life imprisonment and a contract on his head from his old friend Tony Spilotro he turned states evidence.

Louie DeTiberiis was part of the metro police force in Vegas we spent 18 years working in various departments usually in an undercover capacity. He was very much part of the team that removed Tony Spilotro and Frank Cullotta from power.

It was a great discussion, it is not often that that you get a panel of this caliber and close association to the actual events.

I posed the question, was Vegas a safer city under the Mob than it is now? I was surprised that the entire panel was in absolute agreement. Vegas was a much safer city for both residents and visitors back in the Spilotro days. As Frank pointed out, the Mob had ethics, the only people that they went after, or as Frank calls it ‘Whacked’, were those that had committed some crime against the Mob. And that tended to be people inside the organization rather than outsiders. Even Louie concurred whole heartedly that Vegas was a much better place in the old days.

Jay Rankin also had some interesting observations on this subject. Although his working career in Vegas was post-mob, he did in fact spend a good deal of time in the city years ago, and ‘Then’ was a much better experience for the visitor than ‘Now’.

The Italians knew how to treat people, they never forgot a name, what you drank, your favourite dish. They understood hospitality. Today if you want to get ‘comp’d’ for something, they hand you a computer printout that tells you how much you have to spend and how long you have to play!

We managed to cover a great deal of ground in the one hour program. If you are a fan of history but not a fan of reading books this might just be the best way to learn about the story of the battle for control of Las Vegas.

Many books rightly claim that the turning point in the battle was the robbery of Bertha’s Gifts and Home Furnishings on July 4 1981 by The Hole In The Wall Gang. Yet few authors really understand the exact circumstances nor the fall out from this bungled event. Both Frank Cullotta and Louie DeTiberiis were there! To hear the two accounts side by side was without doubt the pinnacle of the program.

Both the Metro Police and FBI had had Spilotro in their cross hairs for some considerable time, and although Spilotro had made some poor judgments he still remained an elusive target. Frank Cullotta became the key piece in an intricate game of chess.

Later I asked Louie DeTiberiis about his relationship with Frank Cullotta, in fact together with Denny Griffin they are involved in a business venture, ‘The Mob Chronicles’. He explained that he and Frank had never been enemies, they were merely on different sides. It is very clear that they have great respect for each other, in fact towards the end of the program the subject of Frank ‘rolling’ came up. Louie explained (paraphrased):

Frank is a man of honor he was prepared to spend a 100 years in jail, he was loyal to the Chicago Mafia. Unfortunately that loyalty was not a two way street. When Spilotro put out the contract, he broke that loyalty.

You can listen to this truly, truly unique program in its entirety here.

I am hoping to get this illustrious panel back at some time in the future to talk further about this fascinating period of modern history.

Simon Barrett

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