In the CBS version of Las Vegas in the 1960s, it’s pretty easy to know who the bad guy is: Michael Chiklis’ mobbed-up Vegas antihero struts around his casino wearing a black fedora, has federal witnesses bumped off, and tries to charm the new sheriff with free champagne. He’s smooth, cunning and completely in control.
In Las Vegas circa 2012, that bad guy’s actually considered a pretty good guy. We’ve rewritten our history to suit the cinematic notion of the mobster as an action hero, a four-color study in pure, brutal power. Most of the real connected guys who settled in Vegas though, were boringly, sometimes devastatingly good at running their businesses. And they left the black fedoras and bloodlust at home. Moe Dalitz was perhaps the most influential of them all.
I started riffing about this a while back, and I’m still trying to capture the nuances with Dalitz. Not quite the romantic criminal figure he’s often made out to be, but not exactly the thoroughly honest businessman he represented himself as.