MYSTERY WIRE — Casino exposed the world to the gritty under-belly of mob life and showed audiences what it was like for some to work and play in Las Vegas in what’s now known as the mob years.
It was 25 years ago this week when the Martin Scorsese movie hit the big screen. Set in a different era, Casino tells the rough and tumble story of Ace, played by Robert De Niro and Nicky, played by Joe Pesci.
Much like many Hollywood adapted films, while fictional, Casino told a relatively accurate story of what really went down at the Stardust Resort and Casino. The stars of Casino were portraying real people that walked the Las Vegas strip.
De Niro’s character in real life was Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal. A sports bookie, casino executive, and mob associate who ran the Stardust. Pesci’s character in real life was Tony “The Ant” Spilotro. Spilotro wielded immense power in Las Vegas for years after he was sent the Las Vegas by the Chicago outfit to oversee its interests.
Scorsese also changed the name of the casino in the movie from its real life counterpart. In the movie Ace ran the Tangiers, in real life it was Rosenthal who oversaw the Stardust.
As in the movie, Frank Rosenthal was targeted for murder when a bomb was planted under his Cadillac. Rosenthal spoke about that moment with George Knapp in an interview recorded prior to the movie being released.
When Casino premiered in Las Vegas back in 1995, it was a star-studded event. Many of the real-life characters portrayed in the film showed up including a former mobster.
Recently deceased mobster Frank Cullotta actually played himself in the film committing a murder he was accused of committing. The former mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman, is also in the film playing himself as a mob lawyer. In real life Goodman defended Spilotro in court and represented Rosenthal when he tried to obtain a Nevada gaming license, an event that is shown in the movie.
Last week screenwriter Nick Pileggi and former mayor and attorney Oscar Goodman led a special event at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. “I’ve been a lawyer here for 35 years and the mayor for 12 years, and I go to the airport and people go ‘oh, there’s the guy from Casino!’” Goodman said.