February 21, 2014
The end of 2013 marked an anniversary some Las Vegans would rather forget. Fifty years before, in December 1963, Trident Press published a new book: The Green Felt Jungle, by Ed Reid and Ovid Demaris. As historian David Schwartz wrote recently, it hit Las Vegas like a tidal wave.
The book built on Reid’s decade as a reporter and editor at the Las Vegas Sun, and Demaris’s background in writing about the mob. It spent nearly six months on The New York Times best-seller list, and the paperback edition, with additional material, did well.
Las Vegans felt differently. Casino owners resented how they were portrayed. To be fair about it, they were used to that kind of thing. But they also didn’t like that the book listed who owned the hotel-casinos and the percentages they owned. Interestingly, one of those upset about the book was Hank Greenspun. Reid had worked for him and used information printed in the Sun, most notably material the paper had published a decade before. The Sun had done a series that revealed Meyer Lansky as a hidden investor in the Thunderbird Hotel on the Strip. But Greenspun resented that Reid used material that had not been published or even confirmed. He also felt Nevada at least had been trying to clean up its act. So he went on national television and criticized the book.
The criticism of the book and the criticism in the book … ultimately didn’t amount to much. By the time The Green Felt Jungle was published, the Justice Department had already been targeting Las Vegas. The book had nothing that Bobby Kennedy and J. Edgar Hoover didn’t already believe.
But The Green Felt Jungle also should be seen as part of a trend. In the next couple of years after its publication, other books focused on Nevada. A New York Times reporter, Wallace Turner, published Gamblers’ Money, covering some of the same ground. Another veteran reporter, Sandy Smith, had a series of articles on the mob in the Chicago papers and in national magazines like Time and Life. A political scientist, Gilman Ostrander, wrote Nevada: The Great Rotten Borough, attacking the state as a cesspool of political corruption. The Green Felt Jungle roughed up Nevada and Las Vegas, but it wasn’t the only one. It wasn’t even the only mob book Reid and Demaris were involved in. Reid wrote about organized crime for another newspaper, the Brooklyn Eagle. Demaris published several books, including one on mob hitman Jimmy the Weasel Fratianno.
In the half-century since The Green Felt Jungle came out, Nevada has teamed with federal and local officials and the media to drive out the old mob ownership. Indeed, the book was still on everyone’s mind three years after it came out when Howard Hughes came to town, and then-Governor Paul Laxalt began pushing for reforms to allow corporations to be able to own casinos. But think of movies like The Hangover and ad campaigns like “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” We may have been less sinful than Reid and Demaris claimed at the time, and we certainly are now … but it helps the bottom line if we’re at least a little bit bad.
See discussion rules
|Nov 13, 2014 | Women's Suffrage in Nevada|
A century has gone by since 'women's suffrage became a reality in Nevada. The push to give women in Nevada the right to vote was not an easy endeavor. We take a look at how that change came about on Nevada Yesterdays.
|Oct 31, 2014 | One Hundred Fifty Years|
Was it 'silver' or politics that tipped the scales in favor of Nevada statehood, 150 years ago. Here's Senator Richard Bryan with Nevada Yesterdays.
|Sep 5, 2014 | The Beatles|
It's been a half century since the Beatles had a 'hard day's night,' right here in Las Vegas. The real thing - John, Paul, George and Ringo - arrived on August 20, 1964. Their performance lasted for about 30-minutes as part of a show that included the Righteous Brothers and Jackie DeShannon.
|Aug 22, 2014 | Civil Rights Act|
When the Civil Rights Act was passed a half century ago, not everyone within Nevada's political circles was onboard with it. The decision was not a simple one for some Nevada Senators.
|Aug 1, 2014 | Bob Bailey|
How much can one person accomplish? If you're like Bob Bailey, quite a bit. From show business to civil rights on the Strip, Here's Senator Richard Bryan with a look back at the life of Bob Bailey.
|Jul 11, 2014 | Remembering Bob Faiss|
Mixing law with the gaming industry seemed a natural fit for one Las Vegas attorney, who passed away recently. Here's a look back at the influence of attorney Bob Faiss on the gaming industry.
|May 16, 2014 | Viva Las Vegas|
"Viva Las Vegas" turns 50 in a few days. We'll hear how Las Vegas itself starred in the iconic movie, along side Elvis. Moviegoers got a taste of Southern Nevada and a song to go with it!
|May 9, 2014 | Sagebrush Rebels|
A rancher challenging federal authority over land rights in Nevada has been in the news recently, but it's not the first time the subject has been a hot topic. Remembering the "Sagebrush Rebellion" on Nevada Yesterdays.
|Apr 18, 2014 | Metro Battles Corruption and the Mob|
Efforts to drive organized crime out of Las Vegas, left one former Metro officer, Kent Clifford, with some controversies of his own.
|Mar 21, 2014 | Natalie Rittenhouse|
Family connections run deep for some pioneer families of Southern Nevada. Perhaps they aren't too well known these days. They should be. They are among the important pioneer families of southern Nevada.
|Mar 7, 2014 | Test Ban|
Strange as it may seem now, there was a time when detonating a nuclear bomb was healthy for Nevada's image.
|Feb 21, 2014 | Green Felt Jungle|
The pen is mightier than the roulette table? Some books over the years have tested that notion. Fifty years ago, a book about Las Vegas became a best-seller. But not everyone was happy with what the book had to say about the influence of organized crime on Las Vegas casinos.
|Jan 16, 2014 | Martin Luther King, Jr.|
Fifty years have gone by since Martin Luther King, Jr. made his way to Las Vegas, in a visit that had an impact. Local leaders had won the right to patronize once segregated casinos, but they hoped King would reinvigorate the local movement.
|Jan 3, 2014 | Treaty of Ruby Valley|
A treaty that was signed in the territory of Nevada 150 years ago is still raising questions. The Western Shoshone tribe has been offered tens of millions of dollars by the US government, but they say no thanks. In 1974, sisters Mary and Carrie Dann of Beowawe, became symbols of the tribes resistance.
|Dec 5, 2013 | Lon Simmons|
We take a look at how a legendary sports-broadcaster forged a path from Las Vegas to Candlestick Park. Switching from pitcher to broadcaster turned out to be a home run decision for Lon Simmons. Here's Senator Richard Bryan with Nevada Yesterdays.
|Nov 20, 2013 | JFK and Las Vegas Connections|
Elements of John F. Kennedy's ties to Las Vegas have been mixed in with the
puzzle-pieces surrounding his death. Las Vegas and Nevada were part of the orbit of the Kennedys, their allies, and their enemies. Senator Richard Bryan connects the dots on Nevada Yesterdays.
|Sep 20, 2013 | Constitution|
How about the great State of Washoe or Esmeralda? When residents of this territory considered statehood 150 years ago, it took more than one attempt to get them to agree on a name and on how much to tax the lucrative gold and silver mines.
|Sep 1, 2013 | Sawyer v. Sinatra|
It was around Labor Day 50 years ago, that Nevada's little black book caused some friction for Frank Sinatra. A mobster who was in the black book was seen in the Cal-Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe and Sinatra was part owner...
|Aug 2, 2013 | Dorothy Gallagher|
Dorothy Gallagher never gave up on access to higher education for people living in rural areas.
|Jul 12, 2013 | A Big Fight|
Some boxing matches in Las Vegas have carried more weight than just a heavyweight title.