That’s all folks! A look back at Oscar Goodman

Photo: Beverly Poppe

When Oscar Goodman took office on June 28, 1999 this magazine was still in its infancy. First published under the name Las Vegas Weekly in 1998, we’ve been with Oscar since the beginning, capitalizing on the colorful quotes and pinstriped antics of the red-nosed former Mob lawyer. After 12 years as Las Vegas’ defender and mascot, Oscar Goodman handed over the city to his wife Carolyn this week. To send him off, we look back at his wild ride through the pages of the Weekly.

June 1999

Former Mob lawyer Oscar Goodman is elected mayor over Councilman Arnie Adamsen and is sworn in by outgoing Mayor Jan Jones.

He said: “No one should worry that planes will turn around or the cars will stop at the state line. Instead of talking about my past, people are talking about the future. That’s what my term as mayor is going to be all about.”

We said: “It’s one thing for Goodman to talk the talk about vision. As demonstrated by his predecessor, the greatest challenge will be getting others to join in to walk the walk needed to turn that vision into reality.”

The Making of Oscar

May 2001

Let the era of ridiculous ideas begin: Goodman suggests an uninhabited prison in Jean would provide good housing for the homeless.

October 2002

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman speaks at meeting of the Metro Police Citizen Review Board at the Clark County Government Center November 7, 2003.

Southern Wine & Spirits pays Goodman $100,000 to endorse Bombay Sapphire gin, but he doesn’t keep the cash. He donates half to the Meadows School (where his wife, Carolyn, is principal) and half to help homeless people addicted to alcohol, aka “chronic public inebrients” (who are not living in a prison in Jean).

We say: It’s hard to imagine any other politician milking an endorsement deal with quite the same enthusiasm as Oscar. Perhaps his retirement should include a part-time gig as a guest bartender bouncing between the nightspots on Fremont Street.

March 2005

Goodman tells fourth graders that, if he was stranded on a desert island, he’d take “a bottle of gin.”

We pondered: “Would I let Oscar babysit my kids? I dunno; you think he’d work for a buck a kid per hour and free pizza?”

November 2005


“Someday there will be consolidation. And then I will be the mayor of everything.” –Mayor Oscar Goodman, 2009
“I’d take one Betty over 100 showgirls any day.” –Oscar Goodman referring to Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign designer Betty Willis during an art exhibit of Las Vegas signs at S2 Art Center.

Goodman advocates public humiliation and mutilation for graffiti taggers who vandalize public spaces. His preferred method of punishment? Cutting off their thumbs.

We said (okay, someone else said it, but it pretty much summed up what we were thinking): “Whoa! Would someone please shoot the mayor of Las Vegas with a tranquilizer gun?” –Tim Greenwood, columnist for the Detroit News, as quoted in the Weekly.

September 2008

A roast of Oscar at the Plaza proves to be a fairly gentle ribbing. But Congresswoman Shelley Berkley does deliver this zinger: “Carolyn told me, Oscar’s idea of oral sex is to talk about himself.”

February 2009

Goodman demands an apology from President Barack Obama after the President says companies that received government bailouts shouldn’t take trips to the Super Bowl or hold junkets in Vegas. Two months later, Goodman is still trying to get a meet with the Prez.

We said: “Usually, the mayor’s antics leave even his critics begrudgingly impressed … Yet last week, Hizzoner embodied other totally accurate facets of the Las Vegas mentality, but ones that do not serve the city quite as well: Paranoia. Inferiority. Victimhood. In the process, the mayor may very well have inadvertently helped create a very damaging, costly, self-fulfilling prophecy.”

We say: The worst has not come to pass. Conventions still book here and visitor volume, room occupancy and average daily room rate are all on the rise over 2010, which saw small gains over 2009 in a number of the same categories. Moral of the story: No one’s listening to the President anyway.

March 2009

Goodman celebrates the revealing of his wax statue at Madame Tussauds, which took 200 measurements to create.

We said: “Odd thing is, if wax Oscar doesn’t talk or drink, we may scarcely recognize it as him. Will he just stand there, quietly supporting a red nose? No quips, no sass, no aura of gin? Or will he be duking it out with the Obama figure over the absurd mischaracterization of Vegas as a city of overindulgence? More likely he’ll just be bookended by chesty showgirls, giving visitors the obvious political cue: This is the mayor.”


“I’m looking for the other 14 (percent) so I can have them whacked.” –Oscar Goodman in response to a poll that had his approval rating at 86 percent.

July 2009

Oscar invites the city to his birthday party on Fremont Street. We have plans.

April 2011

Goodman considers a post-mayoral gig as a public ambassador for Las Vegas, saying, “I’ll only consider it if it’s a serious job. I’m not going to become a caricature of myself in my next life.”

We said: “Oscar, consider this our sound career advice: Go into show business. Not the movies and TV you’ve been doing—we mean the Strip. Guest star in a different show every week. Sip martinis while eschewing water in O; be the live dummy for Terry Fator; do interpretive dance while Garth Brooks sings; let David Copperfield cut off your thumbs.”

He’s No. 1!

We’ve given Oscar plenty of awards over the years


“64 Things Las Vegas Better Damn Well Be Thankful For”

No. 53. Oscar Goodman’s endless quotability. Okay, maybe that’s just us.

2003, 2004, 2005 Readers’ Choice Awards

Local Hero, Best Person to Have on Your Side in a Fight (2005)

He might not be tapped by the Clark County School District as a substitute teacher any time soon, but Las Vegas could have no better leader and cheerleader than Da Mayor, as evidenced by Hizzoner’s triumph in the Local Hero category for three years in a row. And, with his ... family ... connections, our readers can’t think of anyone they’d rather have in their corner. Maybe it’s his oft-proclaimed happiness rubbing off on folks, or his refreshingly unmuzzled commentary on everything from Downtown redevelopment to political foes that wins hearts. Or maybe it’s something in the gin.

2009 Vegas’ Best

Readers’ Choice: Best Politician

Well, who else? Harry Reid? Sure, he represents Nevada, but Reid belongs to the nation now; he’s trying to be a statesman. Oscar’s an unapologetic local politician. Let Obama say something about Vegas conventioneering. Reid? Oh, he might issue a carefully manicured, passionless statement pointing out whatever. Oscar will demand an apology, damn it. Buffoonish? Maybe. Depends on your perspective. But it’s certainly what the best local politician would do.

2010 Vegas’ Best

Best quote from Oscar Goodman

“That got blown out of proportion with morons in Washington shooting off their mouths,” referring to reactions at the suggestion that his Mob Museum qualify for stimulus funds.

2011 Weekly Awards

Readers’ Choice: Best defender of Las Vegas

He’s bombastic, he says outrageous things, he’s an insane dreamer ... and we’re going to miss him like crazy. For all his faults, was there a guy who loved Las Vegas more than Oscar? He helped bring our city national attention in his own unique, flawed way. There will truly never be another like him. And it’s our loss.


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