Jeff Smith 6 p.m., Feb. 27
Mob lawyer’s memoir omits Hedgecock and Manchester
No mention of infamous client Roger Hedgecock, political godfather Doug Manchester, nor Moe Dalitz's notorious La Costa resort in new book by Las Vegas ex-mayor Oscar Goodman
San Diego has had a long line of controversial mayors, but arguably no one as colorful - and Mafia connected - as the former mayor of Las Vegas, ex-mob lawyer Oscar Goodman, who also has more than a few memorable ties to Enron by the Bay, also known locally as America’s finest city.
Goodman is out with a new book titled Being Oscar: From Mob Lawyer to Mayor of Las Vegas, purporting to be a tell-all about his storied career representing the Mafia and its many friends and associates in America's self-billed sin city and beyond.
The volume bestows municipal sainthood on a long line of organized criminals Goodman has known and represented:
Guys came here with jackets - long criminal arrest records. And when given a second chance, some of them became our founding fathers.
Guys like Benny Binion and Moe Dalitz.
They were community leaders. They built churches and synagogues and some of the fanciest gambling palaces the world has ever seen.
Guys like Dalitz also had plenty of connections in San Diego, where he and his associates - including still-living Vegas development icon Irwin Molaksy, now working for the FBI on a posh new headquarters here - built the biggest mob playground of its era, the La Costa Resort and Spa, but none of that appears in Goodman's book.
When he was working for the mob, Goodman spent a goodly amount of time in San Diego kibitzing with the city’s Mafia defense bar and watching over the interests of his many special friends and clients, who came to include one of the city's most notorious mayors.
[Goodman] has a condominium in the Shores high above Coronado with a sweeping view of the ocean. He's a hero to downtown's legion of defense attorneys, some of whom he has befriended and mentored as they built their careers defending alleged drug smugglers, hit men, bookies, and topless- joint tax cheats.
And, of course, he defended Roger Hedgecock in the notorious public corruption case that ultimately toppled Hedgecock from his throne as populist hero and cost the then-liberal mayor his job.
Goodman also unsuccessfully defended San Diego's minor mobster Chris Petti against accusations of trying to help the mob muscle in on the Rincon Indians' gambling plans.
And he says he was “very close” to La Jolla's Allen Glick, when Glick ran the Argent Corporation in Las Vegas, which owned such casinos as the Stardust, the Fremont, and the Hacienda. According to Nicholas Pileggi, in his book Casino, Glick, a 31-year-old San Diego real estate dealer in 1974, suddenly became the second-biggest casino operator in Las Vegas history.
Glick, who answered to mob killer Tony Spilotro, had links to San Diego's Tamara Rand, who was shot five times in the head in the kitchen of her house in Mission Hills in November 1975, shortly after a business disagreement with Glick.
“Glick had been quietly fighting Rand's claims that she was a partner in the Stardust [Glick's casino] for years,” Pileggi wrote, "but her mobster-style murder pushed an obscure financial-page dispute onto the front page."
As for Hedgecock, his first trial for public corruption ended in February 1985 with a hung jury after one juror refused to vote for conviction. The defense had been run by Mike Pancer, a rising young San Diego criminal defense lawyer who was a friend of Goodman.
As Don Bauder wrote in his 1985 book, Captain Money and the Golden Girl, Hedgecock recruited Oscar Goodman for the retrial. Goodman had done legal work for J. David Dominelli, Bauder reported. Dominelli was the La Jolla swindler whose spectacular downfall helped trigger Hedgecock's indictment.
“[Goodman's] firm had been J. David's landlord,” according to Bauder. "Goodman said he would represent the mayor for a minimal fee. It was altruistic, Goodman explained: He owned a condominium in San Diego and believed Hedgecock was the right man for the mayor's job.
“Goodman's presence caused the no-growth and pro-growth constituencies to think, at least for a moment, the same thought. They wondered jointly if Goodman would be a new power in San Diego real estate -- and they marveled at the irony that Roger Hedgecock, the outspoken no-growther, had served as the catalyst in Goodman's rise.”
None of that is included in Goodman’s new tome.
Instead of dwelling on his role in San Diego's political and criminal past, Goodman cites the California city as an example of redevelopment that he attempted to emulate as the mayor of Vegas:
I remember being in San Diego before the redevelopment. A friend had a law office in the area, and when I went there, there were tiny bugs everywhere. They had been attracted by the urine. At night, the street people used his doorway as a bathroom.
There were hookers all over the place chasing the sailors. These were hookers, not call girls. There were drug dealers and drug users, filthy dirty strung-out people, holding out their hand for change. It wasn’t the image of a vibrant city, by any means.
Today, it’s a different place. They’ve built a brand-new convention center and a baseball stadium.
After Hedgecock became mayor in 1983 on a big-spending downtown redevelopment platform, the city’s convention center was placed conveniently next to the bayside hotel complex then owned by developer Douglas Manchester, now publisher of U-T San Diego.
The La Jolla mogul was one of Hedgecock’s biggest campaign cash cows and subsequently served as a protective, if shadowy, Godfather-like figure after the fallen mayor had been forced from office.
The intimate relationship continues to this day; Hedgecock is currently hosting a vanity show on Manchester’s U-T TV cable video operation during which he banters with reporters, politicos, and celebrities much the way another Goodman client, mob hotel front man Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, used to do every weekend from a stage at the Stardust in Vegas.
More like this:
- Hedgecock firm gives big to anti-Alvarez campaign — Jan. 9, 2014
- Manchester minion, other famous figures of San Diego crime and scandal fork over for Faulconer — Sept. 10, 2013
- The unmaking and making of Roger Hedgecock — March 6, 2013
- Eye of the Beholder — April 15, 1999
- Roger Hedgecock and His Vegas Lawyer (2) — Aug. 6, 1998