By Marc Kelley
Syndicated by: Montana News
Looking at the Gangster's who made Las Vegas in the early 1960's, many names appear, including a Sicilian, named Sam "Momo" Giancana. Giancana grew up in the area of Chicago known as "the patch". The West-side neighborhood was home to many Italian immigrants as well as rival ethnic factions. Perhaps out of self preservation or simply possessing a violent personality, Gianacna made crime his life, from an early age. By the age of seventeen,he developed a reputation as a solid, get-a-way driver, who was not afraid to use his muscle. This fact was not lost on the Chicago Police who began following Giancana as he associated with known organized crime members. In 1926, Giancana was arrested and charged with murder. However, the Prosecutions key witness against him, mysteriously died in a violent "accident" and all charges against him were dropped. By the end of the 1930's Giancana had graduated from street crime, and began running a numbers racket for Al Capone's, Chicago Outfit. Thru his work with The Outfit, Giancana rose to prominence and in 1957 he became the leader of the Chicago Syndicate.
Winter is cold in Chicago and the humidity off Lake Michigan,
can make winter unpleasant at best. To escape the harsh Chicago climate, Sam Giancana would spend the winter months in Las Vegas. From his second residence in Nevada, Giancana began enjoying the nightlife and celebrities which gave the city its nickname, Glitter Gulch. In an effort to help his lifelong, friend Frank Sinatra, who's career had taken a downturn in the late 1950's, Giancana invited Sinatra to Las Vegas and was instrumental in booking the singer into several casino acts. As a thank you for his renewed career, Sinatra introduce Giancana to many starlets, including a very attractive singer by the name of Phyllis McGuire, of the legendary McGuire Sisters. Phyllis, had fallen victim to the glitz and glitter of casino life and run up a considerable debt to Moe Dalitz, a fellow mobster and owner of the Desert Inn. When McGuire told Giancana about her debt, he approached Dalitz and instructed him to "eat the loss". Giancana now 58 and McGuire not yet 30, began a romance and were often seen out on the town, rubbing elbows with society elites and of course mob associates of Gianacana.
In 1959, the Jr Senator from Massachusetts, a handsome, well spoken, war hero, was seeking to expand his political aspirations and began an election campaign seeking the Office of President of the US. Fighting in a very tough primary against Hubert Humphrey, it became obvious a little help would be needed to secure the Democrat nomination. Once again, Frank Sinatra would be the conduit for introducing JFK to Phyllis McGuire and a establishing direct line of communication with Sam Giancana. In true political fashion, a decision was made, it would be best if JFK's exposure to and contact with the Mafia, be minimized to the fullest extent possible. Working thru Sinatra, Giancana was tasked with delivering the labor vote necessary for JFK to defeat his challenger. In a simple quid pro quo, Giancana delivered the votes need for JFK to secure his parties nomination; in return, Giancana secured the promise, a Kennedy Administration would "lay off" organized crime.
As we all know from history, not only did JFK succeed in securing his parties nomination, he defeated the incumbent Vice President Richard Nixon, to become the 35th President of the United States. In a 1998, 60 Minutes interview given by Frank Sinatra's youngest daughter Tina, she told reporter, Steve Kroft, her father has always contended, he asked Giancana for his help in getting JFK elected, and the mob boss replied, "it's only a couple of phone calls".
For reasons which no one seems to understand, in January, 1961, JFK appointed his younger brother Bobby, to serves as Attorney General. In what was seen as a betrayal by JFK, Bobby Kennedy, began a full out assault against organized crime and big labor. Convictions against organized crime figures and union leaders increased over 800 percent on the Kennedy Administration. The next few years were very expensive for the mob, time and time again organized crime figures were sent to prison, lost huge sums of money and had their business disrupted at every turn. Of the many conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of JFK; the idea, our 35 President was assassinated by the mob, not only appears possible on its face, it would explain the number of mob figures who mysteriously surfaced in the days following Kennedy's death.
The 1960's were certainly troubled times for the mob in Las Vegas. However the mobs involvement in Las Vegas would not come to a crashing end; but rather, the next chapter in the bizarre story which is Las Vegas, would be written by a reclusive, eccentric billionaire, named Howard Hughes.