Slick Misses the Ways of the Mafia
By Sanne Rooseboom
Old Criminal in Las Vegas
Slick misses the ways of the Mafia every now and then. He was a thief, a fighter and a crook. He knew Mafiosi from Chicago and Las Vegas, starting from absolutely nothing to what it is now. From the Stratosphere—an enormous casino—Slick looks out over Las Vegas. “I never thought I’d get old,” which he said with a smile. “Everything happens day to day. There was so much unrest in me…I was hungry. Life was like a big roller coaster ride. And then again, here I am, 76 years old and I have plenty to do with my kids, the dog and, on some days, poker. Who would have thought?”
When Slick was a 17-year-old soldier and he came out on the old railroad to Las Vegas, nobody had ever heard of the place. He talks with a brusque voice and lot of hand gestures. “In the middle of the Nevada desert, Bugsy Siegel, the Mafia boss from Chicago [sic], had built a gambling palace in the dry and incredible heat.”
Slick enjoyed his first time in Las Vegas in 1949—the gambling, the women—but did not think the Mafia plan would work out. “Who is coming all the way to the desert to play poker?” Slick just shrugs his shoulders and smiles. “No wonder I never got rich because I obviously did not know what the future would bring.”
He got kicked out of school when he was 9 years old and grew up in Chicago during the crisis of the Second World War. A poor family, bad neighborhood, the young father of 5 kids. Slick’s criminal career began early. “I started young and was moving around with the big guys. The man in the suit had money and always needed help. Slick was a valued outsider of the Chicago Outfit, the powerful Mafia syndicate that a few years earlier was started by Al Capone. “I’ve never been a member…I didn’t kill people. With that frame of mind, you didn’t get very far with the Outfit.”
“I never squealed about anybody. When the whole Chicago Mafia was a few years ago in court during a mega process, Slick was a witness. “I still didn’t tell tales about anybody. They wanted information about Tony Spilotro, the boss in Las Vegas during the ‘70s and ‘80s, and he was just an acquaintance.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars went through Slick’s hands. He let a businessman believe he was going to invest the money for him. Instead Slick spent it on women and poker. In a poker tournament he worked out a way to steal several thousand dollars worth of chips which he made disappear between his fingers. Later he ran gambling places and was a poker teacher. One of his pupils decided to write a book about him: THIEF, now a small-scale success.
During the 1970s, the Mafia’s power in Las Vegas disappeared, more or less. Slick has his own theory. “After the murder of John Kennedy, the politics became clear that the Mafia had too much power. Because, believe me, the man who took out Lee Harvey Oswald…I knew him. He was a Mafia guy. After that all happened, the Mafia didn’t know what to do…these guys who could even get rid of a president. Then they were prosecuted heavily.
According to the Rules
Now Las Vegas is in the hands of legitimate people. Slick says he’s missing the norms and the values of the Mafia, every now and then. “Vegas has changed since the Outfit couldn’t keep everything under control while in power. Las Vegas has lost its personality. Now everything there is according to the rules. Sometimes that’s a pity. On the other hand, fewer people disappear to be later found dead buried somewhere in the desert."
[This is a disclaimer. Slick was misquoted as saying he was a “witness” at the Chicago Outfit trial dubbed Family Secrets when he actually said he was interviewed by Las Vegas TV journalist George Knapp regarding the trial.]
Translation thanks to Donald Rooyakkers of Palm Coast, Florida.
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