By Kathy Manney
The Vegas Mob Tour was created for anyone interested in Las Vegas history and the former mob association here. The tour’s guide is none other than Frank Cullotta. True life former mobster, Cullotta became a cooperating government witness, testifying against his former associates after Las Vegas key player Tony Spilotro tried to kill him for Cullotta’s knowledge of Spilotro’s affair with mob associate, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal’s wife Geri.
As the tour begins, Cullotta smiles and greets passengers. Maybe not what you’d call a full-blown grin – that wouldn’t fit his style. Now in his seventies, Cullotta is a man who has lived an incredibly interesting life. As we pull from the curb, Cullotta begins speaking avidly as if his time as a mobster was yesterday. There is something about the way he begins the story, with hints and merest glimpses of what lays beyond. This inevitably hooks his audience.
Former mobster Tony Spilotro stayed in touch with Cullotta after Spilotro relocated to Las Vegas, often calling to ask Cullotta to come out here. Cullotta always turned Spilotro down, but when Spilotro called in 1979 and asked, “Frankie, I’ve got a lot going and I need you out here real bad.” Frank Cullotta was ready to leave Chicago and accept the offer and responded, “I’m on my way.”
Once in Las Vegas, Cullotta acted as Tony Spilotro’s enforcer, running Spilotro’s robbery, extortion, murder branch and casino skimming. Cullotta and Spilotro’s friendship went back to their old neighborhood as kids growing up in Chicago.
It is an understatement to say Cullotta has gone through some difficult situations and come out on the other side. He served time in a federal institution before being paroled into the Witness Protection Program and tells tour bus passengers that he has either received immunity or the statute of limitations long ago expired on his crimes.
In the 1970’s and ’80’s the Chicago mob’s presence in Las Vegas was skimming large amounts of cash from several local casinos. It was this era that the 1995 movie Casino, filmed in Las Vegas, depicts. In the movie actress Sharon Stone played Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal’s wife Geri, Robert De Niro played “Lefty” Rosenthal and Joe Pesci played Tony Spilotro.
Frank Cullotta could give the type of details to the movie that only someone who had lived it might offer to capture the actual mood and details. When he emerged from the Witness Protection Program, Cullotta was hired by director Martin Scorsese and screen writer Nick Pileggi as a technical consultant during the production of Casino and Cullotta acted in the movie as well. Cullotta remains friends with some of the film’s crew.
During the tour, Cullotta welcomes questions and is candid in his answers about mob jobs, locations and mob members. When he was asked how many times he had been married, Cullotta replied three times. When pressed to explain, he answered with a twinkle in his eye, “My first marriage we were too young. My second wife divorced me when I went to jail and my third wife divorced me when I didn’t go to jail.”
The Vegas Mob Tour and Frank Cullotta invite you to become part of the mob’s storied history by taking tour goers to see many of the locations in Las Vegas that were once making front page news. Frank Cullotta will pose for photographs with you in front of the house that was used in the movie Casino as Frank and Geri Rosenthal’s.
Cullotta’s tour presentation ends with a pizza party where he again poses for photos and signs books for those interested in purchasing books about his life as a “Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness.” Explore Vegas Now Tours markets the Vegas Mob Tour.
Kathy Manney is the nationally recognized author of autobiographical, lifestyle and travel articles and the travel columnist for “The Vegas Voice,” a monthly regional senior lifestyle newspaper.
As the travel expert-at-large for the “Voice” Kathy has seen a lot of the world, she enjoys traveling to new and interesting places and in the process of becoming an adventure Diva, finds some of her articles. Kathy’s “must see before I die” travel adventures continue, each filled with enthusiasm.