Guest: Daphne Barak, James Garner
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: He made his reputation defending the Mob.
Now he‘s earned a reputation for transforming Las Vegas again. Mayor Oscar Goodman is betting Vegas will win back its old naughty image, sinful, sexy, sensational.
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MAYOR OSCAR GOODMAN (D), LAS VEGAS: I‘m going to go overboard and do much more than what‘s expected of me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Tonight, Oscar Goodman on putting the sin back in sin city.
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GOODMAN: They want to see whether or not I‘m the real McCoy, and I can promise you one thing, my friend. I am.
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NORVILLE: Preaching politics. He‘s controversial.
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REV. AL SHARPTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If necessary, I would engage in civil disobedience again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: ... confrontational.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: They tried to sting me, and I ended up being the bee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: ... and conversational.
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NORVILLE: It‘s mandatory that we save this nation from where it is.
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NORVILLE: ... sometimes outrageous.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: ... always outspoken.
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SHARPTON: All of them in their worst night‘s sleep is better than George Bush.
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NORVILLE: Tonight, the preacher truned social activist turned candidate talks about his role at the Democratic national convention...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: We don‘t just need a new director, we need a new direction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: ... and why he‘s now getting into the business of reality
ANNOUNCER: From studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
NORVILLE: And good evening, everybody. Tonight we‘re going to be talking with two very highly controversial men, both in politics, both who have every right to say they‘ve done it their way. And to say that would be an understatement.
We start off this evening with the Reverend Al Sharpton. Ordained a minister at the age of 10, he became a Civil Rights activist, a candidate for mayor of New York City, then for the United States Senate, and most recently, a candidate for president. Al Sharpton has never won a political race, but he has become a political power player in the Democratic Party. And next week, he‘s being honored with a primetime speaking role at the Democratic convention in Boston, a starring role, speaking the same night as Senator Ted Kennedy and Teresa Heinz Kerry. And he‘s got his own reality TV show.
We‘ve got more on that in just a moment. But right now, Al Sharpton, good evening. It‘s nice to see you.
REV. AL SHARPTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Good evening.
NORVILLE: How pleased were you to get the call from the DNC that they wanted you to speak primetime at the convention.
SHARPTON: Well, I was pleased. I thought that—when Senator Kerry said all of the former candidates would be given roles to speak at some point, I thought that was important. I think it is very important that all sides of the party and the constituencies represent are heard and feel included. I think that that‘s the way we consolidate for victory in November. So I was very happy.
NORVILLE: What is your message when you get up there?
SHARPTON: I want to talk about why I think, first of all, Americans should vote for John Kerry and John Edwards, from my perspective and the perspective of my constituency. I also want to talk about the hope we have for America. I think that we are seeing those that want to radically change this country, that have made a lot of progress toward trying to make it one America, trying to bring equal opportunity and equal protection under the law and how we cannot allow this radical change that has happened or begin to happen...
NORVILLE: Well, what do you mean...
SHARPTON: ... under the Bush administration.
NORVILLE: ... “radical change”?
SHARPTON: Well, when you see the suspension in many areas of civil liberties, when you see the whole turn-back away from job—we lost three million jobs under George Bush, and at the same time, he gave tax cuts that would reward the high-income-level Americans—that‘s a radical change from an America that was geared toward trying to make sure the middle class was stabilized and trying to uplift the lower class.
NORVILLE: To say you‘re controversial is, like, the understatement of the world. When you look at your background, there was the Tawana Brawley case, which a grand jury later said the whole thing was a hoax. You ended up having to pay a $65,000 defamation judgment against one of the people in the case. You didn‘t file your state tax return one year. And then there was the Civil Rights action that you took up in Harlem that ended up with seven people being killed in a fire.
SHARPTON: That‘s, first of all, ludicrous. I took a Civil Rights action in September, somebody had a fire in December. Had nothing to do with it. I think a lot of it is the falsity of media reports. I could support a union today, and three months later, a building blow up that the union took a position on, no one would connet that. I think a lot of this, because of media, was was distorted.
SHARPTON: ... every case...
NORVILLE: ... about the Democratic Party to have someone with that background...
SHARPTON: Well, it says that...
NORVILLE: ... standing up there?
SHARPTON: ... a person that was able to lead non-violent protests for 25 years and have people that were accused of crimes, like the man that sodomized Abner Louima, is in jail today, that they included in the party. If you look at the Republican Party, people that have crimes against government, people that use taxpayer dollars, and they stood with them. Clearly, if you‘re saying because I took a Civil Rights point of view you may disagree with, doesn‘t smack near of some of the things we‘ve seen Republican lawmakers do and continue in their career.
NORVILLE: You know the criticism that‘s been made of the Kerry campaign, that there aren‘t nearly enough faces of diversity in the decision-making roles within the organization. And then you flip over, you look at the Bush administration, you have two of the most prominent blacks in political life are part of his administration. What should the Democrats do, as this campaign goes forward, to be more inclusive in that way?
SHARPTON: I think that they have. I think that when you look at the fact that the Kerry campaign, the deputy campaign manager now is Bill Lynch (ph). Even before that, we had people involved in the campaign. And if you look at Kerry‘s record, you have see inclusion since his days in the United States Senate, even before that, when he was a prosecutor. When you look at George Bush, you have two blacks that he appointed. But the question is, are blacks just satisfied with black faces in high places, or do we want policies that will help our community?
In New York City today, 51 percent of black men are unemployed. That‘s Bush‘s policy. That won‘t satisfy us, that he has one or two blacks in big positions if they‘re not helping the majority of the blacks. So I think what Kerry is doing is proposing things that will help all Americans, including blacks. And I think that that is more important than having tokens that you can display on convention night but that you‘re really not going to have policy to help their communities.
NORVILLE: Do you think you‘re a token on convention night?
SHARPTON: No, I think that Colin Powell and others may have been used as tokens because we saw them in the convention, at the Republican convention in 2000, and the policies that have followed have not helped the communities that they come from.
NORVILLE: But you‘re not going to sit here on TV and say that Colin Powell is a token black in the Bush administration.
SHARPTON: No, I‘m challenging them to prove that he‘s not a token by doing policies that help the community he comes from.
NORVILLE: Do you hold Colin Powell repsonsible for those policies not...
SHARPTON: No, I think my challenge clearly was to George Bush, saying, Do not show him as a token or do not act as though he‘s a token, by saying, since you display them, then show that you‘re concerned about their community. So the challenge is to Bush. I don‘t think Colin Powell is a token anywhere. But I think that you begin to give people that feeling if you show us diversity at your convention in 2000, and then you have an exclusive policy for four years. In four years, George Bush hasn‘t met with the NAACP. In four years...
NORVILLE: And he‘s chosen not to this time around, too.
SHARPTON: He‘s chosen not to this time around. Four years, he‘s only met with the Congressional Black Caucus one time. So you make people feel like you‘re using people when you show a diverse convention in 2000 and you show lack of diversity for four years, once you‘re in office.
NORVILLE: Republicans have historically not gotten the Democratic—the black vote. That‘s historically gone to the Democratic Party. And as you know, the Democrats—just recently, the Kerry campaign launched a new ad campaign, $2 million, a huge amount of money to spend this early in the process for the Kerry-Edwards campaign. I want you to look at the beginning of one of these commercials and then get your reaction to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m John Kerry, and I approved this message.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So this is John Kerry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he really any different?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does he care about me?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Find out how John Kerry will fight to...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: These commercials began running before the Congressional Black caucus got a chance to see them, and not everybody on the caucus thought that they were great commercials. They thought that they were not nearly enough to get people to connect. And some of those commercials were pulled. Was there something they didn‘t get about appealing to the black voter?
SHARPTON: Again, the first time I saw the commercial, you just showed it to me. So I don‘t know. I know that what I think is really telling is that I‘ve never seen $2 million spent before the convention geared toward the African-American voter. I think that that is a tremendous plus, and it shows the heart of this campaign and the heart of the party. I also think when you contrast that with George Bush at the same time saying, I‘m not even going to talk at the NAACP, you can see the difference in who wants to build an inclusive America for everyone.
NORVILLE: You know, there‘s some commentators, some black commentators out there, who question whether there is a unified African-American voting bloc out there, the argument being that now many blacks have moved up in the economic sphere and their interests may not be as precisely aligned as others who are also black Americans. Do you buy that?
SHARPTON: Well, I don‘t think that—I think there has always been a diversity in our community. I think there‘s always been different feelings, different voting patterns. That‘s why it‘s so interesting that 90 percent still reject people like George Bush because despite that difference, the overwhelming majority vote against George Bush, which shows that this is a question of lack of diversity and lack of sincerity, and it has nothing to do with just one side of the political spectrum in our community.
NORVILLE: I would talk about your own life in politics. You ran for mayor of New York. You ran for senator from New York. You ran for president of the United States. You never won.
SHARPTON: I think I did win. I think that when you look at the fact that I ran to stimulate and motivate voting and voter registration, and all of my critics said in those races I did well beyond what they thought, I think that you have to define what is winning. I think we did win. And I think we were able to push the envelope a lot further, which is why I think it makes sense that people listen to people, rather than listen to distorted pundits.
I mean, I remember the Republican Party in 2000 tried to attack when Gore and I were dealing, and I sued them and said, I want you to prove in court some of the same rhetoric you read from from the Internet. And they had to back down and apologize because a lot of the stuff they tried to make us controversial about are just falsities that they cannot go in a court of law and prove.
On the other side, I think what people say is these are the kinds of things that brings hope and participation. When you have a hip-hop generation, they look at people that will stand up to the establishment and will (UNINTELLIGIBLE) That stimulates voting. It‘s good for America. So I think I won every time I ran.
NORVILLE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) win, I guess when the TV show hits. You‘ve got a new job coming. It‘s not political. We‘re going to take a short break.
SHARPTON: All right.
NORVILLE: When we come back, Al Sharpton, reality TV star? More in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Rather than trying to pin the donkey on each other, we ought to slap the donkey and get it ready to defeat George Bush next November by registering new voters, by addressing people‘s needs and by showing that this president is worse than anybody up here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)
SHARPTON: Hold on! Just because I don‘t wear flashy suits and gold medallions, it doesn‘t mean I still can‘t get down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘re an old man.
SHARPTON: Not too old to do this. Hit it! (SINGING) I feel good, I knew that I would, I feel good...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: That was Reverend Al Sharpton hosting “Saturday Night Live” during his campaign for president. That episode of SNL was one of the highest-rated of the season. And if he does a great James Brown, it‘s because among your many jobs in the past, you used to represent the guy. You were his manager.
SHARPTON: I grew up like his son, and then I handled him on the road for about a couple years. And we still remain very close.
NORVILLE: And how important was it to your campaign to go out there and do the SNL boogie-woogie?
SHARPTON: Well, you know, I think that when they called, most of the people around me didn‘t want me to do it. And they said it‘s risky, it could bomb, a lot of that. And then we talked about it, and Rachel Nordlinger (ph), who‘s my publicist, and I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) finally said, You know, let‘s take the risk. And one reason is so Americans can see you can laugh at yourself. And I did it. It came off very well. And I was very happy at the end of the night.
NORVILLE: What was the stupidest thing they made you do?
SHARPTON: Probably put on a wig and play Joe Jackson, Michael Jackson‘s father.
NORVILLE: That‘s one job you‘ve had. New job you‘ve got now is coming up on Spike TV. You‘re hosting a reality show. I mean, Andy Warhol used to say everybody gets their 15 minutes. I think if maybe the paradigm today is everybody gets their TV show, at some point. What‘s the scoop here? It‘s called “I Hate My Job.”
SHARPTON: Well, you know, I was asked to do some media stuff right after the primaries, and CNBC signed me as a commentator. And then out of nowhere, we get a call from Spike TV with an idea on a reality show. And I said if it didn‘t way in any way divert from my activity, because the majority of my time will always be National Action Network and my Civil Rights work, and it wasn‘t something antithetical to what I believe, I would look at it. They sent us the concept, and it was “I Hate My Job,” people that were dissatisfied with their work. I said, Well, let‘s change it to make it also positive, to where they can discover what it is that they really feel their life purpose is and we help them get on the track toward that.
NORVILLE: What makes you qualified to do that?
SHARPTON: The life that you just recounted. I started very young as a minister. I started young as a Civil Rights leader. And I always remained committed to that. Even with the glare of entertainment, where I could have made a lot more money and lived a lot more comfortably, I said, No, Mr. Brown, or whoever, I want to stay in Civil Rights. So I‘m uniquely qualified to tell people to pursue your dream job and your dream goal because I‘ve done that and I‘ve succeeded in doing it.
NORVILLE: What about your credibility? I mean, does it affect your credibility? You could look at your whole professional resume and say Al Sharpton‘s been a bit of a gadfly. He‘s been on this issue and that issue. He‘s done his Civil Rights work. He‘s been in the entertainment business.
SHARPTON: Well, I think that...
NORVILLE: You‘ve done political commentary, and now you‘re getting people jobs on cable TV.
SHARPTON: No, I think that if you are consistent, I think that that‘s as—to me, as ludicrous as saying that, well, Bill Clinton was president, now he‘s writing books, now he—I mean, everybody does something, as long as they‘re anchored. All my Civil Rights work is the anchor of my media work and my writing books and my lecturing and whatever else I do. I think if you changed anchors, then people can look at that. But all of it is anchored and really headed in one direction.
NORVILLE: Do you think people look at you as a role model for their lives?
SHARPTON: I don‘t know. I mean, I think a lot of young people, when I speak at colleges and youth groups, say that, I can look at you and see you were determined. I came from a very poor background. And you made something of yourself. “Role model” is a heavy term that I don‘t know that I want to put upon myself. But I think a lot of people look at things and say that, If he can be determined and succeed at what he wanted to do, whether I want to do that or not, it proves that determination and perseverance does have merit.
NORVILLE: You know, a couple of weeks ago, Bill Cosby made a lot of headlines for his remarks, when—I‘m paraphrasing—he basically said, you know, one of the problems for black Americans is too many kids didn‘t take advantage of the chance for an education, and they end up beating their wives and living on Welfare, and it‘s time people started being responsible for their own behavior. Do you disagree with that?
SHARPTON: I think Bill Cosby said some very important things. First of all, Bill Cosby I‘ve known many years. No one has done more for Civil Rights than Bill Cosby. And I think he‘s triggered a real dialogue, particularly in the African-American community, that we need. I talked to Bill Cosby this morning, had a meeting with him a couple of weeks ago. He and Spike Lee and I are getting ready to call a summit meeting on the state of blacks and what we need to do about it.
NORVILLE: But wait a minute. You‘ve had a bazillion summit meetings over the last 25 years.
SHARPTON: And they‘ve resulted in police brutality cases going forward, the first state laws on racial profiling. That‘s why I have summits, so we can get something done.
NORVILLE: But the problem of young people in this country not getting an education, not giving themselves the tools that they need to go forward and be productive citizens and turn out successful, like you did.
SHARPTON: Well, I think that you first have to sit down and develop a strategy on how you‘re going to address that. Are you going to try and go into the school? Are you going into the neighborhood? What will be the strategy to change that? That‘s why you first have to have a meeting. You can‘t just run out and do something. So the problem is that—and a lot of conservatives like to just beat up on the young people, and a lot of what they say is right. But my question now is, All right, now, what are we going to do about it? And I think that is what‘s distinguished me throughout my career, is it‘s easy to say it was wrong, somebody‘s got to actually put a plan of action out to confront the problem.
NORVILLE: But that‘s my point. People have been saying something‘s wrong for years and years and years...
SHARPTON: Which is why now the people that...
NORVILLE: ... and no plan is out there.
SHARPTON: ... do things—that‘s why we‘re going to have a meeting to do something because we‘re one of the few people that when we sit down and plan something, we get something done.
NORVILLE: Well, what do you think needs to be done? What do you think...
SHARPTON: I don‘t know. We‘re going to have a meeting. I think everything from dealing with a lot of these bad lyrics that the music industry is happy to put out for profit—we may have to deal with the music industry. We may need to go into the actual schools and challenge some of the young people and bring some of the names that they would respect. There‘s a diversity of ideas we have, but we want to pull it together in one meeting and come out with a comprehensive program.
NORVILLE: You know, I remember when I first started working as a reporter 20 years ago, 25 years ago, Civil Rights leaders, people like Jesse Jackson,, others who were very prominent in the movement were role models for young black Americans. I wonder if the role model hasn‘t changed to the hip-hop artists who are out there with some of the lyrics that you‘re talking about that might need to be changed.
SHARPTON: I think, first of all, when—you know, I grew up in SCLC and Operation Breadbaset. At the same time, we looked at people like Jesse Jackson as role models, Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier were role models. We always had entertainers as role models. There‘s nothing new about that.
NORVILLE: Yes, but Sidney Poitier wasn‘t singing some of the sings that you were making reference to.
SHARPTON: But he was a role model.
SHARPTON: You‘re talking the function. Don‘t act like the function is to—that weren‘t entertainers that were role models then. The problem is the entertainers now are different than the entertainers that were then. But the entertainers being role models is nothing new. What‘s new is that some of those entertainers are not taking seriously their being role models. But we‘ve always had entertainers as role models.
NORVILLE: So do you think that they‘re open to that idea of, Folks, you guys are role models, it‘s a heavy burden, but you‘ve taken it on because you‘re an entertainer, you‘re a celebrity...
SHARPTON: I think some of them...
NORVILLE: ... you need to behave differently?
SHARPTON: I think some of them are open, and those that are not need to be exposed as not having been open. And we need to deal with them, as we deal with any other thing that harms our community. I think that‘s why we need to have people like us get involved because if we can target people that are wrong externally to our community, we are going to have to start talking to people that are wrong internally.
NORVILLE: Ladies and gentlemen, watch out. Al Sharpton‘s on your trail.
SHARPTON: We hope so.
NORVILLE: All right. Good luck with the new show.
SHARPTON: Thank you.
NORVILLE: And good luck on Tuesday night. We‘ll be watching you.
SHARPTON: Thank you.
NORVILLE: Back in a moment.
ANNOUNCER: Up next: Former lawyer to the Mob, Oscar Goodman, is betting his reputation on the future of Vegas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even though you‘re ready for the game or ready for the fight, there‘s nothing like having a crowd behind you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Mayor Oscar Goodman on his campaign to win back Vegas‘s “sin city” image when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.
NORVILLE: One of the big lures has to be helped by having all these TV shows. There‘s going to be even another television program coming when the fall season begins. CBS has one where the doctor‘s office is literally a casino.
How much do these TV shows help in encouraging people to, come to Vegas, you‘re going to have a great time?
GOODMAN: I think the backdrop is terrific. The shows themselves have their own storylines, but the backdrop shows the glitz and the glamour and the neon and the excitement of Las Vegas, the casino, which is the program, the reality show about these two young fellows who just bought the Golden Nugget.
A lot of folks are critical of what the content of the story is, but in the background, it shows Fremont Street. It shows the terrific canopy there with the lights. It shows the action. It shows the excitement. And I think it goes a long way to make people yearn to come here.
NORVILLE: As you said, one of the things about Las Vegas is what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and that‘s really been the theme of your advertising campaign. I want to run a commercial that‘s been seen in most of the country that reminds people of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Can I get a wakeup call tomorrow morning, please? I‘m not quite sure if I‘m going to be in my room tomorrow, so I just thought if you could call my cell phone, it could cover all bases.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: And then the tag line is Vegas, what happens here stays here.
What‘s the message you‘re trying to send to folks?
GOODMAN: That people can have a good time here, that no one is going to pay any attention to what they‘re doing, as long as they‘re on the right side of the line of legality.
And then, when they go home, they‘re going to be able to smile to themselves about the great time that they had here, because Vegas is a very special place. It‘s always been that way. We don‘t mind other people‘s business. We let them have a good time. It‘s an adult time and there‘s nothing wrong with that. That‘s what this town was built upon, and to continue it, I think it‘s very, very important, because with the tax dollars that come in as a result of these casinos being very, very successful, my constituents have a wonderful, wonderful quality of life.
NORVILLE: And I want to get into that in just a moment. But it‘s interesting how that what happens here stays here really does get across to place that you wouldn‘t necessarily think.
Evidently, somebody in Washington has seen one of those commercials, and first lady Laura Bush was talking about it the other night on the “Leno” show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”)
JAY LENO, HOST: Did you gamble at all while you were there? Did you pull a slot machine? Did you go to a Chippendales show? I don‘t know. What did you do?
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: Jay, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: How much did you love that Laura Bush is now part of the ad campaign for your city, Mayor?
GOODMAN: It gets no better than that. She also said what happens in the White House stays in the White House, too.
NORVILLE: She wouldn‘t divulge any of those secrets either.
You talk about all the tourist dollars coming in. Over $6 billion is an enormous amount of money. It‘s also brought in a lot of people. Because Vegas is the fastest growing city, a lot of people have to come in to do all the service jobs in these casinos. How do you manage the influx of people? Because that‘s not just houses. That‘s infrastructure, water, power, schools, sewer lines, etcetera. It‘s a big job.
GOODMAN: Well, fortunately, we‘re ahead of the curve. We go up in the helicopter. We look down with representatives from Congress as far as our highways are concerned. They shake their head and marvel. And they say this is unbelievable that the traffic is moving so smoothly around here.
We build a new home every 20 minutes. We have 6,000 folks on a net basis coming into town each month.
NORVILLE: Wait a minute. You build a new house every 20 minutes, every 20 minutes?
GOODMAN: Every 20 minutes, yes, right. And when I was first elected five years ago I told people that we built a new school a month. Now I tell them we build 20 schools a year. We have prototypical schools. They‘re three stories high. It‘s a very, very special place.
It‘s a place that‘s always ahead of the edge. We‘re always doing something to make ourselves a little bit better. We‘re a very interesting community, because the only thing that limits us is our own imagination.
NORVILLE: One of the things that I think is kind of interesting is you‘re running this city that‘s the fastest growing in the country, houses every 20 minutes being constructed. This is so far from what your professional background was prior to being elected mayor.
You were a defense attorney for some of the biggest names in organized crime. How does that prepare you for running a city like Las Vegas?
GOODMAN: Oh, it‘s very interesting.
My first life, being a criminal defense lawyer, was protecting the rights of individuals, to making sure that they were treated on a level playing field, that their constitutional protections were available to them. And I do the same thing for the city of Las Vegas. The only difference is, instead of having 20 clients at one time, I have one, my city and the people that I love.
NORVILLE: And the people evidently love you. To get reelected with over 85 percent margin is just incredible.
GOODMAN: Eighty-six percent, Deborah. Eighty-six percent.
NORVILLE: Eighty-six percent. I said over 85.
GOODMAN: Don‘t cheat me.
NORVILLE: I‘m not. I‘m not.
GOODMAN: And I‘m looking for the 14 percent. Yes, my old life sort of creeps back into my head when I think about the 14 percent.
NORVILLE: And I understand your popularity is such that you are now a fixture in the casinos? You have a casino chip with your likeness emblazoned on it?
GOODMAN: I do. This is the greatest. This has become so valuable, this wonderful chip worth $100...
NORVILLE: Yes, we‘re looking at it on the screen.
GOODMAN: Right. Worth $100. You can make $100 bet in any casino.
NORVILLE: So you‘re worth $100 in Vegas.
GOODMAN: Now, this says, the happiest mayor of the greatest city in the world, Oscar Goodman. And that‘s the truth. There‘s nothing like being the mayor of Las Vegas. I wouldn‘t want to be the mayor of anyplace else. No place else is as exciting, as glamorous, as sensual, as electric, as neon as Las Vegas.
And I like to think that maybe I‘m the quintessential Las Vegan, spanning the old Las Vegas, having represented Meyer Lansky in the old days, to the new Las Vegas, where I‘m trying to get an academic medical center here, a performance arts center, building high-density residential, Manhattanizing Las Vegas, for all intents and purposes, to make sure that the folks who do come in here will have affordable, attainable housing.
And it‘s a very exciting—it‘s great job. It‘s like playing Monopoly with real money.
NORVILLE: But how do you keep it reined in?
The business of Las Vegas, as you said, it‘s an adult playground.
It‘s an adult Disneyland where people go and have fun. And, as you say, no one is going to stand in judgment. No one is going to call home and tell what you did. But you want to have some parameters on that. And I would think that when there‘s such an atmosphere of anything goes, it‘s easy for things to go too far.
How do you keep controls on what the casinos want to do?
GOODMAN: Not really. Not really.
There are two Las Vegases. There‘s the Las Vegas of the strip and downtown Fremont Street, which is very, very exciting. It‘s alluring. It‘s the thing that makes us famous. It‘s the magnet that draws our guests here. Then there‘s the other Las Vegas, where I live, on a tree-lined street with schools and churches and synagogues and ballparks, and just a very normal way of living. And we have a very conservative community. It‘s a very moral community as far as our constituents are concerned.
NORVILLE: But do the two not come together?
GOODMAN: No, I don‘t believe they do come together. I think that we‘re able to separate them. They come together during the daytime or nighttime, when folks go to work their shift, but when they go home, they have a very nice, conservative lifestyle and it‘s very affordable, much more affordable than any other place.
That‘s the reason we have so many people coming here. They sell their homes elsewhere, make a fortune, come here, and buy the same home or a better home for half the price. So the weather‘s great. The infrastructure is sound. We‘re very progressive. We‘re—we‘re not 100 years old yet. We become 100 years old May 15. Next year, we‘re going to have a giant celebration. Our centennial is going to be very, very special. The whole world is going to hear about us again all at once, just like with the “TIME” magazine article.
GOODMAN: That was a great article.
NORVILLE: It was a great article. And I want to follow up on some of the things that were in it. But we‘ve got to take a break.
We‘ll be back, more with Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman in just a sec.
NORVILLE: He‘s gone from defending the mob to mayor of Sin City. Now Oscar Goodman is trying to make Las Vegas even more sensational. How? Find out next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE CASINO”)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this, cool sevens. Are you winning? It‘s a language barrier.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: That‘s a scene from the Fox TV reality series called “The Casino,” which is shot in Las Vegas.
The self-proclaimed happiest mayor in the world of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman, joins me again.
Sir, TV shows like that certainly encourage people to come to Las Vegas and have their vacation and have a good time? But last Christmas, there was that situation where a terror threat resulted in flights into Vegas being canceled. What is the city doing to make sure that the threat, which every city is having to deal with, is minimized and watched against as best as possible?
GOODMAN: You know, what happened last Christmas was so unfair to Las Vegas, because there was no credible information which would indicate that we were any more of a terrorist threat than anyplace yet.
And yet, they indicated that the chatter included Las Vegas. Of course Las Vegas is included in any kind of conversation, because Las Vegas is the place to be. But as far as any evidence that Las Vegas was going to be hit, that was very, very unfair to us. And what we do, of course, we keep ourselves alert. We‘ve got a wonderful metropolitan police department. Each casino has virtually a miniature police force unto itself for their security.
So I think Las Vegas is the safest place in the world.
NORVILLE: Has Tom Ridge‘s group, the Transportation Security Agency, been in close contact with you all about how to provide those security measures?
GOODMAN: Basically, we work very closely with Homeland Security, with the Justice Department. We actually went to Emmitsburg, Maryland. We took 70 folks from the city back there, including myself, to train for any kind of an emergency, be it a flood. And, interestingly, a week after we got back, there was a flood.
NORVILLE: You had that huge flood, yes.
GOODMAN: Yes, a huge flood. But because of our training, it really worked. And nobody was hurt. There was just some property damage, and that was very significant as far as the city was concerned.
So we‘re alert. We‘re aware. As a matter of fact, I have a meeting today. Our emergency management operations director will be meeting with us and giving us a briefing. We speak on a continual basis about potential areas of concern. But the bottom line is, and I keep on asking it, and the answer is constant that there is no credible information that Las Vegas is a target. So that‘s all I can do.
GOODMAN: Now, if the folks who have information which is contrary to that don‘t tell me, shame on them, because I‘m out there telling people that Las Vegas is safe, and you should come here, and I really believe it.
NORVILLE: Right. You know, as much as Vegas has changed from the old family-friendly image, which didn‘t really work.
GOODMAN: Deborah, we‘re still very—we‘re very family-friendly. Don‘t misunderstand. The fact that we have this sensual campaign taking place, that doesn‘t mean to say that we‘re chasing children away.
NORVILLE: Wait a minute. Does that mean you let your grandkids go downtown to the strip?
GOODMAN: Oh, my children. I raised four wonderful children here.
I‘ve got two lawyers, a doctor, a daughter who‘s very successful. They have no interest in going there because it‘s commonplace to them. But if parents want to bring their children to the strip to see the lights, nothing wrong with that. They come downtown and go to our Neonopolis, nothing wrong with that. But you don‘t want to allow a child to be unattended and to walk through a casino without parental supervision. That would be foolishness.
NORVILLE: Yes, absolutely.
You made a big headline this week when you endorsed the idea of gentlemen‘s clubs or strip clubs being allowed to operate within casinos. You think that that‘s an inevitably. Why?
GOODMAN: I do think it‘s inevitable because of the evolution of what takes place with these casinos.
They spend millions of dollars to bring their customers in from elsewhere. And what they want to do once they land one of these customers, is that they want to make sure that they enjoy the casino that has spent all this money to advertise to get them there. They want to keep them under roof. That‘s the reason we have the best restaurants in the world in the casinos. We have all the finest chefs who have actually made this their home in the casinos associated with them, servicing the guests.
We‘ve got the great boutique retail shopping in the world.
NORVILLE: Well, hold on a second. Would the casino have the strip girls in the same room as the roulette tables or would it be a separate establishment under the casino roof?
GOODMAN: Oh, no. Oh, it would be the same as the nightclubs that we have here. They‘re very discrete. They‘re separated from the rest of the casino. You usually have to take an elevator to get to a top floor that overlooks the beautiful lights of the strip.
No, this is not something where you‘re going to have girls walking around nude while people are playing games. But the bottom line is some of the casinos have become so risque, at least in my opinion, that they have European-style swimming pools, where the women sit around without any tops on.
NORVILLE: And you don‘t think that violates the law?
GOODMAN: It doesn‘t violate any law, because there‘s nothing wrong with nudity.
NORVILLE: All right.
What about prostitution? It‘s not legal in Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, but it is legalized in some of the smaller counties that have a smaller population. Do you think it will come to your city?
GOODMAN: I think if 15 out of those 17 counties here have the ability to have legalized prostitution. I don‘t believe it‘s going to happen in Las Vegas. We have a different type of demographic here. The folks who have come from elsewhere, I think that they would find it offensive and never support it at the ballot.
And, of course, that‘s their prerogative. I see arguments both ways. But the morality issue will probably weigh out over the health issue, the tax issue, and the public safety issue. But who knows? You know, 40 years ago, nobody would have ever dreamed that any other state other than Nevada would have gambling. So things happen.
NORVILLE: Do you think it would be bad for business if it came to Las Vegas?
GOODMAN: I think that there are certain groups that would be very, very upset, the religious groups that would say that it‘s immoral and they would urge their membership not to patronize Las Vegas.
But, you know, that‘s very speculative, very hypothetical. And it‘s not on anybody‘s drawing board at this time.
NORVILLE: You came to Las Vegas many, many years ago with 87 bucks in your pocket. The city has grown enormously, as your own career has followed. Why is there no other city quite like Las Vegas, that has the combination of entertainment prospects and some of the other things that make it unique? Why has no other city been able to do this?
GOODMAN: I think we‘ve had geniuses, actually, come into our community.
And I‘ve represented some of them over the years. Steve Wynn is credited for reinventing the strip and making it the place of grandeur that it is. And he deserves all the credit that he‘s been given, because he‘s the one who designed the Bellagio and the hotels that followed that. He now has the Wynn going up there.
But the fellow who was really the first of them was an old client of mine, Jay Sarno. Jay was an impresario. He was an absolutely creative person who was the one who founded Caesar‘s Palace, the first theme resort. He would have the most beautiful waitresses in the world. He called them the goddesses. And believe me, they looked like goddesses.
And the woman would be in the bacchanal. And they would be peeling grapes for their customers and feeding them grapes. And that separated us from other places. Now, it sounds corny, but it‘s not corny when you go into the place.
NORVILLE: It was the fantasy.
GOODMAN: It is a fantasy. Exactly.
NORVILLE: You know the other day Linda Ronstadt had a concert, and in her ad lib remarks, she made some comment about “Fahrenheit 9/11,” kind of brought people back to reality about a political movie that‘s making a lot of headlines. People stormed out of the concert. What does that say to you?
GOODMAN: Well, I think that it says that people have their opinions. They come from elsewhere. The ones who are listening to Linda Ronstadt weren‘t necessarily Las Vegans. They were from all over the country and all over the world. And they had the opinion that you don‘t mix politics with entertainment. And that‘s a pretty darned good rule, to be quite frank with you.
NORVILLE: And were you advised that the Aladdin, the hotel where the concert was taking place, evicted her?
GOODMAN: I thought it was a very bold move. It‘s subject to some kind of criticism. It‘s the delicate balance between freedom of speech and what happens when you exercise that right, with being—basically, she was in a crowded theater crying out fire, and that‘s why people were leaving. So that‘s their prerogative. It‘s their place. But I‘m a great believer in free speech.
NORVILLE: Well, the incident is just a reminder that no matter where you are in Las Vegas, chances are something interesting is going to happen.
Oscar Goodman, thanks so much for being with us.
GOODMAN: All the time. Thanks, Deborah. It‘s great being here.
NORVILLE: Great to see you.
When we come back, some of your thoughts on the guest we had on last night, former Senate candidate Jack Ryan, and that sex scandal that derailed his campaign.
NORVILLE: We received quite a few e-mails about my interview last night with former Illinois Republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan. Ryan quit the race after a judge unsealed his divorce papers, revealing accusations by his ex-wife that he took her to sex clubs. Ryan said those papers had been sealed to protect his son.
Phyllis Soine writes in and says: “His questions about protection of his child raise sympathy. But when Republicans choose to attack, the families are given no sympathy either. Tell Jack to suck it up and drop out or take his chances and run.” But she also asks, “Why there should be any questions regarding anyone‘s sexual relations with any consenting adult?”
But, remember, Ryan‘s former wife contends that she didn‘t consent to go to those clubs.
And our next viewer questions going on television to talk about all of this at all.
Sue Ragona writes in and says: “If Mr. Ryan is trying to keep his divorce papers so secret from his son, isn‘t going on even one television show to talk about it going to get back to that son and his peers?”
Lolly Pearson wrote in and said: “The GOP, Mr. Ryan‘s party, spent the ‘90s telling America that they would return morality and character to public life. While Mr. Ryan was a private citizen during the ‘90s, he should certainly know that the cultural conservatives in his party‘s base would not tolerate the type of behavior his ex-wife alleged.”
You can send us your comments to us at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com. Some of your e-mails are posted on our Web page. That‘s NORVILLE.MSNBC.com.
When we come back, as the 9/11 report is about to be released to the public, we‘ll take a look at the one burning question, could the terror attack of September 11 have been prevented? Details on an extraordinary investigation when we come back.
NORVILLE: That‘s our program tonight. Thanks for watching.
Tomorrow night, in this time period, an MSNBC special report: “What Could Have Prevented 9/11?” NBC‘s Lisa Myers found 12 missed chances. Her investigation tomorrow night.
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