(excerpted from the original article)
We didn’t have gin for breakfast, but we could have. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is up for just about anything if it involves his beloved gin. And breakfast is really just a speed bump on the way to the business of running the city. But it’s the morning of the Nevada primary election, and the mayor wants to make sure we’re near his polling place so he can vote the moment the doors open; it’s all part of being a good citizen and leading by example, two responsibilities that Goodman relishes.
Goodman is a “big D” Democrat in a state that went to George W. Bush in both elections. He wears both his East Coast liberalism and out-West independence like matching cufflinks on a red velvet tux. Sure, as mayor he’s taken a decidedly tough-on-troublemakers stance, but to the degree that he’s actually become Las Vegas personified, he also adheres to some obviously non-conservative ideas—such as the legalization of prostitution. At 69 years old, the self-proclaimed “Happiest Mayor in the Universe” is a criminal defense lawyer whose sudden switch to politics in 1999 was as abrupt as it was successful. Whether greeting dignitaries with a key to the city or tossing out a ceremonial basketball at the 2007 NBA All-Star Game, Goodman has become as much a part of the town he loves as the fountains at the Bellagio. He has inspired bobbleheads and his own series of casino chips, is the only elected official who’s also an official spokesman for a high-end liquor (Bombay Sapphire Gin) and has played celebrity guest photographer for a 2005 Playboy photo shoot. Lieberman, he ain’t, but with popularity ratings rivaling “mom” and “good sex,” could Goodman actually become the first Jewish President of the United States?
I meet Goodman at the conveniently located (but unfortunately booze-free) Omelet House, an old Vegas eatery (frequented by a spectrum of celebrities spanning from Andre Agassi to Rip Taylor) that’s always brimming with locals. Today’s no exception: By 7:15 a.m., the place is packed, and the mayor is settled into his favorite booth drinking black coffee. Next to his mug is a red, white and blue “I Voted” sticker and a Blackberry already fatigued from morning rings. He looks at me with a “Let’s get this show on the road, pal” smile, but before I can ask my first question, a well-wisher interrupts us: a virtual ring kisser to Las Vegas’ veritable Godfather. And they keep coming, maybe half a dozen of them; the last is a fiftysomething lounge lizard-looking crooner coincidentally carrying three demo discs of original material to give to Hizzoner. The mayor gives him a few encouraging words and takes the gift, then hands the CDs to me. I notice compelling song titles like “Lesbo City,” “Choco-lay” and “Hard Money.”
“Why in the world would he give you these? Does he think you’re a record producer?” I ask. “I’m everything to everyone sometimes,” Goodman answers. “For some reason, people think I can move mountains.”
Well, Goodman is a force of nature, and what makes him so vital in a city without pity like Las Vegas is the same quality that might make him something of a national prospect. Here’s a guy with no filters to stop the flow of his thoughts and whose musings are the stuff of can-do dreams. He’s populist, but practical—simultaneously low and highbrow. He is the new face of Las Vegas—an unrivaled salesman able to communicate that what the city offers is both legitimate and compelling, especially when it comes to investment, tourism and growth. You know, all the things a nation clamors to have. And he does it without spin or a hint of apprehension. In an era in which American values have become a hard international sell, maybe a Vegas-styled pitchman who engenders confidence and commitment is just what the country needs.
President Oscar Goodman. Don’t laugh. “His lighthearted and outgoing personality would certainly liven up any office,” says U.S. Senator Harry M. Reid.
Well, maybe laugh a little.
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