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Mob Mondays – Five True Mob Stories Behind Casino

On the next Mob Monday, Casino airs at 6/5c, followed by an all-new episode of The Making of the Mob: New York at 10/9c. Director Martin Scorcese’s Mafia classic is based on real-life mobsters working and hustling in Las Vegas. Which real Mafiosos and casinos inspired the story? Which on-screen scenes mimic actual events? Read on to discover five true mob stories behind Casino:

1. Sam Rothstein was inspired by a real-life mobster.
Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro) was inspired by real-life mobster Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal. Rosenthal was a casino mogul who ran four casinos for the Outfit, the Chicago-based organized crime syndicate which rose to power under Al Capone. Rosenthal is considered to be one of the greatest sports handicappers (the method by which someone can predict and quantify the results of a sporting match) of all time.

2. The Tangiers was based on a real Las Vegas casino.
Sam Rothstein’s casino, the Tangiers, was based on the Stardust, one of the real casinos run by Frank Rosenthal. Though the Stardust is not explicitly mentioned in the film, Scorsese alludes to the real-life connection via the movie’s soundtrack: the Hoagy Carmichael song, “Stardust,” plays three times during the course of the movie.

3. The real Sam Rothstein also had his own television show.
The real Sam Rothstein, Frank Rosenthal, really did star in his own television show, aptly named The Frank Rosenthal Show. It taped at the Stardust casino and featured famous guest stars, including Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope. However, Rosenthal never juggled on the show — in fact, Rosenthal allegedly hated that Robert De Niro’s character juggled in Casino because he felt it made him look foolish.

4. The mob helped propel Siegfried and Roy to stardom.
The lion performers that Sam Rothstein hires for the Tangiers weren’t just props; they were based on legendary Las Vegas performers Siegfried and Roy. When their contract with a competing casino was set to expire, Frank Rosenthal hired Siegfried and Roy to work at the Stardust, where they staged the show that first launched them into the spotlight, “Lido de Paris Starring Siegfried and Roy.”

5. The vise scene was based on a real mob enforcers’ torture tactic.
The brutal torture scene in which Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) interrogates Tony Dogs (Carl Ciarfalio) using a vise was based on the real-life demise of Chicago mobster Billy McCarthy. After McCarthy and his associate James Miraglia made an unauthorized hit on a pair of Outfit-connected brothers, mob enforcer Anthony Spilotro kidnapped McCarthy and tortured him until he gave up Miraglia’s name. It wasn’t until Spilotro put McCarthy’s head in an industrial vise and McCarthy’s eye popped out that McCarthy gave Miraglia up. It’s all fun and games until… well, you know.

Don’t miss the Mob Mondays presentation of Casino, this Monday, July 6 at 6/5c on AMC. Then stay tuned for an all-new episode of AMC’s new docu-drama The Making of the Mob: New York at 10/9c to learn more true stories of the American Mafia.

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