For Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, the scene was obviously how he views the real world.
"I have no use for him. I'll take a baseball bat and break his head if he ever comes here," Goodman said of New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, after Herbert's column "City as Predator."
The point the mayor wanted to prove? That if some N.Y. columnist wanted to shine a light on the sex trade and prostitution business of Las Vegas, he'd murder them with a baseball bat.
But the sex trade and prostitution business of Las Vegas desperately needs a light shined on it, and Herbert did a fine job of doing just that.
"City as Predator"Make no mistake about it, Goodman is a mobbed-up thug. Take a look at Inside Vegas at AmericanMafia.com for any further proof you need. There, former Las Vegas Councilman Steve Miller has a seemingly endless amount of stories highlighting the Vegas-Mob connection, and Goodman's secure place in it.
There is probably no city in America where women are treated worse than in Las Vegas.
The tone of systematic, institutionalized degradation is set by the mayor, Oscar Goodman, who told me in an interview that the city would reap "tremendous" benefits if a series of "magnificent brothels" could be established to cater to johns from across the country and around the world.
"I've said there should be the beginning of a discussion of that," said Mr. Goodman, a former defense lawyer for mobsters who unabashedly describes his city as an adult playground where "anything goes — as long as you don’t go over the line."
Most of the lines in Vegas have long since been erased. It is without a doubt, as the psychologist and researcher Melissa Farley, says, “the epicenter of North American prostitution and sex trafficking.”
Think about it, what major American city would have a mayor that defends - with threats of violence - a system that has created this:
Start with the fact that so many of those who are pulled into the trade are so young — early-20s, late-teens and younger. Child prostitutes by the hundreds pass through the Family Division courtroom of Judge William Voy, who views the hapless, vulnerable girls as victims and tries to help them. The girls he sees are as young as 12, with the average age being 14.Does the Sin City catchphrase of "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" still sound like an invitation to harmless decadence?
He told me about a 14-year-old who was seven months pregnant by her pimp. She was suffering from a sexually transmitted disease, had a drug problem, was undernourished and still craved a relationship with the pimp. "These cases will tear your heart out," the judge said.
There are those fighting to bring Las Vegas into civilized times, but with mafia wannabes like Goodman holding sway, it is by no means an easy battle. Still, those like Miller - long a thorn in the side of the Vegas political establishment - former prostitutes and others are trying to clean up what is now a despicable mess.
"Researcher spotlights human trafficking"According to Miller: What effect does Nevada 's prostitution culture have on all women in the state? A Nevada rape crisis counselor explained, "Men think they can get away with rape here." According to an FBI Uniform Crime report, women are 3 times as likely to be raped in Las Vegas as they are in New York City.
Kathleen Mitchell worked as a prostitute for more than two decades before her pimp was finally sent to jail.
"I wasn't a drug addict; I was addicted to a man," Mitchell, now 64, said. "That's the worst drug there is."
Mitchell, who often saw her boyfriend pimp beat up other prostitutes, escaped prostitution 18 years ago. But its effects are lasting.
"If I have a relationship, it's probably going to be a bad one," she said.
Her story was one of several shared by former prostitutes Wednesday morning at a Sawyer Building news conference to announce the release of researcher Melissa Farley's book, "Prostitution & Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections," published by the San Francisco-based nonprofit Prostitution Research and Education.
The event also served as the introduction of a new local anti-trafficking organization, Nevada Coalition Against Sex Trafficking.
The reputation of Las Vegas as a city where anything goes is legendary, and generally looked at with a wink. But it is an American city. An American city where women are treated as property, and where the sex-trade business is booming. And a city where the Mayor thinks he can threaten to murder those who question any of it.
And the simple fact is Herbert's words are absolutely true: "There is probably no city in America where women are treated worse than in Las Vegas."
For more information:
The Nevada Coalition Against Sex Trafficking
Prostitution Research & Education