LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — They are the married mayors who have shaped the city of Las Vegas for nearly a quarter of a century. Oscar and Carolyn Goodman have both worked tirelessly to take Las Vegas to the next level — a dream that began for them in 1999.
Decades later, the Las Vegas mayoral power duo are still having fun — and there's never a dull moment with the two of them.
Immortalized in bobble heads and casino coins, the Goodmans are fixtures in our city — she with her hot hunks, he with Oscar's Angels, the beautiful showgirls always by his side. And don't forget about his legendary martini in hand.
Former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is one of the most popular and colorful mayors in Las Vegas' 116-year history, even hitting the silver screen and playing himself in the movie "Casino."
The former mayor was always reaching for the stars. His vision transformed Las Vegas into a world-class city.
"There were three things I wanted to accomplish: One, I wanted to have academic medicine. The second thing I knew we had to have was great culture. And the third thing a major league city needs are major league sports," Oscar said.
That dream is now realized with a bustling and booming downtown. Oscar and his wife, current Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, are both credited with downtown's transformation.
"At the time before he was elected mayor, downtown was riddled with filth and crime and prostitution, boarded-up housing. No investment in anything and absolutely no culture whatsoever," Carolyn said.
The progression downtown since Oscar's tenure as mayor and Carolyn's work into 2022 has left even Oscar awestruck.
"I mean, I didn't even know what was happening. Carolyn took me for a ride in the downtown, and she shows me these new apartment complexes at Symphony Park. I didn't even know where they were going up," Oscar said.
The Goodmans have made their mark on Southern Nevada like few couples have. Carolyn Goodman founded The Meadows School, a college preparatory school in Summerlin.
The Goodmans have had a hand in bringing and building the new city hall, the North Premium Outlets shopping mall and the World Market Center, a 5-million-square-foot showcase for the home and hospitality furnishing industry, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Heatlth, the IRS building — and they're the force behind two only-in-Vegas spots: The Mob Museum and Oscar's Steakhouse, all downtown.
For Oscar Goodman, the road to becoming mayor was an intentional dream that started after defending top mobsters like Meyer Lansky, Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal and Tony Spilotro.
But Goodman thought of another way, as he put it, to "keep the system honest from the inside instead of the outside." He told 13 Action News how he told his family he planned to run for Mayor of Las Vegas:
"They said, 'What do you mean, dad?' I said, 'I think I'm going to run for mayor,'" Oscar recalled. "Carolyn abstained, and the four children voted for it and nothing against me. I said, 'Why?' They said, 'Dad, there's no way you can win.' I said, 'If I'm going to run, I'm going to win.'"
"To be perfectly honest, I really thought he'd do a great job, and I never thought he would get it. He was confident. But it really was a wonderful time," Carolyn recalled.
The couple stumped for votes, and voters knew Oscar when he came to the door. Goodman recalled one couple in particular from his time canvassing Las Vegas:
"She comes to the door. She had these little pin curls in her hair. She says, 'Sam, guess who's here?' Sam, who was watching the ballgame: 'Who's here?' 'The mafia lawyer,'" Oscar recalled.
So the mafia lawyer became mayor and, by his second term, Mayor Goodman garnered 85% of the vote. He was popular, real, with a great sense of humor.
"I mean, I knew I couldn't run for a state office because I tried this case up in Carson City and they ran out of gin the second day. So I was going to be stuck down here in Las Vegas," Oscar said. "I need my gin and a little bit of gin, a little bit of loving. That's all I need."
But there was one more thing Goodman needed as he faced term limits: someone to complete the vision. Enter his wife, Carolyn, who's now in her 11th year as mayor.
Now with her own bobble head and character casino chips, the mayor's job was one the entire family begged her to do more than a decade ago.
"'They're going to stop everything dad's done and everything he's tried to get built or built. You have to run!'" Carolyn says her kids told her.
"I said, 'No, no, no, no, no, no. I am retired from everything here. No," she continued. "So then they worked on him and he said, the reality, it's true. I have all these things that have begun, but there's so much more that needs to be done and we think alike. You need to file."
Carolyn kept the dream alive with an understanding that Las Vegas couldn't be a world-class city without an emphasis on safety. It's "the very first, most important thing," she said.
"Since taking over as mayor, always, always, No. 1 is safety. You will never have anybody live, invest or participate in a place that isn't safe," Carolyn said.
When Mayor Carolyn Goodman leaves office in 2024, the quarter-century reign of the Goodmans as mayors of Las Vegas will come to an end. Both Oscar and Carolyn answers with a resounding "absolutely not" when asked whether any of their children would mount a mayoral campaign. Their children live in Las Vegas and work in professions they love, the Goodmans said.
And when it comes to talking about their legacy, both Goodmans are humble.
"I'm not a legacy person. I live off his legacy, is fine with me. I have the most wonderful children and family, and that's my legacy," Carolyn said.
"I don't go for legacies, to be honest with you," Oscar said. "I think the people who think in terms of legacies, they're washed up because they're saying what they did in the past. My life begins today and goes on tomorrow. That's how I look at life."
What will people in the future think when they think of Oscar Goodman?
"I could care less," he said. "Yeah, that's the truth, because I don't really care what most people have to say."