Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal and his exploding car
"You wouldn't call him Lefty to his face," says Goodman of Frank Rosenthal -- a casino executive who secretly ran the Stardust and other properties on behalf of the Chicago mafia. "He was a genius and the first to develop the race and sports books in Nevada as we know them today." Goodman represented Rosenthal for years. "He was a jack of all trades and a master of some. If he was walking in the casino and saw a cigarette butt on the floor, he'd pick it up himself and put it in the ashtray -- and then fire the person whose job it was to pick it up in the first place."
Goodman calls Rosenthal his primary client in fighting the so called "Black Book" of people excluded from entering casinos. "The state would place people in this book. There was no due process whatsoever. It was the Mark of Cain, because once you got in that book, you didn't get out until you died." Anyone on the list was prohibited from stepping foot anywhere on casino property. "I thought it was a very un-American way of doing business and I challenged it. Sometimes I won. Sometimes I lost."
Rosenthal's story inspired the movie Casino. Goodman (who has a cameo in it) insists Robert De Niro portrayed the crime figure "to a T" but says, "It wasn't until I saw the movie that I found out who I was really representing." The film contains a famous scene based on a car bomb explosion in 1982 that nearly killed Rosenthal outside the old Tony Roma's on Sahara. "Apparently, the Cadillacs at that time had some weakness in the floor near the accelerator so they put an extra plate in there," Goodman says of how Rosenthal was able to escape with only minor burns. "The bomb actually traveled over a hundred yards. A lot of people could've been hurt. A lot of people could've been killed."
That wasn't the only time the casino exec escaped death. Goodman was once asked by a Kansas City mobster if Rosenthal was a rat -- or an informant. "I didn't realize the power they placed in me," he remembers. "I said, 'Nah, he's no rat' and I was told later while cross-examining FBI agents on the stand if I had said he was a rat, I would've been signing his death warrant."