For almost all of his life, Tom Fienan has been on the right side of the law, working as a firefighter for 25 years until his retirement in 1995, and then as a civilian police dispatcher in Bayonne.
So it might have felt a little funny when he and his wife moved from Bayonne to Las Vegas for him to take up a new career: acting out the role of a mobster as part of an interactive Disney-like exhibit that allows visitors to explore the public and private lives of those mobsters that originally helped develop Las Vegas as gambling mecca.
“It’s like living a dream,” said the 68-year-old Fienan during a phone interview in mid-December.
His wife thought he was crazy when he decided to audition for a part in the production called “Mob Attractions,” which featured a walk-through for patrons in one of the most complete mob museums available.
After moving to Las Vegas, Fienan had gravitated towards the entertainment industry there, and had spent several years working behind the scenes for a company called Tommy Graham Productions. When the Mob Attraction company held auditions, he knew they were looking for actors with a New York or New Jersey authenticity. Although he had not previously acted, he thought he would give it a shot.
“My wife said, ‘They’re going to throw you out,’” Fienan recalled.
But at the audition, he found that the production company was looking for East Coast wise guys and since he was from Bayonne, he had the accent they were looking for.
“Instead of throwing me out, they called me back and then they hired me,” he said.
“I’m living a dream.” – Tom Fienan
He got hired as a cast member for his natural flair for the wise guy persona they were looking for. Although he initially played several roles, he was soon offered the lead role of “Big Tony,” the head wise guy in the show.
“I started out doing three gangsters, but they then cast me as Big Tony,” he said.
Mob Attraction, he said, is an interactive journey through the rise and fall of the Las Vegas mob, a mix of entertainment and history, using authentic artifacts, new technology and storytelling to take visitors on an interactive journey through the world of organized crime with actors like Fienan playing live characters. There are also various reproductions of well-known gangster celebrities such as Frank Vincent (himself a former Bayonne resident) and James Caan. The characters guide visitors through the attraction and explicate the public and private lives of people such as Ben “Bugsy” Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Tony Spilotro and many others. The interactive portion takes about 35 minutes of wandering through back alleys, a chop shop and the backrooms of a casino.
The tour begins as visitors enter a recreated Ellis Island immigration office where they are greeted by two FBI agents who grill them about their links to the mob. A hologram of James Caan then guides visitors through the many rooms where they are greeted by holograms of people like Frank Vincent, Mickey Rourke, Steve Schirripa and Tony Sirico.
“It consists of live actors, 3-D holograms and over 1,500 artifacts,” Fienan said. “The decisions you make will determine your final fate. This includes an eventual visit to the final fate room, where the Godfather confronts you and asked if you did the right thing, and if so, he welcomes you to the family. If you didn’t, they shoot you.”
This includes guns fire, smoke and other special effects.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I’m living a dream.”