Portrait of L.A. Crime Boss Guy McAfee after He Reinvented Himself as a Leading Citizen in Las Vegas

Guy McAfee was one of the preeminent crime bosses in Los Angeles in the 1920s and 1930s. He spent his early career as an LAPD officer, rising to captain on the vice squad. In the 1920s, he married a madam named Marie, who worked in the sphere of crime lords Albert Marco and Charlie Crawford, top operators in a powerful organized crime racket known as “the Combination” and, because of its entanglements in civic institutions, “the City Hall Gang.” McAfee left the LAPD for a much more lucrative career as a vice lord and soon controlled a criminal operation that included dozen of brothels, bootleg liquor operations and the most lucrative underground casino in town, the Clover Club on the Sunset Strip.

A wave of reform swept the city in the late 1930s, resulting in the recall election of Mayor Frank Shaw, who was defeated by Fletcher Bowron, a former journalist and sitting judge in superior court. Once in power, the forces of reform targeted operations like McAfee’s, and he quickly decided to move east to Las Vegas, where gambling was legal. In an interview with a newspaper there in 1939, however, McAfee, who was by then remarried to actress June Brewster, denied he’d been driven out of Los Angeles:

“I came to Las Vegas because I’m happily married, have a great sized stake and have decided to operate in a community where my business of gambling is a legal proposition,” McAfee said. “I’m not saying the Bowron administration made it too hot for me, for that wouldn’t be strictly true. I’ve cut myself a slice of a new kind of life. Get this straight, no one ran me out of Los Angeles. I’m pulling out because I want to and no other reason.”

His first investment in Las Vegas was the Pair-O-Dice, a casino south of downtown — an area he is credited with naming the “Las Vegas Strip,” a nod to Hollywood’s far more glamorous Sunset Strip. He soon controlled a number of properties along the highway and on Fremont Street dowtown, including the Golden Nugget, which he built in 1946.

Guy McAfee died in Las Vegas on February 20, 1960, at age 71.

2 Comments

  1. jen o - mcafee

    May 3, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    I’m not happy about how he made his money , just glad he took care of my mom when she was alive. Life will pass you by if you dont enjoy every minute of it. Granddaughter of Guy McAFee.

    • Larry Strawther

      May 12, 2015 at 4:02 pm

      Jen – by chance, were you aware of any dealings between your dad and a gambler named Ballard Barron? Barron was very involved with gambling in Seal Beach and Long Beach and seemed to be partners with McAfee confederates (Tutor Scherer etc) in the gambling ships off those cities. Then in 1942 he was involved with the purchase of the Pair-o-Dice and its re-opening as The Last Frontier — the first modern-type casino-hotel on the Vegas strip. He ran the casino there and the Silver Slipper from 1942 thru 1954. larrystrawther@gmail.com

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