The ghosts of Buffalo
Jim and the Crazy Horse Too
It's a classic case of the baby going
down the drain with the bath water
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
August 18, 2008
Midnight, Saturday, August 16, 2008
Buffalo Jim Barrier, August
LAS VEGAS - At midnight last Saturday,
I took a walk around the carcass of the Crazy Horse Too "Gentleman's Club."
The government had permanently closed the once prosperous topless bar on
July 1, 2007, and it now lies decaying in the mid summer's desert heat.
The 2.3 acre property adjacent to the Union
Pacific tracks is now owned by the United States of America after it was
It was still over 100 degrees at midnight,
and the air near the shuttered building was permeated with the smell of
human excrement from a leaking sewer line, along with other aromas from
the hobo jungle under the nearby Sahara overpass once used as the valet
parking lot for the bar. The sad remains of racketeer Rick
Rizzolo's ill conceived efforts were illuminated by a few broken electric
signs that the feds pay to keep on for security reasons. A security guard
was no where to be found in order to save taxpayers the wasteful expense
of trying to protect the value of a dead horse.
While I walked, I couldn't help but feel
the presence of my departed best friend Buffalo Jim Barrier. Oh how he
would have loved to have been there with me surveying the now-scorched
earth that was once the most successful topless bar in the US. Single-handedly,
he killed the Mafia's gold mine, something that took him over a decade,
and may have cost him his life, but saved many others.
Crazy Horse Too - 2001
Crazy Horse Too - 2008
How could something so lucrative go so
Greed, and a lust for blood. These two
perverse traits led Rizzolo's hoodlums to ruin the most profitable business
per square foot ever to exist in Sin City. Under the leadership of "made
men," customers were taught a lesson if they refused to go along with the
program, and the hoods enjoyed watching them suffer.
When hapless tourists showed up wearing
wedding rings and flashing cash, many received a dose of GHB, then were
mugged by club bouncers. If they had high credit limits on their charge
cards, they might be charged to their max, and if they refused to sign
the bogus tab, some were beaten until they did. The police did nothing.
Neither did the city. This went on for years, and Buffalo Jim reported
everything to the feds on a daily basis.
the meantime, Rizzolo couldn't make a move on his leased property without
being photographed by Barrier. His mob associates were also photographed
by Barrier when they were on the property, and the pictures were all shared
with the feds who were busy building their case.
Barrier would brazenly stand visible to
his subjects when he took their photos. In the adjacent photo, Ralph Rizzolo
(on right) is shown photographing Barrier.
In 2002, Rizzolo was foolishly convinced
by his lawyers that he could evict Barrier if he bought the entire shopping
center for double its worth. After Rizzolo paid $5.5 million thinking he
could dump Barrier, the garage owner went to court and proved that his
lease was automatically assigned
to a buyer in any sale, and therefore remained in effect. Rizzolo was
livid, but remained
loyal to his attorneys.
Barrier's photo surveillance continued.
I felt uneasy as I walked through the midnight
heat. What was once a brightly lit building was now a dimly lit graffiti
and trash strewn shell.
But what most disturbed me was that Buffalo
Jim's auto repair shop was also dark and empty.
As I walked past the scene of many acts
of violence, beatings, and killings, my shadow was all that was stirring.
I heard a noise and looked over my shoulder. A desert rat scurried across
the broken asphalt and into a crevasse under the crumbling building. Sewage
spewed from the crack in the earth from which a lone green tumble weed
I walked past the place where Scott
David Fau was beaten to death by club bouncers. Past where Kirk
Henry was found with his neck broken, and past where Rick Rizzolo beat
Rick Sandiln to death with a baseball bat. The blood had long since
dried, but the memories linger.
This dreadful place needs to be torn down!
If it weren't for Buffalo Jim, no one would
have known of the violence and mayhem, and the place would still be open
for business. There would be many more Scott Faus, Kirk Henry's, and Rick
Sandlins by now had Buffalo not taken action, and paid so dearly for doing
As I walked around his failure, Rick Rizzolo
was less than a mile away squandering
hundreds of thousands of illicitly made dollars in Strip casinos.
Since 1976, Barrier had wrenched out a
solid living fixing old cars, trucks, and boats. The strip joint opened
next door in 1978. For Barrier, an ex-professional wrestler who hated bullies,
to find out the owner and managers of the bar were beating money out of
club patrons was intolerable.
It didn't take long for Barrier to learn
that some city officials, a few crooked
cops, a few judges,
district attorneys were in on the scam, and protecting the place for
cash, campaign contributions, or sexual favors.
Barrier called the media and told an amazing
story. I jumped at the chance to interview the burley ex-biker, and with
that first interview, a life long friendship was born.
We both shared a love of machines, especially
motorcycles, and we both were the fathers of four daughters.
300 pounds of hairy ego, Buffalo Jim was
fearless. His badge of courage became his battle with the mob. In 2005,
the readers of Nevada's largest newspaper voted him "Las
Vegas Most Colorful Character" for his actions.
Buffalo and I began to haunt city council
meetings that had items involving the Crazy Horse Too. His presence drew
the media which put the politicians on notice that they were being watched.
We also took our families on vacation together; one that included a trip
to Alcatraz so we could get our picture taken in Al Capone's cell. Buffalo
autographed the photo and sent it to Rizzolo stating, "Greetings from your
Buffalo often bragged about the day he
called out Vinny
Faraci, a made man, after a women who brought her car in for repairs
complained of Faraci using foul language in front of her children when
she accidentally parked in a spot designated for club patrons.
Barrier said Faraci walked away from the
fight, but later that night after the garage closed, cars parked alongside
waiting for repairs had their tires slashed and paint keyed.
had on more than one occasion also publicly challenged Rick Rizzolo to
a wrestling match in a ring he used to train fledging pro wrestlers
in his BWF Wrestling School located on the north side of the bar. Barrier
claimed that if Rizzolo won the wrestling match, he'd shut down his two
businesses that afternoon and let him have their space in which to expand
his topless bar. Rizzolo declined.
Barrier's businesses flanked the Crazy
Horse and both held long term leases. Their
presence completely stopped Rizzolo from ever expanding his business.
When Rizzolo complained to the city that Barrier's students were loitering
at the wrestling school, it sparked a media protest that made Rizzolo look
like he hated kids.
Because of his constant dissing, death
threats along with dozens of acts of vandalism against Barrier, his employees,
and his customers began.
On the hottest summer days, Barrier would
often arrive to find his air conditioning sabotaged. He also reported finding
bloodied bar patrons sitting on his front curb. He would take photos of
the men, then call paramedics and police. No arrests of bar employees were
ever made, and that angered Barrier even more.
Rizzolo's stooges on the city council began
sending parking enforcement scooters to the private property to ticket
and tow away Barrier's customer's cars.
Mayor Oscar Goodman
and Councilman Mike McDonald. City Parking Enforcement
ticket's Allstate customers
instead of beating up his foes, Barrier hired lawyers and went
to court. He won every case, and Rizzolo soon found himself the brunt
of jokes for having to pay Barrier for damages again and again.
sued Rizzolo for harassment, and a District Court Judge awarded him
one million dollars.
But that's not all Buffalo Jim did that
infuriated his neighbor. He went to the feds.
In 2002, Jim Barrier became the FBI's key
witness against Rizzolo and his thugs. By 2006, the feds owned Rizzolo's
business and property, and Rizzolo was sent to prison for racketeering
and tax evasion. Fifteen Crazy Horse employees were also convicted of felonies
thanks to Buffalo Jim.
To add salt to Rizzolo's wound, Barrier
was able to keep his leased space and operate his garage after the bar
was shuttered. His business thrived while Rizzolo sat in a prison cell
in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Barrier became a local celebrity and Toyota
paid him to appear in TV commercials. He was the man who took on the mob,
To celebrate, Buffalo parked his giant
bison in front of Rizzolo's closed down bar, and asked me to join him posing
for photos. I was glad to oblige.
beginning of Buffalo Jim's possible demise began on July 1, 2007 when the
Crazy Horse Too went dark forever. He and I met at his shop several minutes
before midnight to celebrate his victory, and be available to reporters
who flocked to the bizarre event.
The most profitable adult business in the
country was going dark. The Mafia had been defeated by a half Greek, half
Cherokee Indian auto garage mechanic with an eighth grade education.
The saddest part was that within a year,
Barrier's four daughters would be orphaned, and his little auto repair
shop would close.
Allstate Auto died with its 55 year old
owner on April 5, 2008. The property is now owned by the U.S. Department
of Justice that is trying in vane to sell it. The stinking converted warehouse
is worth pennies on the dollar without a liquor license or adult use zoning,
things it will never again have, and Allstate Auto fell victim to this
tsunami as did its owner and his family.
I was walking through a ghost town a few
blocks from the bustling Las Vegas Strip. With me in spirit was Buffalo
Jim Barrier who now rests in a grave on North Main Street.
He won. He beat the Mafia. But he paid
with his life. The precious baby had gone down the drain with the bath
Please listen to The
Ghost of Buffalo Jim to get an idea of how I feel.