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Inside Vegas - Steve Miller

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at:

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 30, 2007

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 seized last year.

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 wrong?

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.

In 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 grew.

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 so.

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, and crooked 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 next residence."


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.

Barrier 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
But 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.

Barrier 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, and won!

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.

The 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 water...

Please listen to The Ghost of Buffalo Jim to get an idea of how I feel.

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