"Can't Buy Me Love"
"Tell me that you want the kind of
thing that money just can't buy."
- Paul McCartney
"How much will it take?"
- Bob Stupak
Inside Vegas by Steve Miller
January 11, 2010
LAS VEGAS - Former professional boxer,
referee, and Las Vegas construction company owner Joey
Curtis died in May 2004. I was acquainted with Joey when I worked at
Stratosphere Tower developer, philanthropist,
and humanitarian Bob Stupak died
in September 2009. Bob and I were close friends for decades. Both men were
Las Vegas icons and had thousands of friends including Rick Rizzolo.
Both men were known for not taking sides
in disputes when it involved their mutual friends.
In respect to Joey and Bob, I've waited
until after their deaths to tell this story.
of Paul McCartney's classic "Can't Buy Me Love" comes to mind when
I think of an uncomfortable situation that involved these two gentlemen.
"I'll buy you a diamond ring my friend
if it makes you feel all right."
The last time I saw Joey was a summer evening
in 2003. My wife and I were with some friends enjoying dinner at the late
Kludjian's Golden Eagle on Paradise Road when Joey Curtis entered the
restaurant and walked directly to our booth. He appeared to be on a mission.
Joey laid down a roll of one hundred dollar
bills secured with a rubber band. By its size, it looked like $5,000. "This
is from Rick," Joey said with a smile. (He didn't mention "Rick's" last
My wife and friends were taken aback by
the gesture. "It's so you might write some nice things about him," Joey
exclaimed. I wasn't sure what "Rick" he was referring to because I know
several including Rick Porrello the publisher of AmericanMafia.com, but
based on my then-current INSIDE VEGAS columns about racketeer
Rick Rizzolo, I assumed it was that "Rick."
I introduced Joey and asked him to join
us for dinner. He said he couldn't. I placed the roll of bills back
into his coat pocket and said, "I'll pay 'Rick' five thousand to sit down
with me for an exclusive taped interview." Joey laughed, excused himself,
and left the room. I never saw Joey Curtis again.
My friends from out of town asked what
that was all about, and I told them of several columns I had recently written
about the beating of a Kansas tourist at Rizzolo's then-infamous Crazy
Horse Too strip club. I described how beating victim Kirk
Henry was the latest in a long series of hapless tourists who had been
brutalized at the club, and how Rizzolo had unsuccessfully sued
me to try to stop my reports.
Later that same year, I received the first
in a series of calls from Bob Stupak. He asked if I would go to lunch with
him and a person named "Rick." He said "Rick" had some money to give me.
I told Bob about Joey's unusual gesture
and asked if he was referring to the same "Rick?" He said he knew about
Joey's offer that I turned down; and said he could get more money than
Joey. "How much will it take?" Bob asked?
("...the kind of thing that money just
Only wanting to take advantage of "Rick's"
offer to have lunch, I told Bob the same thing I told Joey; that I would
offer "Rick" (if it was the right Rick) five grand in exchange for an exclusive
Bob became annoyed saying that's not what
he or "Rick" had in mind. That I was supposed to keep the money -- not
try to out bid "Rick."
I told Bob that I was serious about paying
for an exclusive taped interview, and that his and Joey's offers offended
me as a journalist. Bob went on trying to sell me on accepting more money
in exchange for writing favorable things, or not writing at all about "Rick."
I suggested he change the subject. Bob ended the call.
the next several weeks, Bob repeated the offer three more times asking
"What will it take?"
On the third and final "Rick call," it
seemed like Bob was not alone. He was unfriendly and feigned an east coast
accent using the "F" word repeatedly making him sound mobster-like.
There were muffled voices in the background
and I could tell he was on a speakerphone. I refused his offer -- again
-- and repeated mine.
Bob interrupted our conversation to say
he needed to let the "Sparklets Water man" in, and stepped away from the
phone. For several minutes I listened to muffled voices that I couldn't
understand. I imagined that they sounded angry.
When Bob returned to the phone, he picked
up the headset, lost his east coast accent, and was back to being his jovial
self. I told him that our friendship was being tested with each of
his calls on this subject, and to please not bring up the issue again.
Bob respected my wishes. We remained close
friends until his death.
Las Vegas," treasured his friendships, forgave the sins of others,
and was loyal to a fault. Even though we
often disagreed, Bob Stupak will always have a place in my heart. I
really miss him.
"I'll get you anything my friend if
it makes you feel all right...." may
be the mantra of many folks in Sin City, but I'm not one of them.