Jim buried, but not put to rest - Part One
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
April 13, 2008
LAS VEGAS - Today, the bravest man I've
ever known lies six feet under the desert floor on North Main Street in
downtown Las Vegas.
My best friend James "Buffalo Jim" Barrier
called me at 5:30, Saturday, April 5, the evening of his death. He said
he had just got back from his office where he picked up the following unsigned
"Steve, read the part about he's using
people to get close to me, and about the female. I always knew that getting
me into a compromising situation with a girl in a hotel room would be an
invitation for me to get killed. I'm smarter than them. I know better."
I wasn't the only person to get the cryptic
call or have the letter faxed to me that fateful day. Buff, as we called
him, also contacted Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith,
Las Vegas Weekly writer Joshua Longobardy, and his friend a retired
FBI Special Agent. Since his death, all three of us have compared notes.
Buffalo told us all the same thing.
Two hours after I received my call, Buffalo
Jim lie dead in room 105 of Motel 6 on the Boulder Highway.
Just before he left his 4,800 square foot
three story estate on Sunrise Mountain in one of his two Rolls Royce automobiles,
he told his two younger daughters Jerrica, 15, and Elise, 20, that he had
received a call from a man he had recently met, a man he referred to as
his "life coach."
For the past several months Buffalo often
talked of a new friend, a man who he said was amazingly successful and
wanted to share his knowledge and inside connections for a fee. Buffalo
hired him, and according to his long time attorney former judge Robert
Lueck, wonderful things began to happen in the big man's life.
I never met Buffalo's life coach, and I
truly regret that fact.
According to Buffalo, Lueck, and the four
Barrier daughters, a reality show contract with NBC was about to be signed.
Buffalo and his four beautiful daughters were to star in a reality
series about the bearded man moving his 37 year old auto repair business
out of the bowels of the Mafia into a new location on three acres nearby.
Part of the plot of the reality series included Barrier announcing a run
for Mayor, though Buffalo new he couldn't actually win. It was all theatrics
and self promotion, the stuff ex-pro wrestlers like Buffalo Jim know all
Vegas Most Colorful Character" died under extremely mysterious circumstances.
He had never been happier, healthier, or richer in his life, and his
future seemed like a kid's dream come true.
But something very sinister was hanging
over Buffalo's head. He was the one person most responsible for the closure
and seizure of the Crazy Horse Too topless bar located next to his garage.
And the bar's owner, incarcerated in federal prison since April 2007, was
released from custody the day before Barrier's death.
But that wasn't all the Mob damage Barrier
accomplished in his 55 years. His efforts also caused the convictions of
16 other Crazy Horse Too employees who have filtered back in to Vegas society
over the past year, and seriously miss the easy cash they garnered by extorting
hapless tourists, sometimes breaking a neck or bashing a head just for
good measure while local authorities turned the other way, some for large
campaign contributions, others for cash.
There was also the nagging matter of the
mysterious deaths of three Crazy Horse bouncers who were involved in the
1995 beating death of long haul truck driver Scott David Fau. All three
died of undetermined causes. All were body builders, and also in the best
The reality show was not all Buffalo's
life coach had in mind. Buffalo was a collector of memorabilia -- stuff
and things given to him by his friends including Elvis and Mohammed Ali.
Few knew that he the largest such collections in existence.
The life coach, according to Buffalo and
attorney Lueck, had arranged for the sale of Buffalo's Elvis collection
for an astounding $750,000. He was going to use the money to help relocate
his business before the lease expires in July 2009.
At 7 PM on the night of his death, Elise,
20, and Jerrica Barrier, 15, said their dad got a call from his life coach
saying he was inbound from London, and could they meet?
Buffalo excitedly told his daughters he
was going to a business meeting. "I will be home before midnight."
Buffalo was a man of predictability and
habit. Buffalo's daily routine consisted of getting up before dawn to prepare
Jerrica for school, call me -- sometimes from on the toilet because he
always flushed sometime during the conversation, have breakfast, and go
to work. On weekends he always spent the days with his kids.
Each and every morning I knew my
phone would ring at dawn and end with the answering machine speaker blaring
the same thing it had for almost every morning since 1999.
"Hey steve it's Buff. Give me a call at
385-6050, 385-6050," as if I didn't know who it was or the phone number
after all those years. It was just Buff's way of wishing me a great day,
and I learned at his funeral that he did it to a bunch of other guys
every day as well.
Oh how I miss those calls.
He loved his life, his four daughters,
and his friends. He also loved Las Vegas since he moved here from Cleveland
in 1971. Where else could someone so different become such a success?
At his funeral, we heard the country song
"You can't judge a book by its cover" playing softly in the background
as we entered the chapel. It was his favorite, and it said so much about
the great man.
Just before Buffalo thundered out of his
house to go to the purported business meeting, he received another call
, this one from a woman. Caller ID said the call lasted for seven minutes
and thirty one seconds. Elise and Jerrica didn't know who it came from,
only that their dad stopped in his tracks to talk to her.
Then Buffalo drove his Rolls down the steep
hill toward the bright lighes of Sin City, and never returned.
At around 9 PM the girls said the phone
rang and a message followed. "Buffalo, are you OK?" stated the female voice.
Another call followed an hour later from
the same voice, "Buffalo are you all right? Give me a call."
Could these calls be an alibi?
When Buffalo wasn't working his 12 hour
hectic shift at his ultra busy garage, he was having meals with Elise and
Jerrica, or sleeping. He had few close friends and seldom went out socially
at night in his later years -- except with my family for dinner at his
favorite restaurants, Opa, and Benihana. His wild days were far in the
past, though they were the stuff of legend.
Legends revolve around the younger Buffalo
Jim. Legends the type only Las Vegas could harbor. He was a wild man who
looked the part! A huge, hairy ex-pro wrestler who along with the likes
of the Undertaker, Goldberg, Rick Steiner, Johnny "Psyco" Payne,
Hulk Hogan, Psyco Sid, and The Rock would make the nightly rounds in one
of Buffalo's Rolls Royce Silver Shadows or one of his stretch limos. When
these guys walked into local strip clubs, well, you can imagine the rest.
But that was over twenty years ago. Buff
had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes several years back, and his family
including his beloved Roxanne, the mother of his daughters, implored him
to slow down. Slow down he did -- cold turkey! He was never seen again
in his haunts like the Palomino in North Las Vegas. He stopped drinking
alcohol, taking drugs, and became the Buffalo Jim I grew to love.
Like a reformed smoker, he constantly advised
those he loved or respected to "Take care of yourself brother." Then he
would offer some pretty good advice about diet, exercise, or general health
matters. And he knew what he was talking about. When I had a health problem
several years ago, Buffalo repeatedly told me "Hang in there brother, you're
a fighter. Don't let it win."
I had no choice. He was right by my side
at least once per day coaching me through like a cut man in a boxing ring
ring. I won the match in part thanks to him and his four daughters who
cheered me and my family on. (I also have four daughters.)
What a family! The Barriers are the closest
I'd ever known. Few knew that Buffalo was a regular at Disneyland. Since
he began feeling threatened by his business neighbor in the early 1990's,
he kept his travel activities secret. My family and I often went on trips
with the Barriers to Catalina, Redondo Beach, Disneyland, and Universal
Studios. Since 2003, we spent our Christmas through New Years together
in San Francisco. Buffalo loved the town because many of his wrestling
cronies live there. We always had a blast, and our kids loved the penthouse
suites he rented for them in the Saint Francis Hotel across from Union
Square where he took extreme pleasure lavishing his girls with expensive
gifts from Neiman Marcus, Sacs, and his favorite Macy's (sometimes Buffalo
would try in vane to pinch pennies.)
We even visited Alcatraz
together joking about which denizens of the Crazy Horse or Las Vegas City
Hall belonged in which cells.
On the week before his his death, his Allstate
Auto and Marine did the most business in its 31 year history at the same
location, and a hand shake agreement and a deal was about to close to buy
a nearby three acre RV sales and repair facility in which to relocate sometime
Buffalo's body was discovered by a housekeeper
at 1;30 PM last Sunday. The door to room 105 was not bolted from the inside,
another one of Buffalo's habits that he never wavered from personally doing,
or advising his daughters to do when away.
Within three hours, Las Vegas police started
calling the big man's death a suicide. Then they said it was from natural
On Monday, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police
Department dropped the case and told reporters that Barrier died a natural
The police also told the daughters at the
scene that they never heard of him.
Now we know that was wrong. A Clark
County coroner's office examiner said that Barrier had no drugs in
his stomach, and that he did not die of a heart attack, aneurysm, or any
kind of trauma. The causes and manner of death will not be known
until the toxicology and pathology results are back in four to six weeks.
The results from the family's private pathologist will help determine that
Buff was found in room 105 that was
freshly made up. The bathroom had not been used. The bed was was not turned
back. He was fully dressed, but his pants had been pulled down to his knees.
And he was lying on an undisturbed, made bed on his back with a "serene"
expression on his big face according to his daughters who will be tramautized
for the rest of their lives by the experience. There was a small plastic
prescription bottle with four Valium pills in the room with a Styrofoam
cup on the side table. Buffalo only drank Avion. (He bought it by the case.)
The room was rented at 8:20 PM Saturday,
April 5. His body was discovered seventeen hours later. The Clark County
Coroner's office told the family that Buffalo died between 7 and 8 PM.
The family also said that they were told there was no evidence of semen
present on the bed or on his body.
What brought the Buffalo down?
Hundreds of mourners attended Buffalo's
funeral exactly a week after his death. I had the honor to do part of the
eulogy, and I took advantage of the opportunity to try to cheer people
up by telling about his morning calls from the toilet and the flush, saying
I repeatedly asked my friend to wait until he was finished before calling
because I was usually having breakfast at the time, and the flush ruined
my appetite. The congregation hesitated, then broke out in laughter.
the most moving moments came when
Roxanne Barrier, the mother of his children, sang a teary acappella rendition
of "You are my hero. Then a video produced by AmericanMafia.com photographer
Mike Christ was played that brought everyone to tears. (There is a slide
presentation by Mike Christ in Sunday's Review-Journal front page
story, "Throngs mourn 'Buffalo Jim.'"
Looking around the packed chapel, I saw
several dwarfs, at least three Elvis impersonators, a bunch of politicians,
the hobos who sleep under the Sahara overpass next to his garage, and a
giant man who just called himself Indian Dan.
After the minister lawyers, friends, mechanics,
competitors, a community activist, the Barrier daughters, and I spoke,
the giant Indian slowly walked up to the podium. Pastor Marvin Gant looked
a little concerned since nobody seemed to know who he was.
Buffalo was half Greek, and half Cherokee.
Indian Dan and Buffalo had a pact few knew about. Dan made
the jewelry out of bones that Buffalo wore at wrestling matches, one his
Indian Dan in wrinkled T-shirt and worn
blue jeans leaned into the microphone and said, "Buffalo Jim was an Indian.
This for my friend." Dan then reached down and picked up a hand tooled
flute the size of a base ball bat.
He put it up to his mouth and out came
a beautiful rendition of Military Taps. He finished, turned, and
walked back to his seat while people sat in silence, then rose to
their feet in applause. The minister went up to the podium. He told the
congregation that in 32 years of officiating at funeral services, he had
never been so touched as he was that sunny Saturday. He then invited the
congregation to the grave site.
Buffalo's wallet from which his driver's
license was taken had a single one dollar bill stuffed in it in true Mafia
form when the police arrived. His Rolls Royce was not at the motel at the
time Buffalo's 15 year old and 20 year old daughters were called to ID
their dad. The Rolls mysteriously appeared at the motel at around 8 PM
after the police left the scene. We are now believing that someone took
the car to a self service car wash and fully cleaned the interior of evidence.
This was a very professional hit in my opinion, and has caused my family
to fear for my life because Buffalo and I were so close, and I believe
his death was to be a warning to me to stop writing about mob associates
who still intend to go back in to the Vegas strip club racket with or without
a licence with the help of the same brutal thugs that extorted and beat
tourists at the Crazy Horse and would have been allowed to continue had
the FBI not stepped in after our local District Attorney David Roger dropped
the Kirk Henry attempted murder case.
Henry also had a one dollar bill stuffed
in to his emptied wallet by a Crazy Horse goon while he lay on the sidewalk
waiting for paramedics. He has been a quadriplegic caused by his injuries
for disputing a bar bill for the past seven years, and he is still waiting
to receive his $9 million dollar judgment.
There's so much more to the story of Buffalo
Jim's miraculous life and untoward death that I must wait until next week
to continue this horribly sad story.
All we know is he did not die of suicide
or natural causes. He had thousands of friends, and a few powerful enemies.
Buffalo's friends, and especially his family have not been able to find
closure, but will not rest until this untimely death is fully investigated.
Someone is trying to deflect the investigation
by putting out false information. I am aware of a person who was fired
two weeks ago from a long time job at Allstate Auto.
This person may be being paid to peddle
a very false accusation about what he or his new sponsors want to be the
latest publicized circumstances surrounding the mysterious death of his
I believe a local reporter is preparing
to break this misleading story, but if so will not reveal the actual circumstances
that may have inspired his source to contact him.
This same source possessed keys to the
auto garage, and though the locks had been changed prior to the funeral,
someone tried to enter the garage with a key over the weekend, but could
not. The person left evidence of his or her attempt, and Metro police are
investigating the attempted entry.
The reason for the attempted access is
unknown. The premises are under guard by a private security firm during
night hours. The attempted access occurred after the guard went home on
the morning of April 12.
Be aware that there is a local veteran
television reporter who is a long time associate of Rick Rizzolo, and should
by now have been removed from covering the Barrier death case by the station's
management. This is whom I believe is preparing the false and shocking
story in return for years of free booze and sexual favors.
There are attorneys presently at work in
our city attempting to create perfect alibis for those who are suspected
of killing our friend. Evidently, someone never imagined all the fuss the
big man's death would bring!
There has been extreme coverage of James
"Buffalo Jim" Barrier's amazing life and death in our local media throughout
the past week. The writers and reporters I link to below all knew and respected
him. He was a columnist for the Review-Journal and a number
of other publications. His "Buffalo Jim's Nuts and Bolts" column had a
very large weekly audience. His friends in the media have created many
fitting tributes to his life, and have correctly reported his death and
the mysterious conditions surrounding it. I wish to defer to Buffalo's
friends in the news media:
National Public Radio affiliate KNPR's
"Life and Death of Buffalo Jim," April 11, 2008
Featuring Steve Miller, Councilman, Las
Vegas... on the colorful life and mysterious death of "Buffalo Jim" Barrier,
longtime auto shop owner, TV wrestler and perhaps most notably a Las Vegas
character with a knack for mixing it up.
An unlikely hero, a strange death
The mysterious demise of Buffalo Jim has
inspired lots of speculation, but few facts -- so far
by ANDREW KIRALY
Las Vegas CityLife
Thursday April 10, 2008
"Buffalo Jim's" Daughter Talks About Her
April 10, 2008
Mitch Truswell reporting
Friends, family call Buffalo Jim's death
April 7, 2008
KVBC TV News
'Buffalo' Jim Barrier Found Dead in Motel
April 7, 2008
KLAS TV News
More than a 'colorful character'
If you wish to obtain additional new stories,
you can Google "Buffalo Jim Barrier." I believe you will draw your own
conclusions as to what happened to Buffalo Jim, and if you do, I must caution
you that Las Vegas is not a safe city any more.
I miss that wonderful, safe town Buffalo
and I grew up in -- the real Las Vegas.
Copyright © Steve Miller