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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 Anticlimax
Crazy Horse Too loses liquor license,
but will it be for long?

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
July 2, 2007

              photo by Mike Christ
LAS VEGAS, midnight Saturday June 30, 2007 - A used hypodermic needle lying in an empty parking lot is all that remains of the once booming Crazy Horse Too. photographer Mike Christ and I arrived early to find two TV news crews and Review-Journal City Hall reporter Dave Schwartz with his photographer milling around the front of Buffalo Jim Barrier's auto garage waiting for the moment that marked the historical end of a sad and bloody saga that endured from the late 1970s until last Saturday night.

After the last intoxicated patron staggered to his car parked under the Sahara overpass, the forlorn building that once housed the wildly popular strip joint echoed of better times, but no one of any significance remained inside although the lights stayed on and they can still pour non-alcoholic drinks.

A minute after midnight, a half dozen city business license officials led by City Attorney Brad Jerbic entered the building and unceremoniously removed the liquor license while club owner Rick Rizzolo sat in a cell at the Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center.

Earlier in the week, FBI Special Agents reportedly seized all remaining financial records from the offices of the straw man operator Mike Signorelli. They did this after Rizzolo's next door neighbor discovered him last winter secretly shredding 25 years worth of documents he stored in a warehouse behind the club.
Racketeering and tax evasion was all Rizzolo was convicted of, but hundreds of people experienced much worse fates at the hands of his goons.

Last night when we left the property, only a bouncer, several strippers, and a parking attendant remained of Rizzolo's infamous crew, a crew including bullies who took pleasure beating patrons who balked at paying inflated credit card bills.

The back parking lot where I almost stepped on two discarded needles is of special significance. It was the 1985 scene of Rizzolo beating Rick Sandlin almost to death with a baseball bat. Sandlin died three years later of his injuries but Rizzolo got off with no jail time after plea bargaining to a gross misdemeanor thanks to the help of his then-attorney Oscar Goodman.

The same back parking lot was the 1995 scene of the beating death of Scott David Fau, a long haul trucker who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A giant man who bouncers decided to challenge to a fist fight just for sport. Witnesses report that a club employee hit Fau and he began defending himself. Then several other bouncers jumped in and Fau was reportedly kicked to death not far from where I found the needles. No one was prosecuted and judge Nancy Saitta helped Rizzolo defeat a civil wrongful death lawsuit brought by Fau's widow and children.

These crimes along with a 2001 beating
that rendered Kansas tourist Kirk Henry a quadriplegic after he disputed an $88 bar tab, coupled with the lack of prosecution by Clark County District Attorneys for any crimes committed at the Crazy Horse triggered a federal investigation that took over 10 years to complete.

Many other public officials were influenced to keep the Crazy Horse in business. Former District Attorney Rex Bell refused to prosecute Rizzolo for Sandlin's death. Current D.A. David Roger refused to prosecute bouncer Bobby DiApice for crippling Henry. A number of high level LV Metro Police officers have kept incident reports from being filed. And last week, Judge Jackie Glass, the wife of City Councilman Steve Wolfson, refused to allow attorneys for Kirk Henry to examine Rizzolo's personal financial records.

Elected officials including former City Councilman Michael McDonald, former Mayor Jan Jones, and present Mayor Oscar Goodman have been accused of helping Rizzolo along with Councilman Wolfson. Goodman refused to challenge Rizzolo's liquor license even after news reports of serious crimes were broadcast on local and national TV.

McDonald admitted to receiving $5,000 per month from Rizzolo in "consulting fees" while he did him favors while serving on the Council. Jones has a home in Newport Beach near Rizzolo and did him favors while serving as Mayor. Goodman's present law firm represents Rizzolo and several of his mob associates, and Goodman also has a home in Newport Beach and is often seen mixing with Rizzolo and his associates.

Early Saturday evening I appeared on local TV News. Asked my opinion of what was about to happen, I explained that the extensions of time the Crazy Horse was gifted in order to be operated by a straw man exemplified the most blatant example of political favoritism ever experienced in Las Vegas since "Operation G-Sting" that sent four Clark County Commissioners to prison. That Rizzolo still controlled the bar through his juice with the city government, and never had any intention of selling or honoring his Federal plea agreement.

I also told Ch. 3 reporter Rob McMillan that I didn't think Saturday night would mark the end of this story of political corruption -- that the Mafia does not go away quietly and politicians and crooked cops will continue to lust for the free flowing cash and sexual favors. And that I would not be surprised if Rizzolo's former attorney who is now our Mayor, was about to grant a temporary liquor license to another mob straw man waiting in the wings -- someone else with direct ties to Rizzolo and organized crime.

Goodman has never stopped defending criminals. He even proposes opening a "Mob Museum" downtown to honor his former (and present) clients.

 City officials enter bar to remove liquor license -
12:01 AM July 1, 2007                 
                                       ( photo by Mike Christ)

Most of the people present in the parking lot Sunday morning also expressed uncertainty about the future of the Crazy Horse Too based on the blatant actions of Goodman and his subservient Council.

The Crazy Horse had been closed before only to open six weeks later with a mob straw man sleeping in Rizzolo's private office.

During the year since Rizzolo was convicted and agreed to sell the lucrative club as part of the federal plea bargain that kept him from serving an expected 20 year term, he never once tried to market the business or real estate. It was alleged he simply wanted to keep the skim going as long as possible.

The one and only qualified buyer to ever make an offer on the Crazy Horse ($35 million) was San Francisco and Las Vegas real estate developer Luke Brugnara. He has done in excess of $700 million in real estate transactions over the past 15 years according to Colliers International, the largest real estate firm in the world. However he was summarily dismissed by Rizzolo's lawyer probably because Brugnara's father was a peace officer for 40 years, his uncle was once San Francisco's police chief, and his brother and sister in law are U.S. Federal Prosecutors.

Brugnara's dismissal substantiates the rumor that the mob has no intention of letting go of this property and will only deal with persons they can control. Brugnara has a reputation of being fiercely independent and hard to get along with -- definitely not straw man material.

Brugnara believes Rizzolo used his verified offer of $35 million to con the federal government into thinking the property was worth much more, and to let Rizzolo keep control until a higher verified offer was received. Of course, none followed.

A recent Review-Journal article quotes Brugnara evaluating the Crazy Horse property without a liquor license at around $8 million. A well known local strip club operator agrees and says its worth no more than $10 million in its present condition. If sold for current fair market value, the government must go after Rick and Lisa Rizzolo's personal assets to cover deficits still owed to Kirk Henry, the IRS, and others. The Rizzolo's conveniently divorced just weeks before Rick was indicted.

In the meantime, a source in the U.S. Attorney's Office tells INSIDE VEGAS that an Orange County, California real estate investment firm with Newport Beach and Chicago ties is rumored to be purchasing the Crazy Horse for an unexplained $29 million! The firm does business exclusively in Chicago, Las Vegas, and Southern California.

The Directors of the company live in Newport and are known to hang out with Rizzolo's cronies. Rizzolo and a number of his associates maintain second homes in posh Newport Beach near the principals of the real estate investment firm.

Because Rizzolo's second base of operation is Newport Beach, and he once had interest in the Chicago Crazy Horse Too, the Newport Beach/Chicago connection with the real estate investment firm has piqued the interest of federal investigators following this case, especially since his building and property is worth only one third of what is purportedly being offered.

Its speculated that Rizzolo, et. al. are investors in the mysterious real estate company and are using them to buy back their strip club.

To prove $29 million is an unreasonable offer, another strip bar -- Jaguars -- located in a brand new 25,000 square foot building on 5.5 acres fronting Desert Inn Road sold last year for $21 million, $8 million less than what the Newport Beach group is offering for a broken down converted warehouse on 2.3 Industrial Road acres, a property that will soon have a 23 foot deep cut of its' frontage taken by eminent domain for a road widening, and is height restricted because of its' proximity to the Sahara overpass and railroad tracks.

If this information is correct, the City Council under pressure from the Mayor may try to pull an end run on Federal Court Chief Judge Philip M. Pro who ruled Rizzolo could not sell his club to anyone with mob ties, and quickly license a new buyer without requiring him to go through the normally required six month LV Metro Police suitability investigation.

Every liquor license applicant in Las Vegas' history has had to wait at least six months while being investigated, unless they are applying to operate the Crazy Horse Too!

If someone is fast tracked though the licensing process at the July 11 Council meeting, the Federal Court will have to immediately intervene and supersede the bogus actions of the Council to prevent a reopening under suspicious management. Otherwise the blood soaked Crazy Horse Too is history and rightfully should end up on the auction block as any other crook's property would under the same set of circumstances.

Steve Miller
and Buffalo Jim Barrier       ( photo by Mike Christ)

Always the showman, Rick Rizzolo's next door neighbor former pro wrestler-turned-garage owner Buffalo Jim Barrier on Sunday rolled out his giant smoke belching Buffalo to diss the men who killed the goose that laid the golden eggs.

If it were not for Barrier's fearlessness after he began being harassed by Crazy Horse goons in the late 1990s when Rizzolo revealed plans for the expansion of his topless bar into Barrier's leased space, there would probably be a grandiose new strip club occupying the spot where Barrier's garage has sat since 1974.
Despite Rizzolo's best efforts, Barrier knew his lease was solid and he could not duplicate the good location or the forty-three cents per square foot he pays for rent. So he held his ground against overwhelming odds and became a local folk hero in the process being named "Las Vegas Most Colorful Character" by the Review-Journal, and called upon to appear in Toyota TV commercials and in local parades.

   Defunct plans for new strip club

At the outset of his troubles, had Rizzolo offered to buy out the remaining 9 years of his lease, Barrier said he would have gladly relocated his garage. But Rizzolo never offered Barrier one cent, instead trying to scare him or harass him into moving for free as did other adjacent tenants of the strip center after receiving threats.

The harassment continued and in 2002 Barrier had had enough and filed a lawsuit. In the meantime he took photographs of numerous incidents of violence -- several that were used on NBC News. On May 31, 2007, District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez placed a $1 million dollar lien on the Crazy Horse property to secure a judgment in the likely event Barrier wins at his jury trial after Rizzolo is released from prison in 2008.

Since Rizzolo went off to prison in May, the acts of harassment including illegal towing, keying paint, or slashing the tires of Barrier's customer's cars has ceased.

Barrier said he was forced to turn his office into a news bureau constantly making 911 calls to report violent incidents while alerting the press when such acts occurred.

He said he made the Crazy Horse famous, but for all the wrong reasons.

"These guys are not smart enough to realize they could have solved their current problems long ago by acting like men," Barrier said. "Instead they acted like punks and pissed off an honest working man like me. That was their biggest mistake and they ruined their gold mine because they wanted to be Tony Soprano instead of legitimate business men. Now the bad guys got what they deserve though I feel sorry for the innocent girls and guys who lost their jobs."

Barrier says that after hundreds of 911 calls to report beatings and robberies involving bar employees, no Crazy Horse Too employee was ever arrested. Instead, responding officers -- after giving bouncers high five's -- would usually arrest the bar patrons who asked to file complaints. He reports that many of the same officers were later seen in the club during their off hours receiving free drinks and lap dances.

Now it's quiet under the Sahara overpass with the exception of occasional drivers honking their horns and flashing victory signs as they drive by Barrier's legendary
garage, while Rizzolo's pathetic juice bar sits empty with a hand made sign on the front door reading, "We are open."

Steve Miller is currently writing a book about the mob's battle to keep the Crazy Horse Too open.

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