Is it Payback Time for Oscar?

COMMENTARY: Steve Miller
Las Vegas Tribune
July 31, 2002

Last Monday, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman had lunch with Dean Patti and Tony Sgro, the attorneys for the Crazy Horse Too topless bar on Industrial Rd. These same two lawyers are lending their East Charleston Boulevard office to deputy D.A. David Roger for his campaign headquarters.

It should be noted that the next D.A. will have to decide whether (or not) to prosecute two cases Metro PD has pending against Roger's most prolific campaign fundraiser and Patti and Sgro's biggest client, Rick Rizzolo, the purported owner of the Crazy Horse.

Mayor Oscar B. Goodman may have recently shown his Achilles Heal when he announced a far-fetched proposal to allow seven city-based sexually oriented businesses (S.O.B.s) to expand when six S.O.B.s never asked for the privilege. The Achilles Heal? Only one of the S.O.B.s - the Crazy Horse Too - has an immediate need for Oscar's help.

Based on the proposed Industrial Road widening first reported in the December 13, 2000, Las Vegas Tribune, the Crazy Horse is about to lose its front entrance. Then on July 17 of this year, the Tribune reported that the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) was planning to take the bar's main parking lot located under the Sahara overpass, which Rizzolo leases from the State of Nevada. This poses a giant problem for Patti and Sgro's main client - but not for any other S.O.B.

Another S.O.B. owner called this reporter immediately following the mayor's proposal and proclaimed "Its Christmas in July!" He went on to say he had heard no rumors of the amendment to the S.O.B. zoning code prior to the mayor's announcement. He then said he's going to apply for an expansion for one of his S.O.B.s as soon as the amendment is approved though he is not affected by the road widening.

Why is Oscar so concerned over the exclusive plight of only one S.O.B. - the Crazy Horse Too?

Our Mayor's sudden action (then deafening silence) may indicate his true motivation. Though I believe in the free enterprise system, his action is strange considering there has been no public uprising demanding bigger breast bars (no pun intended).

Some background:

On February 11, 1999, the Tribune ran a front-page story entitled "Where such is not allowed." It pertained to an item then on the City Council agenda that read: "Variance on property located at 2478 Industrial Road to allow the expansion of a non-conforming use (Crazy Horse Too) with a 6,000 square foot addition where such is not allowed."

The expansion, located illegally close to another S.O.B., had already opened to the public in direct violation of city law. Without explanation, the Council, then under the direction of former Mayor Jan Jones and with the blessings of Councilman Mike McDonald, granted permits and a Certificate of Occupancy after the fact.

When a citizen at the council meeting criticized Jones for attending parties at the Canyon Gate home of Rizzolo along with a number of judges and lawyers, she became enraged and held up a copy of the Tribune blaming this writer for the indignity. She never addressed the fact that a city ordinance had just been broken. Nearby property owners sued the council. The suit was later dismissed on a technicality.

Then, on November 2, 1999, the Tribune featured a front-page story entitled; "It Pays to be a Las Vegas City Councilman." This story disclosed that Councilman Mike McDonald was living rent-free in a half million dollar Canyon Gate villa owned by the family of Mr. Rizzolo's best friend. Following our story, McDonald immediately moved to new digs.

The best friend is listed in Nevada's Black Book of undesirables. Oscar Goodman, in a previous life, was his criminal defense attorney. The best friend was also once considered a top lieutenant of the late Chicago mobster Anthony Spilotro - another of Goodman's famed clients. When recently asked about the man, Rick Rizzolo told a reporter, "That guy's my best friend in the world, but it's not like Joey Cusumano and I hang out together anymore. ... I don't want to jeopardize my licenses."

Today, it's becoming painfully obvious to many observers that the Crazy Horse; through Rizzolo's "best friend," enjoys a cozy relationship with the current Mayor.

The rumor on the street has long been that Rizzolo's best friend has hidden ownership in the Crazy Horse, but that has never been confirmed. This rumor surfaced again following Oscar's proposal for expansion of S.O.B.s when Sun investigative reporter Jeff German, who has been writing about the relationship between Cusumano, Rizzolo, and Goodman since the mid 1990s, last Friday paid a visit to Buffalo Jim Barrier, the Crazy Horse's next door neighbor. German reportedly asked multiple questions about Rizzolo's relationship with Cusumano and Goodman.

In a related matter, last October 25, following the Tribune breaking the story about Kansas tourist Kirk Henry getting his neck broken by Crazy Horse Too bouncers, Mayor Goodman invited me up to his office for the first time since he was elected.

Oscar started the meeting by tersely stating, "I'm no longer associated with Joey Cusumano and I'm not doing him any favors!"

His disclosure surprised me since I did not bring up Mr. Cusumano's name.

Oscar then mentioned the beatings at the Crazy Horse and said he was considering calling a Show Cause hearing based on the abundance of Metro responses to the S.O.B.

Following our meeting, Oscar did nothing.

Now, Oscar is proposing bigger and better S.O.B.s. Why?

After the July 17 Tribune reported the underpass parking lot being taken, Rizzolo was faced with a dilemma: to remain a second class S.O.B. while new, high tech venues open nearby, or build an entirely new S.O.B.?

Because of two leases held by Buffalo Jim Barrier, one on the south side of the topless bar that has nine years remaining, the other on the north that has only two years remaining, the plan to expand the bar to the north surfaced, but that would put it illegally close to another S.O.B.; Mike Galardi's Cheetahs.

Oscar to the rescue! Amend the ordinance so S.O.B.s can build closer to each other even though only one S.O.B. is in need of the help. Some even speculate that the other S.O.B.s were thrown in as a diversion.

Then another problem surfaced. After the recent Tribune front page article that quoted Barrier saying "I ain't moving out for free," referring to the fact that Rizzolo has never offered to buy out Barrier's leases, the timeframe question popped up.

The Buffalo Wrestling Federation is located just north of the present Crazy Horse. Its lease expires in September 2004. In the meantime, Rizzolo must compete with the soon-to-open Boardroom, Sapphire, and already open Jaguars.

Barrier told the Tribune, "I pay only 43 cents per foot rent with no yearly C.P.I. increases. Why should I move? Comparable space goes for over a buck a foot, which would increase my rent by almost $10,000 a month. To save ten grand a month, I'll gladly put up with Rizzolo's nonsense for another two years with my wrestling school, and for another 9 years with my garage. I ain't goin' nowhere for free!"

In 2000, Barrier's former landlord failed in a court action to evict his businesses to make way for the topless bar to expand.

Editor's note: Jim Barrier, on July 24, told authorities that he received a telephonic death threat.

With Barrier refusing to budge, and with David Roger standing by in the DA's office, it would not surprise me if Mayor Goodman, who is now upstaging McDonald when it comes to coddling Rizzolo, rehashes the city's misused Eminent Domain law.

A similar scheme was used in 1993 by former Mayor Jones to illegally remove the Pappas family from their Carson Street and Las Vegas Blvd. property so the casinos (one in which Jones owned stock) could build a private parking garage. That case is presently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Though every business should have the right to expand according to supply and demand, the transparent action being taken by our mayor looks very much like a payback for something that occurred in his previous profession. In the meantime, bigger booby bars are opening all over town and the Crazy Horse is starting to look like an old nag. This story is far from over.

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman and Clark County Regional Transportation Commissioner. Visit his website at: