The Baddest Man in Strip Club History
“… he’s bad, bad Leroy Brown
The baddest man in the whole damn town
Badder than old King Kong
And meaner than a junkyard dog”
Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
-Song Lyrics, Jim Croce
The late, great Jim Croce wrote a song fifty years ago that might have been written about the owner of the Crazy Horse Two.
For many Las Vegas folks, the vacant parcel of land that sits on the western side of Industrial Boulevard, and under the cars speeding by on the overpass of Desert Inn Road is a ‘ghost of evenings past.’ The acre lot is a scar that won’t fade into the skin of the city. Instead, the empty lot is fresh scar tissue that helps us recall some of the most brutal tales in the sordid crime history of our Las Vegas.
That building was torn down in late 2022. ToplessVegasOnline.com covered the county ordered demolition story. The building’s destruction caused us to recount some of the stories that made Crazy Horse Two notorious.*
*(IMPORTANT: CH2, the old club holds no relationship to Crazy Horse III, ZERO, Nada!).
The Tourist Who Became a Quadriplegic
In the long and grimy history of the old Crazy Horse Two, few incidents caused the people of Las Vegas to turn their backs on a business like the case of Kirk Henry, a tourist from Olathe, Kansas.
On an unseasonably warm September night, in 2001, a married computer software engineer was enjoying the club. The fun stopped when Kirk Henry started to believe that the staff was padding his bar bill. He complained that his bill included more drinks than he ordered, and they were at higher prices than he had been told by his server. When he objected the manager on duty ignored the business dictum that,” the customer is always right.”
Crazy Horse Two, under the strong-willed ownership of Rick Rizzolo, believed in a different business philosophy; “Fuck you, pay me!”
After the disputing parties articulated their points of view to each other, a group of club ‘security’ personnel escorted forty-three-year-old Kirk Henry outside of the building. In the dimly lit corner of the parking lot, strip club manager, Robert D’Apice emphasized the club’s position regarding the dispute with his clenched fists, heavy shoes and a shortened baseball bat. Bats were a tool they used to enforce club policies and procedures. Ultimately, D’Apice twisted Henry’s neck in a choke hold.
“That’s what happened with Kirk Henry,” said neighborhood witness James “Buffalo Jim” Barrier. “Buffalo Jim” owned Allstate Auto Marine, a car repair shop that was next door to the club. He was a tenant of Rizzolo’s on the same lot as Crazy Horse Two. “Buffalo Jim” Barrier was a colorful Las Vegas character who once promoted wrestling on his own local cable TV show.
“Buffalo Jim” told Metro Police that when he arrived at his shop on the morning of September 20th, he saw a body lying on the ground just outside the Crazy Horse Too’s ornate front doors. Barrier claimed he heard an indiscernible voice saying, “You killed him … You killed him!”
“Buffalo Jim” said, “I was there, I saw him. And if I hadn’t taken these photos, they would’ve pretended like nothing happened that day.” Barrier shot this photo of Kirk Henry’s body being lifted into an ambulance in front of the strip club.
Barrier told the investigators that there was a formidable silence hovering over the parking lot. How nobody wanted to talk. He says the firefighters and EMTs who responded to his call walked around in a daze, and they would not tell him anything, save for one firefighter who mumbled the truth: “They broke his neck.”
The attack by club manager Robert D’Apice rendered Mr. Henry a quadriplegic.
Regarding Kirk Henry’s broken neck, Mr. Rizzolo wrote this letter published in a local newspaper, “Mr. (Las Vegas journalist Steve Miller) Miller also refers to another alleged beating that occurred at my club on September 20, 2001. No ‘beating’ ever occurred on my premises on that day. A customer leaving the club drunk did trip, but in no way was this man ‘beaten.’ About the only accurate fact reported by Mr. Miller was the club personnel were standing over the injured man. Of course, Mr. Miller does not mention that my employees were assisting the injured man, as that would ruin his insinuation that my employees had ‘beat up’ this man.”
History of Violence at Crazy Horse Two
The Henry case was not the first case of violence tied to the club.
In 1985 Rizzolo was charged in the beating of a customer with a baseball bat outside the club. Rick Sandlin suffered permanent brain damage from the incident. Yet Rizzolo, represented by criminal defense attorney and future Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman, pleaded no contest and avoided jail time. Rick Rizzolo walked away from the case with a gross misdemeanor.
Police records also reveal nine assault and six robbery cases all involving Crazy Horse Too employees, along with 737 police responses in just 3 years — many based on customers being beaten after refusing to sign falsified credit card bills — but there have been no criminal prosecutions.
In August 1995, a truck driver named Scott Fau died after fighting with four bouncers outside the club. He was found three hours later near railroad tracks behind the club, and died shortly thereafter. Fau’s widow filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the four employees, two of whom died before the case went to trial in 2003. After two days of deliberations, jurors found the bouncers not liable in Fau’s death.
Regarding Scott Fau’s death, Mr. Rizzolo wrote, “Mr. Fau was not found beaten to death. Mr. Fau was not even dead when he was found. Contrary to what Mr. (Steve) Miller chooses to report, the coroner who examined Mr. Fau’s body could not determine the cause of death but completely ruled out that Mr. Fau was beaten to death or that his death was caused by an altercation. Mr. Fau, with his friend, had come into the Crazy Horse Too in an inebriated state and threatened and harassed my bartender. When my employees were attempting to eject Mr. Fau, who was at least six feet tall and weighed 300 pounds, from the club, Mr. Fau took off his belt, wrapped it around his hand, and struck one or more of my employees, injuring them. Two of my employees eventually had to go to the hospital for those injuries. The police had to be called in and it was the police who ejected Mr. Fau and his friend from the premises and saw these two people walk southwards away from the club. At least three hours had elapsed before Mr. Fau’s body was found on the train tracks far from Crazy Horse Too.”
Kirk Henry’s case was one of several cases that were settled out of court involving Crazy Horse Too:
- -Richard Case, who alleged he was roughed up by club employees on June 26, 1992, after demanding a $200 refund for lingerie bought after being told that the purchase would bring with it sexual favors, a promise not kept. An arbitrator awarded Case $5,781 for medical expenses, pain and suffering in February 1994 and the lawsuit was settled three months later
- -Ioan Polverejan and Constantin Balascan, alleged they were beaten by club employees on April 4, 1995, after disputing the amount of money that a stripper claimed Polverejan and his party owed her. Polverejan, who suffered a broken nose, and Balascan, who sustained a broken right wrist, were each awarded $40,000 in damages by an arbitrator in June 1998, as was Polverejan’s wife, Gabriella Popovici, who witnessed the fracas. Their lawsuit was settled in November 2000.
- -Paul Russo, a customer who said he was left with facial abrasions and bruises and a laceration above his left eyebrow at the hands of club bouncers on Jan. 15, 1997, after offering a stripper a drink but refusing to pay for her time. The lawsuit was settled in February 1998.
- -Brian Devlin, who alleged that he was kicked and beaten by club security over a dispute concerning his bill
- -Jermaine Malcolm Simieou, a customer at the strip club who had to file a police report after he, according to what he wrote on the report, suffered at the hands of bouncers a broken nose, missing teeth, a black eye, knots in his head and a damaged shoulder.
- -Debra Washington, a dancer, who said Rick Rizzolo told her he’d kill her boyfriend, and it wouldn’t be the first time he did something like that.
- -Sean Spanek, who went with three friends to the Crazy Horse Too on the last day of January 2001. He said the bartenders lied about the charges, and when they (Spanek and his friends) challenged the bill, the bouncers “threw us against the wall, and then out the door, and then onto the ground, and left us bloodied.”
The Case of “Buffalo Jim” Barrier
Among all of the cases involving Rizzolo and the Crazy Horse Two, none captured the macabre attention of crime historians and mystery writers like the strange death of “Buffalo Jim.”
From 1984 until 2006, Jim Barrier was embroiled in a feud with Rizzolo, who was his commercial landlord. Rizzolo tried to evict Barrier in the late ’90s so he could expand his business next door. But Barrier refused to leave, and a court ruled that Rizzolo didn’t have grounds for eviction. In 2002, Barrier filed a harassment lawsuit against Rizzolo, claiming the cars at his shop had been vandalized when Barrier parked them outside.
“Buffalo Jim” Barrier vengefully served as an informant in the FBI’s case against Rizzolo. As such, regular threats were made on his life. The Las Vegas Weekly reported that on April 5, 2008, he received a call from an unknown person identifying himself as a hit man, threatening to kill him.
One day later, Barrier, 55, was found dead in a Boulder Highway Motel 6. The mysterious death was only one day after Rizzolo was released following his initial prison sentence. A police investigation determined that Barrier’s death was not a homicide. The coroner found traces of drugs in Barrier’s system. Investigators discovered that one of Rizzolo’s club dancers had met Barrier in the motel room. Barrier’s friends and family have argued that “Buffalo Jim” was killed by someone associated with the Crazy Horse Two club.
The case inspired an episode of Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries, called “Death in a Vegas Motel,” that premiered in October of 2022.
He Even Shot a Dog!
If nothing moves you to contempt regarding Rick Rizzolo, try this on: “Buffalo Jim” Barrier told a reporter that in the midst of their dispute over Jim’s lease, Rick Rizzolo made an example of a healthy German Shepard that guarded the auto repair business.
Barrier said, “He’s back there and he pulls out his 9-millimeter pistol, and he shoots my dog! For no reason. He just points his gun sideways, like they do in the gangster movies, and shoots the dog. And then he starts laughing. Cackling.”
Buffalo Jim added, “Then he walks back to his club like nothing happened.”
Who is Rick Rizzolo?
For two decades, Rizzolo was the bon vivant of the local topless racket, making millions and carving out a high roller’s lifestyle. Nevada politicians and judges rushed to accept his generous contributions and fraternal hugs.
Rick graduated Valley High School in Las Vegas in 1975. His father Bart Rizzolo bought the Crazy Horse after the deaths of club owner Joseph Monteiro. Mob-connected lawyer Monteiro had taken over the club after the Clubs founder, Tony Albanese disappeared in 1981. A month after Albanese’s disappeared the police found his severed head in the desert outside of Needles, California. That murder was never solved, although many observers believe it was the work of Tony “The Ant” Spilotro’s crew, “The Hole in the Wall Gang.”
Rick had been working for only two years at the Speakeasy Italian restaurant in a shopping center on Flamingo Rd. and Paradise Rd. Soon Rick’s father asked the twenty-year-old to run the strip club on Industrial Road.
At the Crazy Horse Two Rick surrounded himself with mob connected managers, doormen and bouncers.
The Mob Moves into Crazy Horse Two
Channel 3 News aired a lengthy investigative piece, after which it became public knowledge that Rizzolo kept on staff at the Crazy Horse Too with long histories in organized crime.
Rick’s mob connections were plentiful. Rizzolo maintained a close friendship with Joseph Cusumano. Law enforcement authorities regarded Cusumano as a top Spilotro lieutenant until the Chicago mob kingpin’s slaying in 1986.
Cusumano was sent to prison in 1987 after being convicted of conspiracy to skim $315,000 from a Culinary Union life insurance plan. While in prison, Cusumano signed over his power of attorney to Rizzolo.
In October 1990, following his release from prison, Cusumano was wounded in an assassination attempt and sought refuge at Rizzolo’s home. Later that year, Nevada gaming regulators listed Cusumano in their Black Book of undesirables banned from the state’s casinos.
In a March 2003 deposition in the Henry lawsuit, Al Rapuano, the general manager of the Crazy Horse Too, testified that Cusumano was the “godparent” to all three of Rizzolo’s children.
Rizzolo was an associate of Fred Doumani, a wealthy, longtime Las Vegan often associated with underworld mob figures. In 1994 the Rizzolo-Cusumano-Doumani connection caught the eye of a “60 Minutes” news crew and a U.S. Senate Government Affairs subcommittee.
The “60 Minutes” crew aired a segment on the Senate panel’s investigation into a failed bid by Rizzolo and Doumani to buy the troubled Bicycle Club Casino in Southern California from the U.S. Marshals Service, which had taken it over after it was seized in a drug raid.
Cusumano was described at the time as the deal’s “facilitator.”
During his 2002 deposition, on the advice of his attorneys, Rizzolo declined to answer questions about his association with Cusumano. But Rizzolo later told the Las Vegas Sun and other media that he no longer associates with Cusumano, who spends much of his time these days in the film business in Hollywood.
“What distinguished Crazy Horse from its competitors was its reputation for being a mob hangout and dishing out frontier justice,” said German. “It was basically a minor story in the grand scheme of things until the FBI conducted its raid in 2003.”
Sadly, Jeff German, an award-winning crime reporter for the Las Vegas Sun, then the Review Journal, was slain in his front yard in 2022. Metro police arrested Clark County Assessor Robert Telles for the homicide. The alleged motive was revenge for reports filed by Jeff German in Telles’ office. Telles has yet to face trail as on early April, 2023. German covered the mob in Las Vegas for years and was a fearless reporter.
Rizzolo’s attorney, Tony Sgro acknowledged that his client befriended some underworld figures.
“Rick’s lifestyle is colorful,” Sgro said. “It’s flamboyant and it’s outspoken. It’s no secret that over the course of his life he has made the acquaintance of persons who have been accused of being organized crime figures. But those acquaintances do not translate into criminal conduct.”
Sgro said that during the course of his lengthy negotiations with the government in the racketeering case, he was never presented with evidence to corroborate allegations that Rizzolo’s mob ties were anything other than social relationships.
The result, Sgro explained, is that Rizzolo’s plea agreement does not include any references to organized crime. “There was no smoking gun,” said his attorney.
But Rizzolo’s numerous relationships with mobsters have been well documented.
His ties first surfaced in the early 1980s when he became friendly with Joseph Balzano, a drug dealer and reputed New York mob associate who later was given federal protection after a botched underworld attempt on his life. In a February 2002 deposition in the Henry case, Rizzolo said he met Balzano while the two worked next door to each other at a shopping center on the corner of Paradise and Flamingo roads.
Rizzolo was also associated with Fred Pascente, a former Chicago police officer convicted in 1995 on mail fraud charges. Pascente was comptroller of the Crazy Horse Too in Chicago. The Illinois club paid Rizzolo $20,000 a month as a consultant, and for the rights to use the Crazy Horse name.
Rizzolo was with Pascente in early 1999 when he was arrested at McCarran International Airport for failing to register with police as an ex-felon. Later that year Pascente’s name was added to the Nevada Black Book, and he lost his job at the Chicago Crazy Horse.
Rizzolo’s ties to Chicago showed up again when he hired Rocco Lombardo, the younger brother of Joseph Lombardo, as a floorman at the Crazy Horse. In the Henry case, Rizzolo testified that he met Lombardo in Chicago “when I was there consulting. He has martial arts schools and gyms. And I was training with him.”
Rizzolo also acknowledged in his deposition that he had met Joseph Lombardo (not our Govenor) once but said he did not know much about him. Rizzolo was coy when pressed if he knew whether the Lombardos were brothers.
“Is Joey the Clown Lombardo’s brother?” he was asked in depositions.
“I wouldn’t know,” Rizzolo said. “His brother’s name is Joey. I don’t know if he is a clown or not.”
Rapuano, in his deposition in the Henry case, suggested that Rizzolo had been in the presence of Joey Lombardo more than once. Rapuano – who has agreed to plead guilty to a tax charge in the Crazy Horse investigation – recalled having dinner in Chicago “two or three times” with Rizzolo and both Lombardos.
Joseph Lombardo has long been regarded by Chicago authorities as a high-ranking Chicago mob member. Lombardo was among 14 men indicted in Chicago on federal murder charges related to 18 unsolved slayings, including Spilotro’s, dating back to 1970.
Another of Rizzolo’s questionable hires at the Crazy Horse Too was Vincent Faraci, son of reputed Bonanno crime family captain “Johnny Green” Faraci of New York. The younger Faraci, who worked at the club as a shift manager until last year, has a felony mail fraud conviction on his record.
But he said he knew of Faraci’s criminal history. “I know about that because he was working for me when he was arrested,” Rizzolo said. Rizzolo also said he had met Faraci’s father when he attended a wedding for Faraci in New York.
Both Faraci and Rocco Lombardo left the Crazy Horse Two before their trials, but they are among the Crazy Horse Too employees who have agreed to plead guilty in the tax and racketeering cases.
At the 2002 deposition, Rizzolo said that when hiring employees, he never inquired into their criminal history.
“We give everybody a shot,” he said.
Rizzolo: Man About Town
In a 1999 profile, the Las Vegas Business Press described the silver-haired Rizzolo as a man who had tremendous entrepreneurial skills and a healthy business drive. Rizzolo, a father of three children, all of whom attended Catholic schools, as a workaholic who put in 18-hour days.
He had an impressive sports memorabilia collection and was known as a big New York Mets fan. He’s also regarded as a local high roller, often spotted at such casinos as the Hard Rock, Bellagio and MGM Grand, sometimes in the company of his favorite strippers.
Rizzolo, the Business Press reported, built his Las Vegas club up from a 1,200-square-foot, 12-dancer business to a 26,000-square-foot operation with 1,500 dancers. In a deposition that Rizzolo gave in the Henry case in July 2005, he said the club grossed $800,000 to $1 million a month, which translates to annual gross sales of $9.6 million to $12 million. He estimated that the club attracted 600,000 to 700,000 customers annually.
From time to time, Rizzolo has been seen in the presence of movie stars and sports celebrities, including his good friend, Baseball Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza, who spent much of his career with the Mets. Piazza’s father, automobile dealer Vince Piazza, helped Rizzolo open a Crazy Horse Too club in Philadelphia and is president of the company that owns the club’s liquor license, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Rizzolo was a huge gambler. He was a “whale” in casino talk. He was low-maintenance. He didn’t need to be flown in on a private jet, didn’t need a prince’s suite to stay in, didn’t need any of that: He only wanted to have fun, and sometimes, the FBI discovered, that resulted in losing $1 million in a single night.
His wealth has allowed him to become a major campaign contributor. The bulk of his contributions, records show, have gone to Las Vegas municipal candidates who have jurisdiction over his business. From 2000 to 2003 alone, Rizzolo contributed at least $73,000 to those candidates.
Most of Rizzolo’s political and business dealings have been directed from his huge office at the Crazy Horse Too. Rick told Henry’s lawyers that the office has a 16-screen surveillance system, a bar, crystal cabinets, a sectional black leather couch, a barber’s chair, bookshelves, a desk, a conference table and a restroom.
When the federal probes intensified, Rizzolo divorced his longtime wife, Lisa. The courts had awarded $10 million dollars to Kirk and Amy Henry. The most serious charges against Rick and Lisa Rizzolo was they concocted a sham divorce to shield Rick’s assets from the Henry’s court awarded settlement claim.
Lisa Rizzolo wound up with $7.2 million in investment accounts, a $1.1-million Canyon Gate Country Club home, a $1.2-million oceanfront residence in Newport Beach, Calif., and a $390,000 lakefront condominium in Chicago. She also got a Mercedes, two Range Rovers and $83,333 a month from Rizzolo for five years. Rizzolo kept for himself a 2005 Mercedes, a 1958 Corvette, property in Philadelphia and ownership of the Crazy Horse Too.
The subterfuge on assets extended to actions by Rick’s father Bart, and his stepmother, Kim Tran Rizzolo. Despite numerous successful judgements to enforce the Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act, the Rizzolo clan managed to avoid over $12 million in debt and interest to the Henry’s. For his pain and suffering since 2001 Kirk Henry only received $1 million of the $10 million dollar court judgement.
What happened to Rizzolo?
“That beating, (Kirk Henry)” wrote Jeff German, in a comprehensive article for the Las Vegas Sun detailing Rick Rizzolo’s long and dramatic reign at the Crazy Horse Too, “invigorated an FBI racketeering investigation into other alleged criminal activities taking place there.”
On May 31 and June 1, 2006, Rizzolo and 16 of his employees entered into plea deals with the United States Department of Justice, for tax evasion. Rizzolo also pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering. By March 28, 2007, they all received their sentences in U.S. District Court, with only two of them landing time in prison, Rizzolo’s punishment was the harshest: 366 days at Taft Correctional Institution in California.
The Crazy Horse Too was shut down on September 6, 2006.
Two S.W.A.T. teams charged the old ivory-columned palace that early morning, guns drawn. The two teams included agents from the FBI, the DEA, the IRS, ATF, and Metro. Later, the Crazy Horse Too would try to sue them for use of excessive force. The suit was thrown out by the court.
It was 5 a.m. There wasn’t much commotion. Rumors were that the club knew they were coming.
The FBI scanned over the entire club for more than 15 hours. The prosecutors knew that defense attorneys like Oscar Goodman, had an amazing record of having cases against his clients thrown out for technicalities before they even made it to trial. Rik’s attorneys would scrutinize the FBI raid for any small mistake.
They searched Rick Rizzolo’s office; they saw the mafia pictures exalted on the walls. Rizzolo had Al Capone’s barber’s chair in the room! They found the million dollars in cash he was reported to keep in his office at all times. The cash was not locked away in a safe, but tucked away in a desk drawer. It was $800,000, to be exact, with markers denoting money owed to Rizzolo. One packet of $15,000 was noted to be for Metro Sgt. Tom Keller.
The Crazy Horse Too had retained tons of boxes of records—documents from throughout the years, enough to fill an entire moving truck.
The FBI had accumulated enough ironclad evidence to hit 21 employees with RICO charges (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupted Organization), which carry a sentence of no less than 20 years. And so they were shocked when the U.S. attorney’s office announced on June 1, 2006, that they had negotiated plea deals with 16 employees at the Crazy Horse Too, for nothing more than tax evasion, and for racketeering. The agents were demoralized when they found out that 14 would never spend a day in prison, and that Rick Rizzolo, who got the worst punishment, would only have to serve one year and one day behind bars.
For many in the FBI this case will never be resolved. Ten years they investigated, starting around 1995. They had 14 agents on the investigation—five full-time—and 23 personnel in total. They collaborated with the IRS, DEA, Metro. They traveled the country to track down witness statements, they used innovative techniques to pursue the case, and now most of the Crazy Horse Too employees were let back out on the streets. Rizzolo, said and FBI Agent, “… received nothing more than a slap on the wrist.”
In January 23, 2007, Rick Rizzolo was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison, ordered to pay $17 million in restitution, forfeiture, back pay and fines, and a condition that he never again operate an adult businesses.
Rick Rizzolo was never charged in relation to Jim’s death but continued to get in trouble with the law for tax evasion.
In July 2014, federal authorities indicted him for trying to evade $2.5 million in employment and income taxes. They believed that between June 2006 and May 2011, Rick attempted to conceal the nature and location of his assets, made false statements to IRS, and maintained offshore trust accounts.
In October 2017, Rick, then 58, was sentenced to serve two years in federal prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion. He admitted to paying employees in cash and underreporting wages.
Where is Rick Rizzolo Today?
Rick had been reported to be working as a Management and Senior Sales Consultant for an import company at the time of his sentencing, a position he had held since August 2012. The company is based out of Henderson, Nevada.
From what we can tell, Rick has served his time and has maintained a low profile since his release from prison, living in Nevada.
In 2015, Amy Henry died of cancer.
In 2017 Kirk Henry died at the age of 58. Medical experts have testified that his life expectancy was dramatically severed when his neck was snapped outside of the Crazy Horse Two over a $88 bar tab.
Sources: Norm Clarke, Jeff German, Steve Miller, Rick Porello, Netflix Unsolved Mysteries, Arnold Snyder, Las Vegas Sun, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas Weekly, KNSV NBC Channel 3 News
What a story. I remember first visiting CH2 in the late 90’s at the peak of the club’s glory days. The club was packed & rockin’ and I had a blast. I can recall the staff were all cool so I was surprised when the Kirk Henry thing happened. I’m a little sad over the demolition I always thought the club looked cool on the outside as well. Maybe the club would still be open & standing if it had been managed responsibly.
I think you’re right about managing the club. In some ways it parallels the story in Casino. They had it made… and they got sloppy, excessive. Although it has no actual connection to CH2… Crazy Horse III on Russell is very well run, very successful and has a good reputation in town.
this is great reading.
I’m doing the research now for a book about the Vegas clubs that were run by mobsters. The working title is “Stripping for the Mob”
Can I put you down for a copy?