Jerry Nachman is vice president and editor-in-chief of MSNBC, and the host of “Nachman,” which airs at 5 p.m. ET, weekdays on MSNBC.
December 26, 2002
JERRY NACHMAN: Hey, remember when Las Vegas started billing itself as a family-friendly vacation place? Then, of course, casino and restaurant revenue took a dive. So, guess what? Sin City came back. A couple of weeks ago, the world’s largest strip club, a $30 million joint called the Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club, opened in Vegas. It’s 71,000 square feet of undulating female anatomy, with up to 800 strippers disrobing at the same time. But the flesh trade can be rough stuff. One club, a different club, is being accused of using thugs, thieves, and assorted scoundrels to shake down customers. The casualty toll even includes one patron who is now paralyzed for life. We’ve shown you Glen Meek’s work before. Well, the last time, he revealed a hazard of exploding gasoline pumps. Now the KVBC TV Las Vegas reporter has an ugly story about strip club strong-arm tactics.
GLEN MEEK, KVBC REPORTER (voice-over): Kirk Henry of Kansas gave his son Jarod (ph) a bicycle on his birthday. But Henry will never ride bikes with his son again. He’s confined to a wheelchair with a broken neck.
KIRK HENRY, CRIPPLED AT STRIP CLUB: My middle to upper chest line down, I have no feeling.
MEEK: Henry was paralyzed on a visit to Las Vegas, here outside the Crazy Horse Too Gentlemen’s Club. Henry says he was trying to leave the club following a dispute over how many lap dances he paid for when a bartender or manager came up from behind.
K. HENRY: I felt my neck being twisted downward and wrenched. And I couldn’t move. So I touched my legs and I couldn’t feel them. And, at that point, I panicked and screamed out, “I can’t feel my legs.”
MEEK: Henry says the man who tried to unscrew his head from his neck wasn’t through yet.
K. HENRY: And he somewhat chuckled or snickered. I don’t know if he didn’t believe me that I couldn’t feel my legs. But he came up to me and demanded that I give him my wallet or I give him my credit card.
MEEK (on camera): Henry says, as he lay helpless in the parking lot, the manager or bartender came back up to him, pulled his wallet out of his pants pocket, removed Henry’s credit cards, went back in the club, and rang up 80-something dollars worth of lap dances. (voice-over): Henry was taken to Valley Hospital, where this home video was recorded. Fearing for his safety, his wife listed him under an assumed name.
AMY HENRY, WIFE OF KIRK HENRY: I was hoping that, when he went in for surgery, that the doctors would call me back and say: Oh, it’s not as bad as we thought. But, instead, he said: It’s worse than we expected.
K. HENRY: I can’t play with my kids, I can’t do any of the activities I used to enjoy. And I can’t be with my wife. You know, it’s been a dramatic change, a terrible change.
MEEK: And Henry believes he’s paid a terrible price for a trivial dispute.
K. HENRY: I never in my wildest dreams would imagine somebody would break my neck over something like this. You know, it’s just unbelievable.
MEEK: But violence at the Crazy Horse is far from unbelievable. Records obtained by News 3 investigators show the number of police responses to the club more than doubled from 1999 to 2001. And police records also reveal nine assault and six robbery cases involving Crazy Horse employees over a two-year period. The FBI is looking into whether there’s a pattern of customers being beaten or threatened when they objected to their tabs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I disputed it right then and there, because I didn’t agree with the charges. I thought it was frivolous.
MEEK: This local man who wanted his identity protected filed a police report after Crazy Horse employees put $3,000 in charges on his credit card. He says he doesn’t even know how to spend $3,000 in a Gentlemen’s Club.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I had $3,000 worth of lap dances, I don’t think I would be walking by morning time.
MEEK: The man says he only signed his credit card receipt out of fear.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not the bouncer, but the bartender said, “If you don’t sign this tab, you’ll get your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) kicked, like anyone else around this joint.” Basically, I was intimidated.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They take joy and delight in being able to hurt people, just because they’re bored, just because they can, and just because they know they’ll never be held responsible for it.
MEEK: This former Crazy Horse dancer says she’s seen brutality, but she’s also seen bouncers simply scare customers into signing tabs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you going to do if you’re from the Midwest, and you’ve heard that this is a Mafia town, and the people that approach you are obviously stereotypical Mafia types, and they talk to you in a way that makes you believe that you will disappear if you don’t do it? What are you going to do?
MEEK (on camera): The implication that customers who welch on their tabs might be messing with the mob may not be such a farfetched notion. Our investigation reveals a number of people working at the Crazy Horse with links to organized crime.
NACHMAN: In part two of Glen’s report, we’ll see the cast of “Soprano”-style characters affiliated with the Crazy Horse Too. That’s next. Come back.
NACHMAN: Before the break, we showed you a Las Vegas strip club that leaves some customers with a lot more than empty wallets. In one case, a customer, Kirk Henry, was paralyzed with a broken neck. Now reporter Glen Meek shows us who’s apparently behind the rough stuff for the club that makes “The Sopranos”-bada bing-look like choir practice.
KIRK HENRY, CRIPPLED AT STRIP CLUB: The management of this club should be severely punished for allowing thugs and criminals to beat up the clients that come to this place.
MEEK (voice-over): Henry is suing the Crazy Horse, alleging that management allowed an environment of lawlessness to breed in the club. These are some of the men in management or security roles. This is the man suspected of assaulting Henry. Shift manager Bobby D’Apice. D’Apice has previous arrests for domestic battery, battery on an officer, and carrying a concealed weapon. In this videotaped deposition made for Henry’s lawsuit, Crazy Horse President Rick Rizzolo was asked about his hiring of men with criminal backgrounds.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prior to hiring your employees, do you inquire of them as to what their criminal history is?
RICK RIZZOLO, PRESIDENT, CRAZY HORSE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not?
RIZZOLO: I believe in giving everybody a shot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Irrespective of what their criminal history may be?
MEEK: Rizzolo’s view on background checks may help explain why there are a number of ex-felons or men with mob ties at the Crazy Horse. Men like shift manager Vinnie Faraci, son of reputed Bonanno crime family soldier Johnnie Green Faraci of New York.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does Mr. Faraci have any criminal history?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is his criminal history?
RIZZOLO: Insurance fraud. I know about that because he was working for me when he was arrested.
MEEK: Crazy Horse bartender Joe Blasko also has a criminal history. He’s a former corrupt metro cop convicted in the 1980s for taking part in a mob-run burglary ring.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know he has a criminal history, but you don’t know what it’s for?
RIZZOLO: It has-I think it had something to do with Bertha’s (ph) jewelry store, but I don’t remember what-if you mean the conviction, I don’t remember what that was all about.
MEEK: Mr. Rizzolo’s memory was also fuzzy about his shift manager Ray Randazzo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you familiar with Ray Randazzo’s criminal history?
RIZZOLO: I know he’s got one. I don’t know what for.
MEEK: It’s for drug trafficking. Then there’s Fred Pascente, a former Chicago cop and former employee of Chicago’s version of the Crazy Horse which pays Rizzolo a $20,000-a-month consulting fee. You’ll find Pascente in Nevada’s black book, excluded from casinos, in part for alleged links to organized crime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you aware of any arrests of Mr. Pascente in Las Vegas?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is it that you’re aware that he was arrested?
RIZZOLO: I was standing next to him.
MEEK: Rizzolo says he ended his association with Pascente after his inclusion in the black book. Then there’s Rocco Lombardo, floor man at the Crazy Horse. You may have heard of his brother, Joey, named in numerous published reports as a top adviser to the Chicago mob.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that Joey “the Clown” Lombardo’s brother?
RIZZOLO: I wouldn’t know. His brother’s name is Joey. I don’t know if he’s a clown or not.
MEEK: While professing ignorance of Joey the Clown, Rizzolo was certain to recognize this next name until his lawyers shut him up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know Joseph Cusumano?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He’s not answering based on counsel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You’re refusing to answer the question?
MEEK: Joseph Cusumano was placed in Nevada’s black book in 1990 for criminal convictions and alleged mob connections. You’ll note Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman was Cusamano’s lawyer at the time. Though Rizzolo has hobnobbed with black book and mob figures, his social circle also includes prominent Nevada politicians. Rizzolo’s relationship with City Councilman Michael McDonald is well known, but McDonald says he doesn’t take campaign money from Rizzolo and doesn’t vote on issues involving the Crazy Horse, like the recent licensing of General Manager Al Rapuano. But Kirk Henry and his wife, Amy, can’t help but wonder if Rizzolo’s political connections tend to keep government officials from looking too closely at the club’s liquor license.
AMY HENRY, WIFE OF QUADRIPLEGIC: I can’t understand what kind of city or state would allow a place like this to remain in business.
NACHMAN: Good story. And now we’re joined by the guy who broke it, a friend of ours, reporter Glen Meek of KVBC-TV in Las Vegas. Glen, I’ve got a million questions. You referred to the black book, but the Nevada Gaming Commission has no say-so over strip clubs, correct?
MEEK: No, that’s correct. That’s essentially a barometer, though, often of a person’s character, at least by some standards here in Nevada. And if you’re in the black book-it takes quite a bit to get in the black book. I mean, they’re not just opening a phone book and dropping their fingers down and picking people out to put in a book that excludes you from even going into any kind of casino.
NACHMAN: OK. A couple of-I’m playing editor now, having seen your pieces a couple of times. The wife-did she know-what was her reaction to the fact, — bad enough that the husband’s neck was broken, but he got it pursuant to a lap dance.
MEEK: Yes, that was a big problem, I think, for that particular relationship, and one of the things that Mr. Henry told me when I interviewed him is that he did not want to leave a credit card there. He wanted to only pay cash, according to him, because he didn’t want the wife to get a credit-card receipt or bill in the mail, you know, weeks later and even find out that he was in the club, let alone, of course, what happened here.
NACHMAN: So what did he tell her? What did he tell her?
MEEK: Well, he wasn’t really in a position to tell her anything after he was injured. I mean, he was actually-as you saw from the video, he was on different types of life-support systems. I mean, he was on oxygen and things of that nature. But, certainly, you know, she had a chance to talk to some of the other people who were there. There was a business associate who was at least there, not when the actual incident occurred, but earlier in the evening, and then I believe also she talked to the police department, and some of the police detectives actually filled her in on some of the details.
NACHMAN: Well, that’s-that’s my next question. You mentioned a lawsuit. That’s the civil end. Why didn’t he swear out a criminal complaint and have somebody locked up for assault or attempted murder? Has anybody been arrested?
MEEK: No, and I want to point that out, as a matter of fact. We mentioned Mr. D’Apice, who was one of the shift managers there, who was being eyed as a suspect in this case, and he has not been arrested at this point. However, we do know that there is a joint metro police and FBI investigation. We also know that a number of people have been called before a federal grand jury, and that grand jury and that federal probe is looking into the activities at the Crazy Horse and whether there was a pattern of incidents like this over the course of several years.
NACHMAN: Well, I’m still confused. If I-if somebody punched me in the nose standing on Wayne Newton Boulevard and I called the metro police and swore out an assault complaint, they’d lock that person up.
MEEK: You would think. There’s some interesting things that have occurred both in this case and some other cases that we’re looking at. We know, for example, there’s another lawsuit filed against the club alleging that there was brutality by the bouncers, and some of the people who were in that party actually had one of those digital cameras. They took photographs of police on the scene, and, when we went back to try and...
NACHMAN: Glen, let’s...
MEEK: ... find a police report, there was none...
NACHMAN: What’s been...
MEEK: ... and, apparently, the police are telling some of these people, hey, you’re drunk, you know, do you really want to get into this, are you going to come back and testify, why don’t you just go home and forget about it.
NACHMAN: What’s been the reaction to the apparently mobbed-up people who work there?
MEEK: Yes. Well, once again, these are simply allegations coming out of the lawsuit. You, obviously, have some people that have been alleged to have connections to some mob figures or organized crime figures. Again, these are simply allegations, and I want to stress that, but, obviously, it’s something that people are looking at.
NACHMAN: Have you gotten any-have you gotten any threats or funny looks or weird phone calls?
MEEK: No, I got-I got a strange postcard after this, but I have no way of knowing whether it was connected to this particular story.
NACHMAN: OK. Can you tell us what it said?
MEEK: Not in polite company, no. I mean, it was-it was literally a string of profanity and something about a guy paying his dues to society, speaking of which I do want to point out that the police officer that we showed who was the bartender and formerly involved in that mob-run burglary ring died about four days after our story of a heart attack, apparently natural causes, and he had retired from the bar a few days before that-or a few weeks before that.
NACHMAN: Glen, I’m getting a speed-it-up cue. So I’m going to say goodbye. We’re going to look forward to having you again with your next investigation. Thank you.