As an actor, Joey Ciccone is known for playing tough guys. His acting resume lists film credits, TV roles and commercials. Chances are, you’ll be seeing him a lot more. The Desert Shores resident has signed on as the spokesman for Karatbars.
Karatbars look like credit cards, but each has a tiny rectangle of gold film embedded in it.
“You’re liquidating your cash into gold,” he said. “This is very big in Europe. … Instead of investing in stocks, you’re investing in gold.”
Karatbars plans to use Ciccone for an online promotion, but he’s hoping the gig transitions into national exposure.
“We’ve seen him perform; we see how some people respond to him,” said Ric Besmanoff, an associate of Ciccone. “If you go around town, there are a lot of copycat performers. This man is a triple threat and more. … He’s an original.”
Ciccone got his start at 21 when he recorded with Miles Davis for the movie “Wise Guys.” That led to touring and being signed to a label, Expansion Records and Vitasia 22 Productions. He worked in Chicago’s jazz clubs and then moved to Los Angeles in 1990. In 2004, he came to Las Vegas, where he opened for top celebrities.
His film credits include a feature part in “American Yakuza” and smaller parts in “Heat,” “Casino,” “Carlito’s Way,” “Gladiator,” “Rocky VI,” “Mission: Impossible III” and “Gangs of New York.”
His car, a black 1982 Cadillac Eldorado, gets as much attention as he does. It sets the stage for when he pulls up, usually dressed in a black suit coat and dark sunglasses, his tough guy persona. Before it came into his possession, he said the car was used in movies, including “Goodfellas,” “Donnie Brasco,” “Casino” and “A Bronx Tale.”
“Me, being an actor, I’d work with the car,” Ciccone said. “If you hire me and say, ‘Go get your car and park it over there (on set),’ then, hey, you get the best of both worlds.”
He was tapped to play a mob boss in an episode of “CSI: Las Vegas” in 2006. It was that kind of exposure that got him a two-year gig at The Las Vegas Mob Experience on the Strip.
“It was at the (Tropicana). I was (Anthony) Spilotro,” he said, referring to the notorious mobster who was murdered by his own organization.
Friend and stand-up comedian Tom Dreesen said Ciccone’s tough guy act came from observing others while growing up.
“He can be one of the most lovable guys in the world, but don’t push him,” Dressen said. “Joey’s a Chicago guy. We’re very loyal. We’re, like, lapdog loyal.”
The Caddy came into Ciccone’s possession 10 years ago. It was previously owned by a family member, identified only as Uncle John. Ciccone’s father had something to do with the car because it sports a metallic moniker “Pistol,” his dad’s nickname, on the panel behind its front tire, complete with a silhouette of an automatic pistol. Another identifier, a sticker in the front window, simply states “Omerta,” meaning “code of silence.”
Mileage runs about 7 or 8 mpg in the city and 10 on the highway. It takes supreme-grade gasoline. Under the hood are eight cylinders, a 4.1-liter engine and a horn like a locomotive blast. He maintains it himself.
Ciccone said people are always pulling up beside him at red lights and asking about it.
“When you see it, it looks like it just came out of New York City,” he said. “It looks like trouble before you even drive down the street.”
Ciccone said Las Vegas doesn’t acknowledge how entertainers were back in the day.
“That’s how I feel,” he said. “That’s what I’ve seen, and that’s what I have to deal with day in and day out. Your talent is secondary. It’s what have you done for me lately … Tony Danza, I worked his club 15 years straight. Last year, at the W Hotel, my clientele was Halle Berry, Nicolas Cage — Holly Robinson Peete, who was in ‘21 Jump Street,’ was there — they were at my shows every week. They’d tell me, ‘You’re like Bobby Darin,’ but here’s the thing, I’m not an impersonator. I can (impersonate others), but I choose not to because I want to stand on my own.”
He said he learned his craft from watching the big names of iconic Las Vegas, such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
“There’s more to working a room than just singing a song,” he said.
What’s next for him? Ciccone said he approached officials of the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, the Mob Museum, to see if he could use the car to help promote it but said they didn’t see the value in that.
“Plus, you’ve got the Mob Bar across the street,” he said. “I’m a jazz singer; it’s the best of both worlds. They don’t get it. It’s that simple. Can you imagine pulling up in that car, bopping inside to sing some Sinatra tunes and that whole vibe, doing a whole set, and then we split. That’s old Vegas; that’s what this town needs.”
Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2949.