Another chapter begins in seedy story of Crazy Horse Too


The Crazy Horse Too loiters like a $20 streetwalker on Industrial Road in the shadow of the Sahara Avenue overpass.

With its gaudy neoclassical facade, the shuttered skin joint is jammed into a homely strip mall better suited for an auto repair shop than a topless fantasyland.

But there it is. Careworn in any light, it's as indelible a part of the local landscape as a bad tattoo.

Rick Rizzolo and his cast of "Sopranos" extras ran the place like their own fiefdom for more than two decades. Rizzolo made millions and sprinkled the local political and judicial circuits with more campaign cash than many corporate casinos. Quick to buy a drink, quicker to read the local playing field: He was the mayor of the Las Vegas night.

Police were called hundreds of times to the Crazy Horse Too, but neither the local coppers nor cross-eyed bureaucrats from the city of Las Vegas could find it in the community's best interests to close the place. And if on occasion a drunken customer was beaten nearly to death with a ball bat, well, no one said topless club racketeers were choirboys.

The Crazy Horse Too remained open for business even after that early morning in September 2001 when Kansas tourist Kirk Henry nearly had his head wrenched from his shoulders by some of its bouncers. Although Bobby D'Apice would serve federal time in association with the attack, and Rizzolo has done two shorter stints following a related tax conviction, Henry received by far the worst end of the deal. His neck broken over an $88 bar tab, he was made a quadriplegic.

That was 11 years ago. To date, Henry has received a small percentage of the $10 million plus interest his family is owed as part of the 2006 global settlement to resolve the criminal and civil issues associated with Rizzolo and his crew.

Forget the Strip addresses and the Shadow Creek golf course. After all this time, Crazy Horse Too remains the most talked about piece of real estate in Las Vegas. In the past decade it has passed from the hands of a hail-fellow hoodlum to the U.S. government in a seizure.

Once touted to be valued at as much as $35 million, it fetched just $3 million in a July court-ordered auction and was scooped up by Canico Capital Investment Group of Southern California.

This morning, the Crazy Horse Too property returns to the public eye on the Las Vegas City Council agenda, where Councilman Bob Coffin is scheduled to introduce a zoning ordinance amendment that would enable the building to reopen as a topless club.

Canico attorney Michael Mushkin knows the Crazy Horse Too's sordid history. He reminds the curious that his clients aren't in the topless business and don't intend to be. They are a group of investors who bought 11 different properties from a pool of mortgages offered by the FDIC.

Mushkin calls the deal "pretty standard" but adds, "The only odd part about this one was one of the notes was the Crazy Horse Too mortgage."

Well, actually, there's another odd part. As nothing is ever very standard when it concerns the Crazy Horse Too, the building's new owners have agreed to pay the $1.5 million fine the city finally levied against Rizzolo in exchange for having the zoning returned to the previous nonconforming use. Mushkin says other jurisdictions have made similar calls.

"This is just pretty much real estate 101," he says. "It's the highest and best use of the property."

The building's notoriety isn't lost on the lawyer. He says it's hard to "imagine that such a funky little strip mall is the most talked about piece of real estate in Clark County."

And if one day it returns to its previous R-rated celebrity, or is flipped for a hefty profit should the county or Nevada Department of Transportation ever seek to expand the nearby roadways, that also will become part of the story.

John L. Smith's column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith.

 

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