Exiting NLV mayor, arriving gubernatorial candidate prophesizes

So much for any chance to build a little drama and sell a few newspapers in the North Las Vegas mayor’s race pitting Shari Buck against William Robinson.

“The race is over,” exiting Mayor Michael Montandon said with consummate confidence earlier this week in a Review-Journal editorial board meeting. “Shari’s the next mayor.”

What a letdown.

Although I’m guessing it didn’t help Robinson’s chances to be featured in a recent KLAS-TV, Channel 8, investigative report implicating him in an FBI political corruption sting in the mid-1990s — one that resulted in a lot of smoke, but no indictment — Montandon made clear his belief that Buck would win even without the well-timed news mugging.

“I’ve had my issues with William,” the current mayor said, declining to elaborate on whether he believed Robinson, the veteran NLV city councilman, was corrupt. “You don’t stay in office 25 years without some political savvy. He can read the populist winds better than most. … William’s got a base, and he’s always been very good at mobilizing his base.”

Buck, he said, has a greater potential to grow her base of support. Needless to say, there have been no stories linking the councilwoman to a corruption sting.

When he’s not busy making predictions, Montandon keeps occupied these days preparing to run against Gov. Jim Gibbons, a fellow Republican. Fellow Republican and former state Sen. Joe Heck also has declared.

Montandon doesn’t believe Heck presents “that much of a threat or competition.”

That sounds pretty confident coming from a fellow who hasn’t yet won a countywide race. Then again, Heck lost his own Senate seat the last time his name was on a ballot.

“I’m not competitive,” Montandon said. “I just prefer winning.”

If his goal was to convey the image that he’s the alpha male in the distant Republican gubernatorial primary, he’s off to an excellent start.

PESCI’S … MEATBALLS: Word that Joe Pesci and former topless mogul Rick Rizzolo are teaming up to create a restaurant called Pesci’s Pizza reminds me of a story.

Back when he was filming “Casino,” Pesci fell in love with Vesuvio restaurant owner Joe Pignatello’s food. Pignatello was the former owner of the Villa D’Este, had driven for his family friend Sam Giancana and was one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite chefs. As a boy in Chicago, Pignatello learned to cook standing on a milk crate in his mom’s kitchen, where Mrs. Capone — Scarface Al’s mom — would join them.

Among the countless things Joe cooked better than anyone was a special meatball made with turkey, chicken, and pine nuts. It was beyond belief.

And the other Joe, longtime Vegas denizen Pesci, fell in love with said meatballs. I don’t mean Pesci thought they were tasty. I mean he adored them. He stalked them.

For a few years the two kicked around the idea of turning out those meatballs for sale, and they would have surely swept the nation, but in the end Pignatello got sick and Pesci’s movie career skyrocketed.

So, this is my unsolicited request of Pesci and Rizzolo, the latter of whom I hear clips all the nice things I’ve written about him and places them in a special scrapbook. I appreciate that.

I’m asking you two to try to re-create Pignatello’s turkey and pine nut meatballs. The world will be a better place.

And you’ll make the ghost of old Joe Pignatello proud.

He always wanted to make one final comeback, you know.

SHERIFF LAMB: Former Clark County Sheriff Ralph Lamb is one tough cowboy, but these days he’s fighting the effects of pneumonia at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz.

In recent years, Lamb worked with best-selling author Nicholas Pileggi on a big-screen project. Given Lamb’s rough-and-tumble history, the tale is sure to be action-packed.

ON THE BOULEVARD: The Galaxy Theater at Neonopolis went dark for good Thursday. Readers noted the lack of air conditioning in the place in recent days. … Looks like friends of Duffy Conley will have to wait a little longer to see their pal from Pittsburgh on the street again. Conley once ran 4,000 video poker machines in Pennsylvania — and that was before such activity was legal. He also gained a reputation as a deep-pocket bookmaker. That’s what he’s taken a fall for this time.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at

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