Just a couple of days ago, Chazz Palminteri spoke with Lissa Townsend Rodgers, a senior writer at Vegas Seven. The two discussed his history with Las Vegas, the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show, BiVi Vodka, and his connection to the Chairman of the Board himself, Frank Sinatra.
To read the original story, click here.
A musical version of your show, A Bronx Tale, recently ran at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey. How is it working on a musical?
I’m excited. We’ll see what happens. So far it’s going great. I always felt it would make a great musical before anything else. I did it as a one-man show, and it was great. Then it was a movie. Now I feel it’s the strongest it could have been.
You’ve done the one-man version of A Bronx Tale here. What do you think of Las Vegas?
I love Vegas. Living in Las Vegas is like a weekend every day, and every night is a Saturday night. It’s just fun. I’ve appeared there at least 10 times already, and I love it every time I go. I like to go to the restaurants: I’ll go to Primo’s, the great Italian restaurant. I’ll go to Wolfgang Puck’s. I really like the stand-up comics—I like to see George Wallace; he’s very funny. He’s got a great late show.
Are you a fan of casinos?
Steve Wynn really just knows how to do it. I was walking in the casino with him, and there was a piece of paper on the floor. He just stopped and leaned down to get it. I was like, “Holy shit, will you look at that?” Here’s the owner and there’s a piece of paper and he just picks it up himself. That really tells you what kind of man he is.
Did you ever come to Vegas before you performed here?
I was out there in the 1970s. I was with my friends and we had a great time. … I met a few showgirls. I was a single guy then. Vegas has changed a lot, but it’s just still such a great place.
This guy, Rich DiCicco, wanted to do a Sicilian vodka, and he was looking for somebody who’s a real Sicilian to be the face of it. I’m 100 percent Sicilian—my mother is actually from Messina, Italy, where the vodka is made. I said, “I’ll do it, but I want to be involved. I want to see where it’s being made. Before I put my name on it, I want to taste it. I want to get it the best it can be.”
So we started working together on it. We went to Sicily and we met this guy, Giovanni La Fonte, who’s one of the great master distillers. He made a batch, and it was really good. But then I got 20 of the biggest vodka drinkers in New York to come to my house and taste it. They all loved it, but they also had notes about it. So I sent it back with my notes. He did some of those things, sent it back. We tried it again, I sent it back to him in Sicily, he sent it back again and it was perfect.
You have a restaurant in New York. What got you into that?
I’ve always had a fascination with the Rat Pack. They used to go to Toots Shor’s and Jilly’s and all of those places. I said, “Gee, I’d love to have my own restaurant.” I was very fortunate to meet these brothers who own Empire Steakhouse. They always wanted to open up an Italian restaurant—I really feel like it’s one of the best Italian restaurants in New York—it’s called Chazz Palminteri’s. We have a great time, and I’m really very proud of it. I hope one day we can open one up in Las Vegas.
So you’ve always been a fan of the Rat Pack?
I got to know Frank Sinatra really well. He was a great guy. I was very fortunate. … I had a martini with Frank at his house, and he and I were standing alone out there, looking at the water at his place in Malibu. He said, “Do you want to share my olive?” He took the two olives out of his martini and asked me to share the olive with him. I never forgot that. I cherish it. It was a great feeling. I said, “Well, if I ever get my own place, my own drink, I’m going to have a moment where you share an olive.”
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