Posted on: January 10, 2021, 04:26h.
Last updated on: January 10, 2021, 06:03h.
Cullotta died Aug. 20 in a Las Vegas hospital of complications from COVID-19. He was 81.
Cullotta moved to Las Vegas in the late 1970s to help his Chicago boyhood friend, Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, operate a criminal enterprise in Southern Nevada. Spilotro was the Chicago Outfit’s overseer in Las Vegas.
During this period, money skimmed from casinos was sent illegally to Mafia crime families in the Midwest. This era is depicted in the critically acclaimed 1995 movie Casino. Cullotta appears in the movie as a hit man.
Griffin cowrote three books with Cullotta about this period in Southern Nevada. Griffin also is coauthor of two books published after Cullotta’s death, including Frank Cullotta’s Greatest (Kitchen) Hits: A Gangster’s Cookbook. Cullotta once ran a Las Vegas pizza restaurant called the Upper Crust. It was located east of the Strip near the UNLV campus.
The second new book is Bringing Down Cullotta: The Story ‘Casino’ Couldn’t Tell You, by David Bowman and Griffin. The book is being released this month
‘Like No Place on Earth’
Nicholas Pileggi, who cowrote the movie Casino with director Martin Scorsese, told Casino.org that Las Vegas these days is “spectacular.” However, Pileggi said he misses the period when walking into a smaller casino on the Strip was like “seeing a friend.”
Griffin said he doesn’t know if corporations can bring back the way it was.
“I’m not even sure they want to,” Griffin said. “It’s an entirely different world now, and some might say not for the better.”
The Rat Pack Era
Gaming historian David G. Schwartz of UNLV told Casino.org that casinos can recapture some of the magic of the Rat Pack era by focusing on “personalized attention.”
Rat Pack stars such as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin hit their stride in Las Vegas during the 1960s with performances in the Copa Room at the now-demolished Sands hotel-casino on Strip. The stars sometimes mingled with guests. The Venetian and Palazzo were built where the Sands once stood.
“I think that, for Las Vegas at least, the brand has overshadowed the experience,” Schwartz told Casino.org. “Casinos will tell you how awesome they are. But they don’t always do such a good job of communicating what will make the experience inside them unique and worthy of a trip.”