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July 23, 2017

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A Vegas Tale: Chazz Palminteri to talk it up at Italian American Club

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Tiffany Brown

Actor Chazz Palminteri

Chazz Palminteri tells a story about vodka, but, as so many of his stories, it is really about people.

Two and a half years ago, Palminteri was told that his home country of Italy (Sicily, to be exact) had never produced a vodka. He contacted a master distiller in that region, a man named Giovanni La Fauci, to team up in the project.

La Fauci developed an early version of the spirit and sent the first batch to Palminteri in New York.

Palminteri, in turn, started contacting a highly select group of friends and colleagues.

“I got the top vodka drinkers I knew in all of New York and Greenwich, Conn., to come over to my house and sample this batch,” Palminteri says during a phone conversation from New York. “I said, ‘Tell me what you feel?’ They gave me some notes, I wrote back, we made some changes, and I brought these people back again.”

Those repeated visits gave this first-ever vodka distilled in Sicily, BiVi, Palminteri’s personal touch. It’s said to be a great product. It is doubtless a great story, one that Palminteri tells with great zeal.

The Oscar-nominated actor who wrote the great one-man show, film and — most recently — stage musical “A Bronx Tale” is bringing that storytelling quality to Las Vegas next week. On Wednesday at 7 p.m., Palminteri is appearing at the Italian American Social Club for “Share an Olive With Chazz.”

The presentation is an Actor’s Studio format, with Palminteri onstage recounting his life and career, from the days when he was moonlighting as bouncer at a Los Angeles nightspot alongside Dolph Lundgren in the late 1970s to the drafting of the script for “A Bronx Tale” to his current role in “Modern Family” and the effort to take “Bronx Tale” to Broadway. Yours truly will co-host in a format similar to the appearance starring Al Pacino at the Mirage in August 2014.

Tickets to Wednesday’s event are $50 and include two drinks. Money raised goes directly to the combined scholarships being offered by the IAC, Sons of Italy and and the Augustus Society, that will be awarded to students in Clark County schools who are of Italian-American descent.

An awards luncheon is set for the IAC at 1 p.m., April 17, with each organization contributing to a total of 19 scholarships to qualified applicants. Eighteen of those will be $1,000 apiece, and one top student will receive $2,000 for a total of $21,000 in scholarship awards at the April 17 luncheon. Deadline for applicants is March 15, and applications can be found at IACVegas.com, Augustus.org and SonsofItalyLasVegas.com.

Palminteri’s connection to Las Vegas, over the past several years, has been the staging of his autobiographical “A Bronx Tale” as a one-man show at the Mirage, the Venetian and the Smith Center. The show has been further developed as a full-scale musical currently being performed at Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J., which is co-directed by none other than Robert De Niro (who co-starred in the film version) and Jerry Zaks (“Little Shop of Horrors” on Broadway). The music is written by Alan Menken with lyrics by Glenn Slater, and the producer is the reliably well-funded Tommy Mottola and Dodgers Theatrical.

“We’ve got tremendous reviews. It’s doing great, it’s going to go to Broadway, I’m hoping soon, and things are really working out very well,” Palminteri says. “It’s just a great story.”

Palminteri has just opened a restaurant in Manhattan, Italian of course, under his own name and has said he has had talks with multiple Las Vegas interests about opening an outpost in this city. He’s also a star in the 2015 crime thriller “Legend,” the latest in a series of films highlighted by “A Bronx Tale,” his Academy Award-nominated turn in “Bullets Over Broadway,” “The Usual Suspects” and “Analyze This.”

The presence of Palminteri at IAC, which is a hallowed hall in Las Vegas, marks a memorable moment in the club’s 55-year history. Its walls are covered with its famous current and former members. Topping the list is Frank Sinatra, a friend of Palminteri’s.

The event’s title, “Share an Olive,” centers on a moment shared by Sinatra and Palminteri from many decades ago at Sinatra’s home in Malibu.

Palminteri will certainly tell that tale on Wednesday. As he says, it’s a great story.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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