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By Dianne R. Davis
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Photos by Dianne R. Davis or Burt Davis

Chazz Palminteri Hosts Kentucky Derby Viewing Party at Lagasse’s Stadium at The Palazzo

A Bronx Tale Playing at the Venetian Until May 9

Chazz Palminteri and Dianne R. Davis
Photo credit: Burt Davis

Kentucky Derby fans at Lagasse’s Stadium at the Palazzo got a great bonus Saturday afternoon prior to the running of the Derby.  Legendary actor Chazz Palminteri was there to greet fans and show a clip from his movie, A Bronx Tale. Palminteri has taken the stage production on a coast to coast tour and is  staring in A Bronx Tale at the Venetian through May 9.

What a talent he is. I’ve seen his performances in The Usual Suspects and  Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway. I’ve also watched the film version of A Bronx Tale number of times (it’s a favorite of mine) and finally had the opportunity to see the stage production last week, so when offered the chance to meet the star of this incredible one man show, I jumped at the opportunity.

We met briefly prior to his talk to the fans, so I just had time for a few questions, but its always an honor to meet someone so talented. You don’t get to study with Lee Strasburg if you don’t have talent.  Palminteri look fit and trim in a black shirt.  The face is that of an actor that would logically be cast in roles playing Italians and he plays one in A Bronx Tale.  But the character  he plays is in large part himself. The Bronx Tale is Chazz’s story. He wrote it; he stars in it.  He wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation as well.  It chronicles “C” a kid who witnessed a murder when he was 9 and didn’t rat.  He is befriended by Sonny, the man who runs the neighborhood and looks out for the boy through his adolescence in a tough Italian neighborhood.

Here’s a sample of what Chazz Palminteri, the actor/writer had to say:

DD: Did you find any difference in the Vegas audiences and other places?

CP: They said that Vegas audience is different, but not really. I did the national tour to  Texas, Milwaukee places on both coasts and they loved it. I came here and they loved it too.

DD: What is the message of the show?

CP: The message of  the show is the coming of age of this young boy and the good thing about it is it’s not preachy but it shows people that it is the choices you make that will shape your life forever and I think it motivates people. I know people when they leave the show, they feel motivated.  Many kids have turned their lives around after seeing the show. Fathers have come over to me and said, my son was on drugs and he saw the show and he actually stopped. I’m kind of blown away by that, I say really.  They say yes.  I like that really. I have a card that I carry with me. that says, “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” I give it to these kids.

DD: Your dad gave that to you in the show. Did he really?

CP: My father gave it to me when I was a young boy. One of my good friends died of an overdose. He[father] put it in my room and I’ve had it there all my life. So I had these little cards made up. And I give them to these young kids about not wasting your life.

DD: The kid in show is kind of squeaky clean. He doesn’t do drugs, he doesn’t drink. Does that reflect your life or did you have your slip along the way?

CP: At that age, no slips from 0-17, none at all. Later on, maybe. I got a little bad for a while but then I realized whoo, I gotta get back.

DD: How about your friends from neighborhood? Did a lot of them get through okay?

CP: It was like half and half. Half of them got through great and a half of them did not.

DD: When not on stage, how does Chazz relax?  

CP: I spend time with my wife and children mostly. We go on vacation. We get a house by house by the water.

DD: When you’re in Vegas, in a hotel room?

CP: I write all day.  Right now I am writing a screen play.

DD: Are you going to star in it?

CP: No, I‘m not going to star in it, I’m going to direct it. It’s called Mob Street.  It’s about the mob and  Wall Street in the 90’s when all that stuff went down.

DD: Now, tell us a little about the story with Robert DeNiro.  It’s a great story about how you held onto your show.  You wouldn’t sell out unless you were going to be in it and write it. What advice did he give you?

CP: He saw the show. He loved it and said what a great movie it would be. …. He knew I had to play Sonny.  He said,”Llook, I know you want to play Sonny and you want to write the screenplay.  You should write it. It’s about you.  I’ll direct it and I’ll play your father.  And that’s the way it will be.  “I’ll make the movie the right way.” And he did.

DD: You say you are working on a new  screenplay.  What direction do you want to go in?  Do you want to go into more writing?

CP: I do both.  I just do both. There’s no one direction I go in.  I just do both whenever I can.

DD: Do your kids have any inkling toward show business?

CP: Yes they do. But you know they gotta go to college first. They are in conn. They’ll go to college. And then we’ll see.

DD: Favorite restaurants in Las Vegas?

CP: Oh, that’s easy. Tao, l love the dumplings there and Lavo, the meatballs. And I also like,  if I go off property, I like to go to Steve Martorano’s at the Rio for great Italian food.

On To The Derby Running

Well, at that point, it was time to head for Lagasse’s Stadium and get seating for the race.  With over 109 flat screen televisions, Lagasse-style bar food, and plush Stadium-seating, it was a great  place on the Las Vegas Strip to watch the Derby or any sporting event.

Chazz was in a reserved section and it didn’t take long for fans to start elbowing each other with that Hey look who’s here stance.  I watched as he chatted with fans, posed for photos, and smiled and waved at others.  Nice guy.

Prior to the start of the Derby, He took the microphone and greeted the people gathered in the stadium to see him and the Derby running.  He got the crowd amped up for the race with a discussion about horse racing and specifically a scene from the movie which took place at Aqueduct Race Track.

Chazz talks to fans
Photo credit: Dianne R. Davis

FYI, Chazz enjoyed Emeril Lagasse's Slow-Roasted Chicken Breast as he cheered on his favorite horse. He was joined by fellow actors Robert Davi of 'The Goonies' and Frank John Hughes as well as NFL player Antoine Cason.

Photo credit: Dianne R. Davis

Oh, and as long as I was there, I placed a bet on the number 4 horse, Super Saver.  I won!  What an afternoon.  An interview with a talented actor and a winning horse in the Kentucky Derby.  A Bronx Tale will be presented in the Venetian through May 9 and will be back October 7-18, 2010 Guests can purchase tickets online at and by phone at 702-414-9000.  I highly recommend it.


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