Two Perspectives on the Riviera’s Closing

(April, 2015)

One’s been in the building for 40 years, the other for about eight months. But both were taken aback when word came that the Riviera is closing and coming down.

“I was kind of sad because I have 40 years here. A lot of memories, a lot of celebrities,” says Neil Scartozzi, longtime barber and Wayne Newton look-alike (yes, he actually did Wayne in a tribute act).

“But there’s been a slight gradual decline in clientele after 25 good years. Probably the last 15 years, it started to deteriorate a little bit -- to the point where it’s difficult to make a living here anymore.”

Meanwhile, comedian Matt Kazam thought he’d be doing his one-man show “Forty is NOT the New Twenty” for two years – the length of his deal with The Riv.

“I’ve been fired, but with explosives, this makes it a different situation.”

Kazam’s low-overhead show plays to nearly 200 people some nights, and maybe two dozen other nights. But he still made money for the hotel.

“Yea, it was shortened, but there’s no way I could have expected that. There were 100 ways I could’ve failed, and I didn’t.”

Scartozzi saves tough words for past Riviera management for its slow, steady decline.

“The people that run the hotel don’t bring in quality people anymore. We’ve become a convention destination, instead of a gambling place. So, with that in mind, the clientele has changed completely.”

Kazam agrees that things have changed here.

“I love Vegas, but Vegas is Orlando with gambling. It’s not Vegas anymore. Not in the way that we remember. Which is maybe why a place like the Riviera has to go.”

As for where he’ll go, Kazam is on the hunt.

“I’m still looking here in Vegas. A guy like me fit in at the Riviera, I had a place here. I’m one man, producing the show myself, doing 400 of them a year. I don’t know if that fits in to the business model of most of what’s on The Strip. If not, there are 2,000 casinos in the country now. Vegas used to be the only place where you could perform, but now every town has a little Vegas. That’s maybe what I’m shooting for.  If not here, I believe this can live on… on the road.

Scartozzi says he’s far from done.

“I don’t see myself retiring at all. I don’t golf and I’m sure not going to sit at home. I want to keep busy doing stuff, I have a lot of productive years left, I’ve got a lot of energy. And I don’t know what I’m going to do- I’m know I’m going to barber. I’m going to take a couple weeks and look around a little bit. I’ll kind of weight my options and see where I’m at.”