The Holy Trinity: Pia, Telly and the Riv


The Riviera may have shuttered, but it lives on in film as one of Hollywood’s favorite backdrops. Among the classics that made the Riv a co-star: Casino, Showgirls, Ocean’s 11, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Diamonds Are Forever, Fake-Out

Wait, what? OK, so Fake-Out (also known as Nevada Heat) may not qualify as a classic in the same vein as the others, but it does offer the most casino action: The 1982 movie was produced by Meshulam Riklis, then the owner of the Riviera and the husband of Pia Zadora, and Riklis obviously wanted to make sure both of his favorite possessions got maximum screen time.

The opening image is a Las Vegas skyline that looks like something you’d see painted on the side of a shag-carpeted van. After Riklis himself cameos as a murder victim (because all mob hits are carried out by senior citizens in campers), we cut to lounge singer Zadora, clad in some sparkly string. She steps offstage into the waiting handcuffs of Telly Savalas, who wants her to testify against her mobster boyfriend. Pia refuses and goes into the clink, but after the extended aerobics classes and the shower rape scene, she decides to cooperate with the cops, who promptly put her in witness protection … at the Riviera.

In Fake-Out, we are treated to endless shots of every inch of the property—though the part where someone drives an AMC Gremlin through the Versailles room, across the gaming floor and out onto Las Vegas Boulevard is a diversion. Zadora insists her mob honey still loves her, though she comes off as more foolish and bratty than devoted and spunky. Still, there’s some good circa-1982 Vegas footage, a fun Strip car chase and Savalas in his three-piece After Six suits just owning everyone and everything in sight. In retrospect, Fake-Out would probably have made a better Kojak episode than vanity project. But, well, wouldn’t everything?

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