The Carson Nugget played host to notorious chip counterfeiter Louis Colavecchio Thursday night and early into the morning Friday as a crew from the History Channel filmed the latest installment of its new documentary series, "Breaking Vegas."
The grueling, 12-hour shoot traced the highs and lows of the infamous tool-and-die maker turned slot-cheat. He was busted playing with homemade tokens at Caesar's in Atlantic City, N.J., after sacking countless casinos around the country.
Line director Emily Berry said when police searched Colavecchio's car, they found nearly $50,000 in spurious slugs.
"He once broke the axle in his car, the load of fake chips was so heavy," she said. "I just bought $400 in chips from the counter and could hardly carry them. I can't imagine what 50,000 felt like."
As a jeweler, "Colavecchio looked at a token as a beautiful piece of art," Berry said. And he possessed great skill. "He was the kind of guy who could look at a Gucci buckle and recreate it perfectly."
Extras were cast from a few places, including the Carson Nugget itself.
Waiting around in a makeshift green room next to the Nugget Steakhouse, Chuck Pearl talked about acting. "They told me to wear my sunglasses and a black leather jacket," he said. "I guess I'm gonna be some kind of crook."
The Seattle-born Pearl, whose voice is 100 percent wise guy and looks a little like a leg-breaker, says he's not surprised. "All of my friends say I should be on 'The Sopranos,'" he laughs, then goes on to talk politics.
At the next table, Nugget employees and documentary extras Lee Dosch, Robin Young, Aillen Armitage, Starla Grinstead and Karrie Utterbach have a few laughs while they, wryly, "Wait to be discovered."
Over at the slot machines, production assistant Ross Levine drops the slate, the cameras roll, and it's the year 1996.
Colavecchio (played by Angelo Fierro) and his girlfriend, Donna Ulrich (played by Sacramento native Julie Anchor), are holding full buckets of "fake" tokens and pretending to play, only to go cash them in after a few minutes.
They nail the scene in two takes.
But someone is on to them.
Segments filmed at the Nugget will air in March, according to Atlas Media Corp., the production company for the series.
"Breaking Vegas" was originally a special that focused on the whiz-kid blackjack team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, card-counters who took casinos for millions in the 1990s before being discovered and put in the infamous Griffin Book of blacklisted players.
Now, Berry said, "Breaking Vegas" has spawned a whole series, focusing on the cat-and-mouse game between would-be cheats and casinos.
"The pilot aired in May 2004, and the executives at the History Channel fell in love with the idea," she said, predicting that the crew may be back in town in a few months to film scenes for another episode.
Contact reporter Peter Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1215.