The Piano Man For All Seasons: Piermarini

In Christine on The Scene by Christine McKellar

Not every pianist in Las Vegas can lay claim to having played in lounges to entertain the likes of Gina Lollobrigida, Montgomery Clift, Clark Gable, Kirk Douglas, Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner, and Ava Gardner. Clito Piermarini (Pier) was twenty-five years old and fresh out of college when he toured Europe as a pianist/composer in the American holiday heydays: the days of wine and piano bars, of glamorous gals and sophisticated movie stars.

“When I was in Rome, I lived in a cold water flat off the Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps. Artists, sculptors, musicians, we would all meet at a local trattoria. It was like an artist colony,” says Pier. “I met an Italian guy who got me a piano job in the club at the Hotel Excelsior. The hotel was the place where all the great actors would come to drink. When Ingrid Bergman would come in I’d play, ‘As Time Goes By’ for her.”   

The self-described “senior citizen” toured throughout Europe’s most fabled cities in his youth. He played piano in Capri, Italy, where he entertained Clark Gable, Kirk Douglas and Lana Turner. He performed at USO shows in London and in Germany. Pier was the piano man for several years on elegant cruise ships such as the McCormick and Canard lines.

In 1970, after twelve years in New York City, where Pier was a regular at the Astoria Hotel and the Copa Lounge, he and his first wife moved to Las Vegas. “I knew the Rat Pack. Sinatra, Dino. I was good friends with Sinatra’s pal, Jilly. He helped me get a part in the movie, Charlie’s Angels.  Jilly invited me to a night I’ll never forget. He asked if I wanted to go see Sinatra at Caesars Palace. He didn’t tell me I was also going to see Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald perform. That night, I’ll never forget.”

Pier never forgets anything when it comes to the piano. “I memorize everything correctly. The right (chord) changes, what the composer wrote. There are so many great composers. Cole Porter, now he wrote lyrics and music! I played ‘Night and Day’ and ‘Begin the Beguine’ live on the radio in China once.”

Asked what he thinks about popular music today, Pier believes that some of it is nice. “I don’t think a lot will last for very long. Every era has their composers.  When I get requests for contemporary songs it’s usually the Beatles, Elton John and that sort of thing. Nobody asks me to play Michael Jackson.” Hands down, Pier is an avid fan of music from the 40s and 50s. “To me, those are the songs that will always live.”

Vegas has been good to this piano man. “I’ve done very well here,” he says. “I’m never out of work. I’ve worked the Hilton lounge, the Vestal Virgin Lounge at the old Castaways, the Hacienda. I played piano at Liberace’s Tivoli Gardens. Now, I’m at the Venetian. I’ve been there off and on for ten years.”

Pier has recently become a favorite at a new venue in Henderson. Each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night from 4:30-7:30 p.m. Pier entertains guests at the Comfort Inn Suites on Marks Street. Hotel guests can enjoy a glass of wine, cold cuts, cheese and crackers while Pier plays the Steinway piano in the lobby.  With an impressive repertoire that evokes timeless eras, Pier provides music that satisfies just about everyone. – Christine McKellar