Joe Bruno on the Mob – Bugsy Siegel

Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel is the man most responsible for the re-birth of the city of Las Vegas, as the gambling capitol of the world.

Siegel was born Benjamin Siegelbaum on February 28, 1906, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. As a teenager, he crossed the bridge to Manhattan and started a gang on Lafayette Street, which skirted the boarder of Little Italy, with another thug named Moe Sedway. Their main racket was shaking down pushcart owners for protection money, and if they weren’t paid quickly, they burnt down the poor owner’s pushcart.

Soon Siegel teamed up with Meyer Lansky, the man who would shape his life, and eventually, his death. Together they formed the “Bugs and Meyer Gang,” which started out in auto theft, and ended up handling hit contracts for bootleggers, who were having their shipments hijacked. This tidy little killing business was the forerunner to the infamous Murder Incorporated, which handled hundreds of contract murders during the 1930’s.

In the late 1920’s, Siegel and Lansky hooked up with ambitious Italian mobsters Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Joe Adonis, Vito Genovese, Albert Anastasia and Tommy Lucchese. Together they formed a National Crime Commission, which controlled all organized crime in America for many years to come. Siegel was the main hit man for the group, and he led the four-man team, who riddled Joe “The Boss” Masseria’s body with bullets in a Coney Island Restaurant. Siegel developed the reputation as a man who not only killed frequently, but enjoy killing, with a glee of a schoolboy on his first date.

In the late 1930’s, The Commission sent Siegel to California to take over their West Coast rackets, including the lucrative racing wire, which ran horse race results to thousands of bookie joints throughout the country. Siegel pushed aside West Coast mob boss Jack Dragna, who was told by Lansky and Luciano, if he didn’t step down and hand the reins over to Siegel, bad things would happen to him quick. Dragna did as he was told.

While in Hollywood, Siegel, who was movie-star-good-looking, was renowned ladies-man, who sometimes bedding down three or four starlets at a time. He hung around with such movie hunks as Clark Cable, Gary Cooper, George Raft and Cary Grant. The girls he bedded included Jean Harlow, Wendy Barry, Marie McDonald, Virginia Hill and Italian Countess Dorothy diFrasso. Even though Siegel was busy with the broads, he always found the time to do a little killing on the side. In 1939, on orders from New York City Jewish mob boss Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, Siegel whacked Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg, who was singing like a canary to the feds. Siegel was arrested for murder, but after a witness conveniently disappeared, he was acquitted of all charges.

The bad publicity from the Greenberg trial ruined Siegel’s man-about-town reputation in Hollywood, so The Commission sent Siegel to Las Vegas, to scout locations for a hotel/casino they wanted to build. Siegel found the perfect place, and he convinced the boys from New York City, including his pal Lansky, to invest millions in a opulent night club he dubbed The Flamingo. The building of the The Flamingo was a disaster from the start. His insistence on only the best of everything skyrocketed the costs to a staggering $6 million, which annoyed his partners in New York City more than just a little. Plus, there were concerns that maybe Siegel was skimming a little construction money off the top, to fund his actions with the ladies.

Opening night in December, 1946, was an unmitigated disaster. Siegel had moved up the opening date from March 1947, while the hotel was still in the late stages of being built. Since The Flamingo did not show well (the lobby was draped with ugly drop cloths), the Hollywood crowd stayed away, and in a few months, The Flamingo was more than a quarter of a million dollars in the red. Losing money on gambling was unheard of in the mob, so The Commission made a business decision that Siegel’s days on earth had to end. Longtime pal Lansky had no problem signing off on his childhood pal’s death warrant. Business is business and Siegel was bad for business.

On June 20, 1947, in Beverly Hills, Siegel was sitting on the living room couch, in the home of his girlfriend Virginia Hill, reading the Los Angeles Times. Suddenly, two rifle bullets fired from an open window struck Siegel straight in the face. One bullet hit his right cheek and settled in his brain. The second hit him in the nose and pierced his right eye. The eye was found on the floor, fifteen feet from Siegel’s lifeless body.


2 Responses to “Joe Bruno on the Mob – Bugsy Siegel”

  1. No one ever pays tribute to the vision and foresight of little known Moe Sedway……….. He purchase the 36 acres adjacent to the Flamingo when it was just a dusty motel owned by a local widow…. years before Billy Willkerson ever came to town…

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