“My friends call me Ben, strangers call me Mr. Siegel, and guys I don’t like call me Bugsy, but not to my face.”
Still the name Bugsy stuck—even if it was behind his back. It’s unknown whether the media—who loved writing about the violent and dangerous-- or his cohorts-- gave him the name. But whether he liked it or not, it was his during his lifetime and beyond.
He was born Benjamin Hymen Siegelbaum on February 28, 1906. Although he was a contemporary of my bootlegging father, he lived to the ripe old age of 41 while my dad was murdered in a turf war with the mafia when he was 29.
Siegel was known as the father of Las Vegas because of his early establishment of the Flamingo Hotel & Casino in the desert. He was the son of immigrants as were other Jewish bootleggers of the time, like Morris Kleinman, Abe Landau, Moe Dalitz and my father, Louis Rosen. Raised in the crime- ridden section of Williamsburg, Siegel met Meyer Lansky with whom he built an empire of bootlegging, gambling and murder, known as Murder, Inc. They became lifelong friends--that is, until Lansky ordered his friend’s assassination in 1947 for skimming mob money from the Flamingo Hotel.
With an eye out for getting into the movies (Siegel was very handsome) he moved his operations to the West Coast. Maintaining an extravagant lifestyle in Beverly Hills he bought a palatial estate and established friendships with Hollywood moguls and movie stars, as well as a relationship with the infamous Virginia Hill.
He was murdered in the house rented by her at 810 Linden Drive, Beverly Hills. She was out of town at the time--there are those who say it was highly recommended to her that she “leave town for her health.” He was buried in a $5000.00 casket in the Beth Olam section of Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Only five family members showed up for the service which took place before the cemetery opened. Among his possessions were a billfold with $408 in cash, a watch, a money clip, a key chain with 6 keys (one being for a hotel room) a ring and a pair of cufflinks.
Here is a great documentary about Bugsy!
And for you Boardwalk Empire Fans...
Next: Gun Molls