Beneath Los Angeles BENEATH

Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel

Benjamin Siegel

1906 - 1947

You didn't call him "Bugsy" if you knew what was good for you. Ben Siegel was known for his rages and he was rumored to have killed more than one person because they called him "Bugsy" to his face. Ben grew up hard in New York's Hell's Kitchen, he was charged with rape at 15 and was a known drug dealer by the time he was 18. Peddling dope, of course meant working for the mob.

Siegel was friends with Lepke Buchalter, he became a charter member of Murder Inc. He was also a protegee of Meyer Lansky. By 1936 he was ready for a position of responsibility. Hollywood was ripe. The rackets weren't well organized and there were rumors that the Chicago boys were getting ready to move in. Ben was sent to LA that year to look after "family" interests.

Ben Siegel loved LA and LA loved him. The handsome gangster had access to the Hollywood elite through his boyhood pal, George Raft. He went to all the best parties. Lady's man, Ben, had as many women as he could get, including an Italian countess who fueled his patriotic fantasies of killing Mussolini, until he met the love of his life, Virginia Hill.

Virginia "Flamingo" Hill had worked with the mob since being Joe "The Brain" Epstein's "protegee" at the age of 16. At 24 she was trying to have a career as an actress, with a good part in Ball of Fire(1941), while running a Mexican drug smuggling operation for the boys. When Ben and Virginia saw each other it was love at first sight. They remained together in an often violent relationship until Ben's death, six years later.

Ben Siegel was a man of passion and a man of vision. He saw that the future of organized crime required a legitimate front. His vision saw a great temple to his most important god, money, springing up in the desert. In 1945 he bought a dilapidated hotel on the main street of a tiny desert crossroad called Las Vegas.

On that spot mad Ben built his temple. He named it after his lover, The Flamingo. Ben Siegel's true contribution to history was inventing Las Vegas. But his passion and his vision, along with his intense rage, was the end of him. With huge budget overruns, Ben came under intense pressure from the mob to cut his losses, or at least tone down his plans. But he would have none of it.

One of Ben Siegel's worst character flaws was his uncontrollable rage. At one point during arguments over his hotel he threatened Charles "Lucky" Luciano's life. Lucky didn't take things like that lightly. Especially not from a man who was starting to be known among east coast mobsters as "the most dangerous man in America."

On June 20, 1947 nine rifle shots were fired through the window of Virginia Hill's house in Beverly Hills, where Ben was staying while Virginia was in Europe. Ben Siegel was killed. His epitaph says it all, "From the Family."

Epitaph Contributed by jd chandler

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