Bugsy SiegelBorn in 1906, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel was a gangster right from the start. At the age of 9, he was on the streets of Brooklyn setting fire to vegetable carts in a primitive protection scheme. At 15, he had already earned the nickname "Bugs," a pseudonym that meant he was a crazy mother-fucker. Benny hated the nickname and typically beat the shit out of anyone who called him by it. He had no fear, and would fight at the drop of a hat. Mind you, hats were much more common in the early 1900's.
At some point, Bugsy met Salvatore Luciano and Meyer Lansky, two men who would become integral to his career. There are many stories to explain how these three met. Some say that Lansky found Luciano beating a woman while Bugsy stood by naked and confused. This story usually ends with Lansky beating Luciano with a wrench, and the pair standing before a judge by the end of the day. However it happened, Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel became best friends, almost like brothers.
The first time Bugsy and Lansky killed together was to extract revenge on a fellow who had ratted on Luciano, sending him up the river for six months. The murder went according to plan, but a local woman saw the crime and attempted to blackmail Bugsy over it. Big mistake: Bugsy found her in her local bar, dragged her outside, and raped her in a dark alley. She must have enjoyed it, because she never squealed to the cops. Either that, or Lansky's threat of disfiguring her face with acid convinced her to keep her yap shut.
By 1919, Meyer, Bugsy, and their mob of around 40 boys controlled the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Things began to heat up as Joe Masseria moved in on their turf. Masseria was an old-school mafioso and found the idea of a Jewish gang in his way to be repulsive. As prohibition descended upon America that year, Bugsy and Lansky began tormenting Masseria. The pair hijacked Masseria's booze shipments and made a tidy profit on the sale of the liquor. During one hijacking, the two of them shot three Masseria men dead, then whupped up on those that surrendered.
Birth of the SyndicateBugsy eventually killed Masseria. Luciano set the don up by inviting him to a restaurant and keeping him fat and happy until Bugsy, Vito Genovese, Joe Adonis, and Albert Anastasia arrived. Luciano went to take a piss, and as he left the room, Bugsy and his boys burst in and pumped the don full of lead.
With Masseria dead and his arch-nemesis Salvatore Maranzano firmly in charge of New York, it was only a matter of time before the prohibition bubble popped. Maranzano popped six months after Masseria got whacked, and in the ensuing chaos, the Mafia would mature into much more than a bootlegging operation. Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky formed the National Crime Syndicate, bringing all the big bosses from all the major U.S. cities under one grand umbrella. With this new institution came a golden age of crime in New York and across America.
By this time, Siegel's newest business venture, Murder Inc. was rolling in dough. In this Jewish murder business, Bugsy was the top killer-for-hire. If someone absolutely, positively had to be whacked by Thursday, Bugsy and a couple henchmen could do it. All it took was a phone call.
In 1934, at the request of Dutch Schultz, Bugsy agreed to kill Bo Weinburg, a gangster who had moved in on Schultz's turf after the Dutchman had been imprisoned for tax evasion. Siegel pistol-whipped Weinburg to death in a stolen car, then pushed the vehicle into the East River. A year later, Bugsy passed down the word for his underlings to off Schultz, by order of the Syndicate.
Go West, Buggy Man.Bugsy loved the west coast. He had already begun to ingratiate himself with Hollywood bigwigs by 1933, the year he officially moved there. Bugsy had grown up in Brooklyn alongside George Raft, a moderately popular Hollywood actor. As time passed, Raft introduced Bugsy to all the biggest names in the business. The stars loved meeting Bugsy: his good looks and smooth attitude made him popular at Beverly Hills parties. As we all know, chicks dig assholes, especially assholes that scare them. Bugsy was, as the British would say, a fanny magnet.
While at a party hosted by Italian Countess Dorothy DiFrasso, Bugsy got a phone call from Murder, Inc. He excused himself, drove across town with a couple of shaved gorillas, and whacked "Big Greenie" Greenbaum. Bugsy returned to the party and told some young starlets exactly where he had been. Not very clever. A day later, Siegel was picked up and charged with the murder. He was out of jail before sundown, but the newspapers had a field day. Headlines referred to him as Bugsy Siegel. Young Benjamin was infuriated. Legend has it he shot the first newspaper boy he saw holding the issue.
Either the Countess didn't believe the newspaper boy story, or simply didn't care. She invited Bugsy to Italy in 1939, where at a party she introduced him to none other than Hermann Goering and Joseph Goebbels. The Jew from Brooklyn's trigger finger got to itching as soon as he realized who these folks were. In what can only be described as the worst-ever instance of a snooty white bitch getting in the way, the Countess asked Bugsy not to kill the Nazis.
Bugsy was always scheming, and quickly took over the the screen extras' guild union and the Los Angeles longshoremen's union. He staged strikes and denied filmmakers casts, then took payoffs to get the folks working again. He often borrowed money from rich celebrities and refused to pay them back. What were they going to do about it? Siegel was crazy fucking violent.
The Pimple on the Ass of GodWith the help of Chicago gangsters, Siegel moved in on the gambling wire operations of the west coast. He built up a new wire service that could alert gamblers across the country to horseracing results. This netted the Syndicate millions of dollars a year, but Siegel was largely cut out of the take. He raised quite a stink over it, and eventually used this fact to help him fund a harebrained gambling scheme involving a remote desert town called Las Vegas.
In 1946 he broke ground on a fabulous new hotel/casino called The Flamingo, after his pet name for his favorite mistress: Virginia Hill. Hill was a notorious blackmailer, and she thrived in Hollywood. There were enough closet homosexuals there to keep her quite wealthy. Siegel was now married with two daughters, but he was still a ravenous sexual animal. He chased tail all over Tinseltown, but he always came back to Hill. She was just as ruthless and evil as he was, and he loved her for it.
One thing Siegel didn't know about Hill was that she was spying on him for the Chicago arm of the Syndicate. Chicago controlled everything west of the Mississippi, and they resented Siegel's control of both L.A. and Vegas. He wasn't playing according to the rules, and most folks thought that the only reason he was allowed such freedom was his connection to Meyer Lansky.
When the Flamingo finally opened after many construction delays, it was an unqualified failure. Despite the investment of over five million Mafia dollars, hardly anyone wanted to drive to the middle of nowhere to gamble. Lucky Luciano gave Bugsy a phone call around Christmas time. When Bugsy told him to fuck off, Luciano was pissed. Even Meyer Lansky, now the financial and intellectual leader of the entire Syndicate, could not save Bugsy's ass this time.
On June 8, 1947, the Chicago boys called Virginia Hill and instructed her to go to Paris. She was a money courier for the mafia, and often flew around the world to deposit dirty money in Syndicate accounts. She informed Bugsy that she was flying to France to get some wine for the Flamingo. Bugsy barely noticed. He was in the middle of chaos at his beloved casino, and his wire service was in trouble as well.
On June 20, Frankie Carranzo pulled his car into a parking spot across the street from Virginia Hill's bungalow in Beverly Hills. He walked around back, hid in a rose bush, and fired 9 bullets into Hill's house. Two .30 bullets caught Bugsy in the face. His left eye was later found 15 feet from the body in Hill's dining room.
Only two people attended the funeral: Bugsy's brother and a rabbi. Virginia Hill's body was found in Austria in 1966, dead from Mercury poisoning.