Story of Bugsy Siegel, the gangster who invented Las Vegas

Today we are used to seeing her so shiny, luxurious and adorable tacky. But until the 40s of the last century Las Vegas did not exist, except for a few settlements in the middle of the desert and a kind of gambling house more similar to saloons than to modern casinos . Then came Bugsy Siegel, a ruthless gangster but also capable of brilliant insights. Just like that of Las Vegas, his creature that did not even have time to enjoy …

From Brooklyn to California

The story of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel is similar to that of many other gangsters from overseas. Son of immigrants, a poor and large family, bad companies that then turn into a criminal business. The parents were Jews from Podolia, a Russian region now belonging to Ukraine. The second of 5 children, and with his parents struggling to raise the money necessary to support the family, Benjamin spends difficult years and soon matures the goal of achieving economic well-being. He will soon succeed, but in totally illegal ways. From a young age he joined a baby gangof the Lower East Side of Manhattan, made up mostly of boys of Jewish origin like him. The first money comes with the racket, exactly seen in famous films such as “Once upon a time in America”. Bugsy, along with his very young associates, extorts money from street vendors in exchange for “protection”.

Siegel’s criminal career is rapidly escalating. With his friend Moe Sedway he is introduced to the boss Meyer Lanksy, linked to what will go down in history as the “National Crime Syndicate”, or the “national crime syndicate” born from a partnership between Sicilian and Jewish organized crime. At just over 20 years old, Bugsy is already well off, he has his own apartment but also a decent criminal record, already having accusations of rape, armed robbery and murder against him . The heavy connections with bosses like Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello further increase the weight of Siegel, who with his organization called by the press “Murder Inc” (more or less “anonymous homicides”) is raging throughout the east coast with paid murders and other heinous crimes.

In the mid-1930s, it was decided that the interests of the criminal group should be extended to the west coast. Bugsy, who flies to California, is assigned this mission.

Bugsy lands in Hollywood

As elegant as he was ruthless, Bugsy finds a kind of Eldorado in California. In addition to starting the criminal businesses of the group, he enters the world of Hollywood stars, becoming a friend and “protector” of famous actors including James Stewart and Cary Grant. An actress, Virginia Hill, bewitches him to the point of inducing him to leave his family and move in with her. This episode, apparently falling into mere gossip, will have a significant weight on the future of Bugsy Siegel. His wife Esta, a childhood sweetheart who had given him two daughters, was herself the sister of a mobster. This escape consolidates his reputation as a “madman” among criminal families, a reputation that he carried with him since childhood. In fact, Bugsy means “bedbug” and Benjamin was so called for his frequent and sudden mood swings.