Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel: The Gangster, the Flamingo, and the Making of Modern Las Vegas

by Larry D. Gragg


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This intriguing biography recounts the life of the legendary Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, revealing his true role in the development of Las Vegas and debunking some of the common myths about his notoriety.

This account of the life of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel follows his beginnings in the Lower East Side of New York to his role in the development of the famous Flamingo Hotel and Casino. Larry D. Gragg examines Siegel's image as portrayed in popular culture, dispels the myths about Siegel's contribution to the founding of Las Vegas, and reveals some of the more lurid details about his life.

Unlike previous biographies, this book is the first to make use of more than 2,400 pages of FBI files on Siegel, referencing documents about the reputed gangster in the New York City Municipal Archives and reviewing the 1950–51 testimony before the Senate Committee on organized crime. Chapters cover his early involvement with gangs in New York, his emergence as a favorite among the Hollywood elite in the late 1930s, his lucrative exploits in illegal gambling and horse racing, and his opening of the "fabulous" Flamingo in 1946. The author also draws upon the recollections of Siegel's eldest daughter to reveal a side of the mobster never before studied—the nature of his family life.

• Assesses Siegel's life as a gangster in organized crime of the time

• Provides a detailed account of Siegel's last day in 1947, culminating with his murder at his girlfriend's house in Beverly Hills

• Discusses the facts and fallacies about his association with the development of Las Vegas

• Features a chronological treatment of Siegel in films, novels, documentaries, and accounts in newspapers and magazines

• Includes photographs of Siegel and the Flamingo Hotel and Casino at the time of its construction and opening

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781440801853
Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date: 01/16/2015
Pages: 200
Sales rank: 392,176
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Larry D. Gragg, PhD, is curators' teaching professor of history at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction xi

1 The New York Years 1

2 The California Years 19

3 "He Beats the Raps": Ben Siegel on Trial, 1940-1942 47

4 Ben Siegel Monopolizes the Race Wire in Las Vegas, 1941-1947 69

5 Building the Flamingo 89

6 The Fabulous Flamingo, 1946-1947 113

7 The Murder of Ben Siegel 133

Epilogue 143

Notes 147

Bibliographical Essay 191

Index 197

What People are Saying About This

Marc Mappen

"The nickname Bugsy Siegel conjures up a time in the first half of the 20th century when criminals dominated the nation's front pages. It was an era when the line between legitimate businesses and mob enterprises was blurred. With authoritative research into wiretaps, interviews, and other primary sources, Larry Gragg has written the definitive life and times of the endlessly fascinating and contradictory Bugsy. A must-read for fans of true crime."

John L. Smith

"Proving he's comfortable in an academic setting and on the street, Larry Gragg has written a well-sourced biography of Benjamin Siegel that separates fact from fantasy about one of the most intriguing characters in Las Vegas history. Mob aficionados and fans of the real Las Vegas will definitely want to add it to their libraries."

Geoff Schumacher

"Larry Gragg has written the first comprehensive biography of Bugsy Siegel—and by far the best to date. The combination of unprecedented research and a compelling story make this a must-read for those who want to know more about organized crime and Las Vegas."

David G. Schwartz

"This is a wonderfully readable, meticulously-researched look at the life of one of the most notorious figures of the 20th-century criminal underworld. Gragg, using his historian's eye to add world-building details to Siegel's story, skillfully brings to life both the gangster and the world he dominated. Drawing on new interviews and a nuanced perspective on existing sources, Gragg brings to light facts about Siegel's career—including much about his role in the construction and opening of the Flamingo hotel—that will fascinate those intrigued by both organized crime and Las Vegas."

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