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June 20: Bugsy Siegel

Lawrence Bush
June 20, 2010

74_bugsy-siegel-style-iconBugsy Siegel (Benjamin Siegelbaum), a paranoid mobster with a violent temper who helped launch the gambling empire of Las Vegas, was gunned down on this date in 1947 as punishment for a series of miscalculations that cost his associates millions of dollars in losses at the Flamingo Hotel. Siegel was the childhood friend and adult hit-man for Meyer Lansky (see January 15’s Jewdayo); together they built ties to the Genovese crime family. In the mid-1940s, after his acquittal in a murder trial (for killing of Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg, who had become a police informant), Siegel sought legitimacy by taking over the Flamingo and pouring $5 million of “Lucky” Luciano’s crime syndicate money into an extravagant renovation. He was a failure as a businessman, however, and after telling Luciano to “go to hell,” he met his death; his shooter was never identified. Siegel’s other “accomplishments” included narcotics trafficking from Mexico to the U.S., part-ownership of the largest prostitution ring in the western U.S., and at least thirty murders.
“We only kill each other.” —Bugsy Siegel

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.