“Twenty minutes after Siegel was hit in the head in Beverly Hills, ‘Little’ Moe Sedway and Morris Rosen walked into the ‘The fabulous Flamingo Hotel’ and took over the operation. Gus Greenbaum came in a few minutes later and shook hands all around. In Beverly Hills, the police cars were just growling to a stop in front of 810 No. Linden Drive, they had yet to find out who was dead.
Siegel was dead, but Las Vegas was just coming to life. When the sun broke across the horizon that morning, the whole town was bathed in gold.”
The Green Felt Jungle by Ed Reid/Ovid Demaris, Trident Press, New York, Published 1963
Beverly Hills and Las Vegas are two cities steeped in secrets. As for suspects, well take your pick. "Bugsy" Siegel had his enemies sure, plenty of enemies.
All these suspects may have had a motive, but Siegel was delusional in that he thought he was universally loved and admired He could not imagine anyone thinking less.
As truth be told, he wasn't killed for hate. He wasn't killed for money. It was much more grounded than that. It was basic. It was primal. It was love.
A classic 'megalomania', Siegel spared no ones feelings, and was quick to confront and correct any perceived slight to himself. The audacity of anyone calling him by his life-long nick name "Bugsy".
He displayed no true allegiance to any one person, any one group, anyone at all, with one dramatic exception, a non-romantic female that he showed only paternal instincts for. This was the child-bride of his close friend and business mentor, "Little" Moe Sedway, Chief Lieutenant to Mob Boss, Meyer Lansky. This was the red-headed seventeen year old ingenue who originally hailed from Elmira, New York and now was the 'Queen Bee' of the Paradise Cabaret in Manhattan. This was Bee Sedway.
Mafia figures Frankie Carbo and Eddie Cannizzaro were among the leading suspects. In the 1950s Frankie Carbo, a boxing promoter and soldier for the Lucchese crime family was a prime suspect. He had been originally designated for a 'hit' in the infamous 'Havana Sit-Down' of 1946. This was a result of Siegel's stonewalling the 'The Commission' (the five crime families in New York) who had initially loaned Siegel money to complete the construction of the Flamingo. His lack of respect shown to these Capos was reason enough to have him killed. Siegel's refusal to make even the first payment or to show the books for the construction was additional. At that same meeting Lansky had a personal change of strategy and asked the group to call off the killing, but only temporarily as he had other plans. Siegel lived for only a little over three short months after the Flamingo's second Grand Opening. He was never to witness as to how successful it would become.
Eddie Cannizzaro—with a shape like a block of concrete, on his deathbed confessed to the killing. Cannizzaro had worked as a ‘go-fer’ for Mafia capo (boss) Jack Dragna, 'the Al Capone of Los Angeles'. However, the Beverly Hills Police were not just looking for a confession, just any confession to close this case. They required substantiation. Therefore, that confession, just like all the others, merely dissipated into thin air. The killer was still out there, somewhere on the loose.
The nation was readying itself for a 'national blood-bath' in retribution for Siegel's killing, which never came. There was speculation of course, but nothing affirmative.
The actual killer was never even questioned. His name was never brought up In even the wildest of speculation. You couldn't have asked for a more perfect plan or a more perfect killer. The people who did plan and executed this murder did not focus on committing the 'perfect murder'. There goal was more pedestrian. They just did not want to get caught...and they never were.
When Siegel wrenched the Flamingo check-book from Moe Sedway’s grasp and gave it to his girlfriend Virginia ,a 'bag-man' for the Mafia, it was an open ticket to skim. Siegel skimmed sure, but he had no idea that she did as well. He could never figure out why the Flamingo account was always broke. She was continually traveling for the Mafia, transferring their cash to their numbered Zurich, Switzerland account. No one had any idea that she was also doing it for herself as well. When Siegel was killed, Virginia was in Zurich at the time. She was making a deposit. When it was all tolled, she had a little over Two Million dollars stashed away. She was saving it for a rainy day. Storm clouds were gathering overhead.
It was plausible that Ben’s wife Esta was involved in his murder, but not likely. It was not in her temperament. Although, if anyone had a motive, Esta Siegel certainly had. Ben had flaunted his highly public affairs with Virginia Hill as well as a bevy of female stars and starlets. But, no, it was not his wife. The two had gotten a divorce the year prior to the Siegel killing.
Many crime history-buffs thought it was “Chick” Hill. “Chick” Hill was Virginia’s younger brother. He was questioned by the police. Even so, if he had wanted to kill Siegel, his motive being as a result of a beating he witnessed Siegel giving his sister, it would not have happened this way.
As young men, in their late teens and early twenties, Siegel and Adonis were just “making their bones.” The two were always in competition with one another. As you will see, they even went on that infamous Joe ‘The Boss’ assassination, which marked the beginning of ‘The Castellammarese War’. When Siegel took Adonis’s girlfriend Virginia Hill as his own, Adonis steamed. It was not that Adonis was in love with Hill—he cared about her as much as he cared about any dame—and the feeling was mutual. It is just that he was not the one who kicked her out of the relationship. However, it was not Adonis who fired off the rounds that night. It was Adonis, however, who gave Virginia Hill the nickname “Flamingo.” It was not for her long willowy legs, as has been generally thought. No, it was not Joe Adonis …’Joey A.’ to his friends.
The “Hollywood Godfather,” Billy Wilkerson was another potential suspect. Wilkerson was the original creative genius and owner of ‘the fabulous Flamingo Hotel’, originally called ‘The Flamingo Club’ named by Wilkerson. He was also the publisher for Hollywood's first house organ, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, as well as owner of some highly respected establishments in West Hollywood. Siegel had wedged his personality into the deal after construction was well under way and pushed him out of the project at the business end of a gun. With both Wilkerson and Sedway out of his way, the road to hell was showing all green lights.
“I’ll never forget him either. He’s the first guy who ever made me pay income tax . . . the son of a gun. I would have only done a year at most, because if you don’t file no income tax, the worst you can get is a year. If there is anything, I should never have gone to jail for it was income tax evasion. I could have gone to jail for a thousand other reasons, but the one thing I was completely honest about and watched with an eye of an eagle and was protective of at all times always was the thing I went to prison for. Ain’t that some kind of irony?" Cohen was heard saying, "I sure hated to see Benny go, although his goin' business wise, has not been too bad for me. No, it was not Mickey Cohen.
Queen Bee and the Killing of Bugsy Siegel is scheduled for release in August of 2024. Sign up to be one of the first to learn of preorder availability in all formats as well as receive updates from the author and be notified of his future interviews and appearances.