Blog

The Countess, The Hunter, and The Scavenger Hunt-September 19

Schroeder and Fogg will revisit these crimes as they discuss and sign copies of their book Friday and Saturday, October 4-5.
Book signing will be from 12 to 4 p.m. on Friday, October 4, with their Courtroom Presentation set for 1-2 p.m. Saturday, October 5, followed by book signing.

Cost is complimentary for Museum Members. Members click here

For non-members, cost is included in purchase of Museum admission. Click here for tickets.

Many a story has been told about that handsome devil of a gangster, Bugsy Siegel. But our favorite is one not found in the movie that bears his name, but rather one that’s tucked away in a file marked “Treasure Hunt.”  It’s the wacky tale of a wild adventure involving buried gold, champagne sunsets on a fancy sailboat and an explosive love affair that played out on the high seas.

Bugsy Siegel moved to Beverly Hills in 1936 to capture the vice market on the West Coast, and while he had lots of swagger and attitude, he didn’t have access to the elusive movie colony. Enter Countess Dorothy Dendice Taylor DiFrasso, a society maven, millionairess and international hostess who was looking for thrills since they were long gone with her much older husband, a count – who didn’t seem to care when she dallied.

When Bugsy and the Countess met for the first time, the attraction was instantaneous – each had what the other longed for, and within days, the gangster, who wanted social acceptance, was in the bed of the countess, who lived for adventure. Soon, Bugsy was being introduced into the highest levels of Beverly Hills Society, showing up on the Countess’s arm at all the best parties. “Isn’t it fun to have a real gangster around?” purred the ladies.

The affair was at its peak in 1938 when Bugsy asked the Countess to bankroll yet another one of his many money-making schemes. Bugsy had discovered an old treasure map with directions to a legendary $90 million jackpot buried deep in the sands on an Island off Costa Rica. “Let’s get it!” said Bugsy. The countess didn’t hesitate, and quickly the two assembled a staff and some friends including screen siren Jean Harlow’s stepfather – and sailed off to the Cocos Islands on their chartered sailboat.

Once the motley crew of crooks and socialites reached the deserted island and crawled past the rocky shore, they saw nothing but thick jungle ahead. After a few days of digging, everyone but Bugsy gave up. He kept at it like a man possessed, his temper flaring when he saw the rest of his sailing buddies, including the Countess, shaded by pretty parasols and sipping champagne on the boat.

Bugsy had one last trick up his sleeve – explosives he’d smuggled aboard, but after blowing up a big chunk of the island, Bugsy finally gave up. There was no treasure to be found. The search was over. And soon so was the affair, but oh, the memories.

Bugsy was 41 when he was shot and killed in a girlfriend’s Beverly Hills home in 1947. The Countess was 68 when she died of a heart attack on a train in 1954. You can see photos of the ill-fated treasure hunt at our blog at BeverlyHillsConfidential.com. We’ll publish them October 6.  Or come see them in person on October 4 and 5 at the Mob Museum presentation of our book: Beverly Hills Confidential: A Century of Stars, Scandals and Murders where you’ll hear that Bugsy wasn’t the only bad boy infiltrating Beverly Hills back in the day!

Image of Countess, Dorothy Dendice Taylor DiFrasso and Gary Cooper in 1933