Tuesday, March 24: “Who Killed Bugsy Siegel?” – Greed, Mob, Vengeance, Debts, Betrayals
Please note: All copies of Larry Gragg’s and Warren Hull’s books are sold out at The Mob Museum. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes.
A panel discussion will look at the life of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, assess his proper place in Las Vegas history and break down the multiple theories of who murdered Siegel as part of The Mob Museum’s Courtroom Conversations “Who Killed Bugsy Siegel” Tuesday, March 24, starting at 7 p.m. at the Museum.
Cost for the evening is $25 with 10% discount for Museum Members.
Panelists include Larry Gragg, who has published the first serious biography of Siegel, and Warren Hull, filmmaker and historian who has spent nearly 20 years researching and writing about Siegel. As part of the evening, Gragg will share a short multimedia presentation on the life of Siegel. Other videos also will be woven into the evening. Moderator of the panel will be the Museum’s Director of Content Geoff Schumacher.
Mob legend Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s reign at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas was cut short by an assassin’s bullet on June 20, 1947, in Beverly Hills. No suspects have ever been arrested, although a number of plausible names and scenarios have been advanced, most of them revolving around Siegel’s business dealings in Las Vegas. Almost 70 years later, the Beverly Hills Police Department still considers the murder an open case. A panel of experts will explore Siegel’s life, his role in the rise of Las Vegas and the leading theories for his violent demise.
On the day of his murder, Siegel, only 41 at the time, was sitting on the couch reading the newspaper in the living room of the Beverly Hills home he shared with Virginia Hill, the brassy Mob associate with whom he had a passionate but tempestuous relationship. Friend Allen Smiley also was sitting on the couch. Siegel was expecting his two daughters to arrive by train the following day. Just before 11 p.m., nine rounds from a .30-caliber rifle were fired through the large window he was facing. One bullet struck Siegel in the left eye, one entered his right cheek and two hit him in the chest. He died at the scene. Neighbors who heard the shots saw two men in a car fleeing the scene. Siegel’s two daughters survive him; one of them, Millicent, currently lives in Las Vegas.
Siegel got involved with the Mob as a teenager in New York City. He teamed up with Meyer Lansky early on, forming a criminal operation called the Bugs and Meyer Gang. Siegel’s nickname grew out of his hot-tempered nature, especially as a youth, but Siegel did not like the nickname and wise people did not use it in his presence.
In 1936, Siegel moved to Los Angeles to oversee the rackets there. He got interested in Las Vegas in the early 1940s. Siegel did not conceive the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, and he did not name it. He took over the project from Billy Wilkerson, who did not have enough money to finish it. Wilkerson envisioned spending $1.2 million to build the Flamingo. Siegel spent $6 million.
Siegel’s life inspired the movie Bugsy, and he was the basis for the Moe Greene character in The Godfather. He’s also a relatively minor character in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.
Larry Gragg is curators’ teaching professor of history at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Missouri. He has made more than 40 research trips to Las Vegas. Among his eight books is Bright Light City: Las Vegas in Popular Culture (2013) and Benjamin Bugsy Siegel: The Gangster, the Flamingo, and the Making of Modern Las Vegas (2015).
Warren Hull has served as the executive assistant to the chief of police for the Clark County School District Police Department in Las Vegas since 2007. A former member of the Naval Security Group attached to the National Security Agency, he has spent nearly 20 years researching and writing about Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. Hull was recently named one of the “Top 50 Indie Writers in the World” by the Action on Film International Film Festival and his feature film screenplay on the Siegel murder, “Family Secret,” has won several prestigious film festival awards in the categories of Best Dramatic script and Best Crime Drama. In 2010, KLAS in Las Vegas received a regional Emmy nomination for the story they did on Hull’s Siegel theory. Hull, a longtime educator at the high school and collegiate levels, holds several advanced degrees and is pursuing his doctorate in public policy and administration with an emphasis on homeland security from Walden University. He is also a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.