DON'T CALL ME BUGSY - @benjustben
|Such a punim!|
|LA, Vegas, LA, Vegas|
Brooklyn born, Ben "Bugsy" Siegel, nee Benjamin Hiram Siegelbaum, entered the world on the last day of February in 1906 (not a leap year) under the sun sign of Pisces the fish, sharing a birthday with Baby Jesus. There were a few similarly different aspects between these Piscean twins. Two Jewish boys one from Nazareth, via Bethlehem a/k/a The Holy Land, and the other a guttersnipe who slithered outta the womb of the gangster ghetto of Brooklyn to the mean streets of NYC's Hell's Kitchen. Benjamin rapidly spiraled down into a life of crime while Jesus still in his youth, chose to preach and expel the money lenders for their crimes of greed, hypocrisy and perjury in the temples of Jerusalem.
|Pisces - Charming, unpredictable, wild, romantic, gullible - Bugsy on a good day with a bad moon rising|
Both were kings - duel titled Jesus, King of Heaven and the Jews who auspiciously entered the world with a birth heralded by angels, a bright star in the heavens, adoration by kings bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and surrounded by shepherds and two loving parents, Mary and Joseph. Benny, the Jew, King of the Underworld, most likely got bupkis upon entering the world. Both met untimely and violent deaths. Jesus lived his Passion. And Ben? This celluloid wannabe lived with a passion for women, making money and killing. Unfortunately Jesus got nailed to a cross and Bugsy got nailed for skimming from the building money loaned to him by the mob on the order of boss Meyer Lansky.
The fish, astrological symbol of Pisces, swimming in opposite directions, can indicate an individual at cross purposes which Bugsy seemed to be. Tinkerer in badness, tailored smoothie, hitman, hotelier/casino owner, soldier(mob kind), wannabe actor, visionary, entrepreneur, lothario; with Bugsy it seemed like everyday was career du jour. The man from Galilee, on the other hand was the quintessential Pisces with deep spirituality and stuck with carpenter/miracle worker. No doubt if Ben was alive today, he might even have a crack at redemption and become a card carrying member of Jews for Jesus in solidarity with his Astrobro! Semper fi!
Siegel so dubbed "Bugsy" for his short-fused temper and being crazy as a bug, was a textbook sociopath. He hated the name. "My friends call me Ben, strangers call me Mr. Siegel, and guys I don't like call me Bugsy, but not to my face."
"GO WEST YOUNG MAN"
Siegel graduated from extorting protection money from lower east side pushcart vendors to rape, bootlegging to seasoned hitman with an impressive 30 notches on his bedpost for just his solo kills, and capped off his east coast resume establishing the Bugs-Meyer Mob and then becoming one of the founding fathers with fellow Yidfellas Louis "Lepke" Buchalter and Meyer Lansky and Italian cappo Albert Anastasia of "The Syndicate" a/k/a Murder Inc. The time had come for Ben to fulfill his mobster manifest destiny and head west to La La Land.
There couldn't have been a better place for Bugsy to be than Hollywoodland. Originally he was shipped out west by boss Lansky in the early 30s, but permanently relocated to the pacific coast in the latter part of the decade to grow gambling operations with an emphasis on wire service betting for horse racing, one of the tools of the trade for every bookie. Over the first few years, Bugsy muscled the existing wire services outta business. In the 'Big Avocado' Ben saw one opportunity after another. He moved his wife Esta and their two girls out to a 35-room Holmby Hills mansion (Playboy Mansion West turf in years to come) complete with pool, cabana and marble tub for himself. Esta shouldha had her own cabana boy for all she had to put up with dealing with her hubby's dalliances.
With the help of another fellow Hebro from the old NYC hood, George Raft, who had already made it as a bona fide movie star, Bugsy started establishing himself in the celluoid community. Raft had made a name for himself as a hoofer and went on to star in a string of gangster movies ("Scarface," "Each Dawn I Die," Johnny Allegro," and wound up spoofing himself as Spats Colombo in "Some Like It Hot."), no doubt parlaying his experiences from his wayward youth into portraying silver screen bad asses. Raft's celebrity, was bigger than Bogey in the 1930s, and he hooked Bugsy up and got him invited to all the biggest bashes plus getting his friend a screen test, but the sad truth was Siegel stunk! What did come naturally to Benny was to downshift into schmooze control while charming his way into the hearts and pockets of Tinseltown's glitterati. He was raking in hundreds of thousands in revenue by extorting $$ from them. Be they an A-list star (Gable, Grant and Harlow were just a sampling of the celebrities Bugsy rubbed elbows with) or studio heads, soon after meeting Bugs, they'd find themselves on the corner of Sunset and Shakedown Blvd. They all became schnooks under Ben's 'friendly persuasion.' He'd hit 'em up with his spiel about how there would be no screen extras available for their next picture leaving the production in limbo unless they schmeared him and paid for the Screen Extras Guild not to strike. His long arm of greed even reached as far as the union where he grabbed his lion's share while controlling their labor practices. Feeling right at home and on top in the City of Angels, Siegel acted with the suaveness and aplomb befitting the Prince of Darkness and convincing enough for anyone to sell their soul. He was dressed head to toe in a natty wardrobe tailored by Pietro's of Beverly Hills with his signature alligator shoes, houndstooth jackets and silk shirts that rivaled any of filmdom's leading men. Mr. Blackwell wouldha given Mr. Siegel two big sartorial thumbs up plus the top spot on his coveted ten best dressed list. Kim, Khloe, Kourtney and Mama Kris Kardashian wouldn't stand a chance trying to keep up with Mr. S. The mob always trumps celebrity!
|Virginia Hill, #mrs.vegas|
Meyer had asked Ben to check out a sleepy little Nevada town to expand the wire service and off track betting operation, but once there Siegel's vision of a palatial casino/hotel formed and his focus shifted to build his dream. There was a plot of land with some pedigree already attached to it. Billy Wilkerson, the owner of The Hollywood Reporter, Ciro's and the El Tracadero night clubs, was over his head in debt and when Ben got wind of this, he came to the rescue and went into partnership with Billy, turning to Meyer to get financing. Lansky loaned him a cool million to build his dream. Benny got his fingers in every pie there was for the taking even going south of the border to ply the Mexican heroin trade. Aye, aye, aye, aye! Ariba, andale, apurate! He was making money hand over fist from every which way. He had arrived...he wasn't just a macher, he was a gantseh macher! He got the wheels oiled and spinning to turn out the cash. If there was a wheel to deal, Benny was in the driver's seat.
Lansky sent Bugsy out to Vegas to scout gambling operation expansion opportunities. Gambling had been banned in the State of Nevada in 1909 and legalized again in 1931 with most patronage coming from a few locals in Reno and and returning G.I.s who were based next to Vegas, still a cow town. There were a couple of frontier style hotels/casinos, but nothing like Bugsy had envisioned with Highway 91 to become his Boulevard of a Billion Neon Bright Dreams.
Here is where he'd build his grand casino/hotel and call it The Flamingo. Ben had two reasons for the moniker - having once been part owner of Florida's Hialeah Race Track where there had always been flocks of flamingos on the grounds, Benny took this as a good omen since the track had always been a money maker for him. He also wanted to pay homage to his fiery and tempestuous gun moll girlfriend, Virginia Hill, who had a pair of gams that were like the long, spindly legs of the wading bird. Go figure on why anyone would find a dame with bird legs attractive!
Ben bought Billy out, and the construction commenced in '46 helmed by Siegel with Virginia as head decorator/finance 'officer' and the Del Webb Construction Co. as contractors, a/k/a Revolving Door Builders. Their m.o. was to bring in half orders of concrete and other building materials thru the front door and that night exit via the rear selling back the same stuff the next day. Ditto with the palm trees. This was not to be some schlocky gambling joint. No expense was spared as Mr. Siegel was going for Class importing marble and exotic wood from as far away as the Middle East. Bugsy even brought in flamingos to hang by the pool, but they met a quick demise from the desert heat. Costs ballooned out of control to $6,000,000 with Ben hitting up Lansky constantly. On top of the burgeoning building expenses, Virginia was skimming and took a suitcase filled with $300,000 and opened a Swiss bank account and then bought a little hideaway in the burbs of Zurich. Hard to believe that anyone would have the balls to fleece Bugsy, but he soon became the schlemiel in residence. The east coast contingency was calling for Bugsy's head but Lansky got all schmaltzy about being like a big brother to him and pleaded for his life on the condition that if The Flamingo was successful, there would be no need for drastic measures. This pushed up the opening date to December 26, 1946.
The heat was on and Siegel spared no expense with getting celebrities and the press to Vegas to cover opening nite. He charted planes for the stars, sent cases of liquor to the press trying to bribe them into five star reviews and called in his markers with his celebrity friends. George Jessel was the M.C., Xavier Cugat's Latin Orchestra with bombshell wife/singer Abbe Lane (pre wife cuchi, cuchi Charo)played, and Jimmy Durante headlined. Of course, Ben's favorite celebrity pal, George Raft, with all the zeal of a Wal-Mart greeter, met everyone as they entered. Many of the celebrity invitees couldn't make it outta LA due to rain. Not only did the gods not smile down on their once fortunate son, but it seemed Siegel's luck had run out and he had lost his mojo. The only thing that could help him at this point was a shaman! On the turn of a dime, Bugs went from a shtarker to a schlimazel!
There was no room at the inn for the hordes of gamblers with hundreds of rooms still unfinished so they walked with their winnings to other casinos off the strip. At the end of the first week, the casino was $300k in the red. The Flamingo was lookin' more like an albatross hanging around Benny's neck. The hotel closed down to finish construction and reopened in March, 1947, but the damage was done and not even Lansky's pleas could save his boyhood friend. The order to ice Bugsy was on.
June 20, 1947...Bugsy's last day. He was staying at Virginia's Beverly Hills manse on Linden Drive and started the day out with a haircut and mani/pedi at Drucker's Barber shop, a meeting with his lawyer, lunch with some buds, then dinner with Hill's brother Chick, his fiancee Jeri Mason and pal Al 'Smiley' Davenport. They headed to Jack's at the Beach in Santa Monica for dinner on the pier where Bugsy, ironically dined on grilled trout.
Simple Grilled Trout
Nothing fishy about this easy recipe and quick enough in case of needing to make a fast getaway.
Get your grill fired up keeping the rack several inches up from a medium/hot flame. Coat 4-6 trout fillets by brushing both sides with a cold pressed, X-tra virgin olive oil. Be bold, try a blood orange flavored one or a good EVOO with a mellow white balsamic vinegar with blood orange infusion to sprinkle on cooked trout. For easy, non stick cooking, put fillets in a grilling basket http://www.target.com/p/ultimate-grilling-basket/-/A-14440365?ref=tgt_adv_XSG10001&AFID=Google_PLA_df&LNM=|14440365&CPNG=Patio+Garden&kpid=14440365&LID=PA&ci_src=17588969&ci_sku=14440365&gclid=COudqoP3-7oCFTDhQgodzG4AVA as it keeps them from sticking or cook on greased cast iron slabs on top of the grill, both good ways to keep filets intact and whole. You wouldn't wanna serve a buggy hotheaded sociopathic killer a broken up filet of fish. There'd be no mercy. Immediate grounds to be rubbed out! So go ahead, bubbala, eat so you should have some nourishment - no guilt here.
When the four returned home, Siegel and Smiley were on the couch reading the evening paper when a fusillade of bullets from the front living room window ripped thru Siegel killing him instantly. Bugsy bought it with eight slugs to his just-that-day-freshly-coiffed-by-Drucker-the-Barber haircut, all over his girlfriend Virginia's chintz covered sofa. So violent was the kill that his eyeball was catapulted 15' away and found on the floor from the impact of the bullet! Two of the bullets put double holes in his forehead. The hitman had come up three bells on his one armed bandit slot and Benny crapped out! The Flamingo was immediately under new management before his body was cold.
Vegas went on to become all that Benjamin Hiram "Bugsy" Siegel had dreamed and more. He may not have succeeded or lived to enjoy and share his dream, but he left an indelible footprint in the sand by making his dream a reality for future generations. Decades later so many have hit the jackpot and had their dreams come true thanks to the seeds Bugsy had sowed some 65+ years ago. Jesus had performed his miracles of feeding the crowds with a coupla fish and a few loaves of bread, but Ben turned a hole in the desert into the biggest gambling and entertainment mecca in the world! Ya gotta believe another king is up there singing Bugsy's praises for if wasn't for BHS, Elvis would not have reached his pinnacle as an entertainer. Viva Las Vegas! Viva Bugsy! Viva Elvis!
bubbala - baby doll
bupkis - nada, zilch, plenty of nuttin'
gantseh macher - a BIG bigshot.
punim - kisser, cutie
schmooze - talk somebody up in a chatty, suck up kinda way, with an ulterior motive of getting something.
schlemiel - a Mr. Bungle
schlock - crapola, shoddily put together.
schmaltz - sappy and sentimental to the point of cheesy. Rendered chicken fat and the secret ingredient to great tasting chopped liver.
schmear - grease a palm with $$ or a spread of cream cheese as on a bagel or a nice piece of challah bread.
schnook - a patsy. Can be combined with poor for emphasis as in some poor bastid getting duped before they know what's hit them.
schpiel/spiel - a pitch, long talk to convince someone ya got something good going.
shtarker - The guy who calls the shots.
All original written material except where noted copyrighted by All Mafia Cook.