Bugsy Siegel: The Brooklyn Mobster Who Created The Vegas Strip
Benjamin Siegel’s story is a rags-to-riches story, albeit not a typical one. He was born to poor Jewish immigrants from the Galicia region of Austria-Hungary. Siegel dropped out of school and joined a gang on Lafayette Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. After he met Moe Sedway, the two budding criminals established a protection racket; they threatened to burn the merchandise of the pushcart owners unless they paid a dollar each week. After this auspicious beginning, he started to build a criminal record, which included armed robbery, rape and murder. The public came to know him by his nickname, Bugsy, while he was on trial in 1942. Newspapers reported on his past, including his nickname, Bugsy, which was said to based on the slang word, “bugs” meaning “crazy,” which was in reference to his behavior.
As an adolescent, he teamed up with Meyer Lansky; Lansky had had a run-in with Charles “Lucky” Luciano, which led him to organize the Jewish boys in Brooklyn to organize just as the Italians and Irish had. Bugsy first got involved with bootlegging, as this was the time when prohibition was in full swing. Bugsy also started working as a hitman, and Lansky hired him out to other crime families. He developed a reputation for being fearless and somewhat reckless. Bugsy was also involved in the drug trade; he had started smoking opium at an early age.