Saturday, December 27, 2008

December 26:

1946 : Bugsy Siegel opens Flamingo Hotel

On December 26, 1946, in Las Vegas, Nevada, mobster
Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel opens The Pink Flamingo Hotel
& Casino at a total cost of $6 million. The 40-acre facility
wasn’t complete and Siege was hoping to raise some
revenue with the grand opening.

Well-known singer and comedian Jimmy Durante headlined
the entertainment, with music by Cuban band leader
Xavier Cugat. Some of Siegel’s Hollywood friends, including
actors George Raft, George Sanders, Sonny Tufts and
George Jessel were in attendance.

The grand opening, however, was a flop. Bad weather kept
many other Hollywood guests from arriving. And because
gamblers had no rooms at the hotel, they took their winnings
and gambled elsewhere. The casino lost $300,000 in the
first week of operation.

Siegel and his New York "partners" had invested $1 million
in a property already under construction by Billy Wilkerson,
owner of the Hollywood Reporter as well as some very
popular nightclubs in the Sunset Strip. Wilkerson had wanted
to recreate the Sunset Strip in Las Vegas, with a European
style hotel with luxuious rooms, a spa, health club, showroom,
golf course, nightclub and upscale restaurant. But he soon
ran out of money due to the high cost of materials
immediately after the war.

Siegel, who held a largest interest in the racing publication
Trans America Wire, was drawn to Las Vegas in 1945 by
his interest in legalized gambling and off-track betting. He
purchased The El Cortez hotel for $600,000 and later sold
it for a $166,000 profit.

Siegel and his organized crime buddies used the profits to
influence Wilkerson to accept new partners. Siegel took
over the project and supervised the building, naming it after
his girlfriend Virginia Hill, whose nickname was
"The Flamingo" because of her red hair and long legs.

Two weeks after the grand opening, the Flamingo closed
down. It re-opened March 1, 1947, as The Fabulous Flamingo.
Siegel forced Wilkerson out in April, and by May, the resort
reported a profit, but it wasn't enough to save Siegel.

Convinced that Siegel wasn’t giving them a "square count,"
it is widely believed that his partners in organized crime had
him killed while he was reading the paper June 20, 1947, at
Hill’s Beverly Hills mansion. Hill was in Paris, having flown the
coop after a fight with Siegel 10 days prior. The crime
remains unsolved to this day.

Surviving a series of name and ownership changes, the
hotel is known today as The Flamingo Las Vegas, owned
and operated by Harrah’s Entertainment. The property
offers 3,626 hotel rooms and a 77,000-square-foot casino.


General Interest
1946 : Bugsy Siegel opens Flamingo Hotel
1908: Jack Johnson wins heavyweight title
1941 : Churchill addresses Congress
1966 : The first Kwanzaa
2004 : Tsunami wreaks havoc on Southeast Asia

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