The Bugs and Meyer Mob

As a youngster, "we were beaten up daily by the Irish boys," Lansky recalled in his later years. "And we had a choice. We could run away, or we could fight back – and fighting back meant everything connected with that."

Standing up to the Irish and Italian gangs required Lansky and his friends to organize their own protective society. Between 1914 and 1920, Meyer and his younger brother Jake -- who was everything Meyer was not: large of stature and slow of mind – were joined by Meyer "Mike" Wassell, Red Levine, Tabbo Sandler, and Doc Stacher, who would remain a lifelong friend of Meyer’s. Sometime in that six year period, Meyer Lansky would meet and become close friends with another man who would accompany him on his rise to the top of the Syndicate.

bugsy mug.GIF (26232 bytes)
Mug shot of a young Bugsy Siegel

Lansky and Benny Siegel met, according to Meyer, on a street corner on the poverty-stricken Lower East Side of Manhattan when they were both young teens. The two were involved in a fight that arose from a street corner craps game when a gun was drawn and subsequently dropped. Lansky saw Benny reach for the gun and point it at one of the combatants. Just as police whistles began to blow and the law drew near, Lansky hit Siegel’s arm and forced him to drop the piece.

"Are you crazy," he shouted at Siegel. "Let’s get out of here."

The two youngsters ran away although Benny could barely contain his rage at the older boy.

"I needed that gun," he said.

Despite the rocky beginning, Lansky and Siegel became fast friends and soon were the terrors of their neighborhood. Meyer was without a doubt the brains of the outfit while Benny, a.k.a. Bugsy, was the brawn. Benny, the youngest member of the gang, was known on the streets as chaye, the Yiddish word for "untamed." He was a hothead: crazy as a bedbug, which gave him the nickname he came to loathe.

Siegel was a loose cannon and it seemed like only Meyer could handle him. It is said that opposites attract, and there are probably few friends who are as dissimilar as Lansky and Siegel. Benny was a flashy dresser who was quick to fight and despite his high intelligence was ruled by his passions. Meyer was the thinker, the one who never let his emotions overrule his head. Despite their differences, the two teens were closer than brothers.

The Bugs and Meyer mobsters were equal opportunity thugs. They liked to shakedown Jewish moneylenders and store keepers as well as Irish and Italian shop owners and gamblers. No one was safe from the gang.

Thanks in no small part to Lansky’s experience with automobiles and mechanics, the Bugs and Meyer Mob was active in car theft and hijacking. The gang quickly became known as experts in "transportation" with no job to big or dangerous. They fronted the operation thanks to a car and truck rental garage that served as a nice warehouse for swag.

1. The Mythical Meyer

2. A Fortune Found

3. Bugs & Meyer Mob

4. Meeting with the Brain

5. Italian and the Jew

6. The Carpet Joints

7. Havana

8. Vegas

9. Israel

10. Lansky's Legacy

11. Bibliography

12. The Author
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