Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bugsy Siegel

The Sociopath

Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel
Benjamin "Bugsy"
Standing just a tad under six-feet tall, with a thick head of black hair and piercing blue eyes, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel seemed to be a gangster sent from central casting in Hollywood. He was charming with the ladies and a sharp dresser, athletically inclined and fearless. Not only did Ben talk the talk, he walked the walk of a prototypical racketeer. It seemed only inevitable that Siegel would end up hobnobbing with the glitterati in Hollywood. While his friend Meyer Lansky flitted back-and-forth between legitimate and illegal business opportunities all the while keeping a low profile, Siegel moved from the crime-ridden slums of Brooklyn to the backlots of Hollywood and along the way became one of the first page-one "celebrity" gangsters.

Bugsy was a textbook sociopath. He took what he wanted when he wanted it and the emotion of remorse was alien to him. In his mind, other people were there to be used by him, which was demonstrated by his long record of robbery, rape and murder dating back to his teenage years.

In gangster circles, the nickname "Bugsy" is often a term of endearment or honor. It is given out to those racketeers who show no fear in sticky situations or who are willing to step up to jobs that others are afraid to take. Bugsy Siegel earned the nickname early on in his criminal career because of his tendency to "go bugs" whenever he was angered or thwarted. It was an appellation that he strongly disliked and anyone who used the nickname to his face risked certain bodily harm. Siegel preferred that his friends call him Ben. If you weren't his friend, "Mr. Siegel" would do just fine.

"When we were in a fight Benny would never hesitate," Meyer Lansky once said. "He was even quicker to take action than those hot-blooded Sicilians, the first to start punching and shooting. Nobody reacted faster than Benny."

Benjamin Siegel, with his Hollywood friends and flamboyant lifestyle, will go down in the annals of crime history as the man who brought the rackets to the West Coast and made Las Vegas into the gambling mecca of the United States.

This is the story of Bugsy Siegel a man who rose from the depths of poverty to the pinnacle of mob life, but whose hubris would be his downfall.

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