Behind a black marble coffee table with elegant cabriole legs sat a man once admired and reviled as one of the toughest gangsters to ever come out of Brooklyn. The man was slouched over to one side, his undeniably lifeless body cold on the couch. The normally pressed suit of the famously debonair desperado was wrinkled and soaked with his blood, his matching tie askew. Thanks to the graininess of the black-and-white shot, some of the blood is camouflaged by the gaudy floral print of the couch cradling his corpse. The fuzziness of the picture, however, does nothing to diminish the horror of the bullet-made craters on his irreparably disfigured face.
In the last 70 years, a countless number of people have come across the grisly and morbidly fascinating crime scene photographs of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel's murder. The photographs are as disconcerting as they are iconic, for they show a gritty glimpse into the haunting reality of a life too often glamorized by pop culture. The less-publicized photograph of Bugsy in the morgue is, in a way, a more chilling reminder of the barbarity and callous irony behind the term “organized crime”. With the blood on his face rinsed off and his hair slicked back, it almost seems as if the photographer had caught Bugsy mid-slumber, but the balls of cotton plugging the gaping bullet holes in his face suggest otherwise. One minute, the fearless Bugsy was stalking the streets of Sin City, his mere presence enough to make even the most hardened thugs break out in a cold sweat, and the next minute, Bugsy was reduced to an unrecognizable body sprawled out on a hard metal slab, with the name on his toe tag misspelled.
Bugsy's death has since been recreated by multiple movies, television shows, and documentaries for good reason, because it was an electrifying, messy conclusion to a life that was as theatrical as it was turbulent.
Bugsy Siegel: The Life and Legacy of the Notorious Gangster Who Helped Develop Murder, Inc. and the Las Vegas Strip profiles the controversial life and death of the “most feared” mobster of his day, along with everything he affected. You will learn about Bugsy Siegel like never before.