The Flamingo‘s early days were a mix of turbulence, drama, and glamour. It turns out that Virginia Hill had fled to Switzerland with $2.5 million, and the Russian-born “Mob’s Accountant” Meyer Lansky became convinced that Siegel was ready to flee as well. It was agreed among the criminal stakeholders that he needed a premature burial but Lansky convinced his peers to wait for The Flamingo’s casino opening, giving his notorious but genuine friend the chance to make amends through a possibly profitable expansion.
The Flamingo casino came into the world with a splashy grand opening show, featuring Cuban band leader Xavier Cugat, famous guests like Clark Gable, Judy Garland and Joan Crawford and a strong cast of noted entertainers.
Jimmy Durante was particularly effective, as he sang, joked and pranked for the audience before his unexpected and complete annihilation of a $1,600 piano. Durante was not enough to save the otherwise dismal results and Lansky once again pleaded for more time. In January of 1947, Siegel ordered The Flamingo resort closed until the hotel’s completion.
The Flamingo re-opened two months later despite the ongoing hotel construction, and managed to weave a better fate. Two more months saw the business generate a $250,000 profit, giving Lansky a belated credibility that he used to finalize his case for mercy on the most famous member of the Genovese crime family. In the end, he was positioned to eventually wipe out his debts and then some, but both friends and enemies had run out of patience. On June 20th, 1947, alone and relaxing in his Hollywood home, Benjamin Siegelbaum was shot dead.