L to R: Photo of the Original Flamingo Hotel; Invitation to the Flamingo’s Grand Opening Event.
(Photos Courtesy of The Mob Museum)
AUG. 13, THE MOB MUSEUM TO DEBUT EXHIBIT SHOWCASING FOUR RARE ARTIFACTS RELATED TO BUGSY SIEGEL, THE FLAMINGO HOTEL
The Mob Museum, The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, announces a permanent exhibit titled “The Fabulous Flamingo,” showcasing artifacts related to Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and the Flamingo Hotel. A nod to the historic date in August 1946 when Siegel received liquor and gaming licenses for the Flamingo, the permanent exhibit will debut on Friday, August 13, 2021. The exhibit will be located on the Museum’s second floor.
The exhibit’s debut also heralds the 75th anniversary of the Flamingo’s opening on December 26, 1946.
The artifacts provide fascinating insights into the origins of the Flamingo and the Mob’s role in building modern Las Vegas.
Details about the artifacts follow:
Legal Document Signed by Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel
An original two-page legal document, signed by Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and dated March 19, 1947, formally removed William R. “Billy” Wilkerson from any involvement with the Flamingo Hotel.
It is a common misconception that Siegel was the sole developer of the Flamingo. In fact, Siegel only became involved after its original developer, Wilkerson, ran short on funds during construction. Wilkerson turned to members of the Mob, including Siegel, to invest in the project. Amid conflicts between Wilkerson and Siegel during construction, Siegel pushed Wilkerson out and seized full control of the Flamingo, which operated under the Nevada Project Corporation. For decades after the Flamingo’s opening, the public came to believe Siegel was the resort’s original visionary. This document bolsters the true story that Wilkerson actually conceived and started building the Flamingo.
The document was executed just three months before Siegel was assassinated in Beverly Hills, California. No one was ever prosecuted for the killing. The Mob continued to control the Flamingo after Siegel’s death and it became one of the most iconic resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. The Flamingo marquee still shines on the Strip today, although none of the original buildings built by Wilkerson and Siegel still stand.
Wilkerson’s Down Payment Check
The second artifact is the original check Wilkerson wrote as a down payment to purchase the land on which the Flamingo would be built. The check, written for $9,500 and dated March 5, 1945, was addressed to a local businesswoman named Margaret Folsom. Ultimately, Wilkerson paid $84,000 for the 33-acre parcel.
Five Canceled Checks
The third artifact encompasses five original canceled checks Wilkerson wrote to five different Las Vegas casinos to pay gambling debts he incurred during the Flamingo’s development. Wilkerson’s severe, compulsive gambling problem forced him to seek out underworld investors to finance his casino project.
Invitation to The Flamingo’s Grand Opening
The exhibit also features an original invitation to the Flamingo’s three-day grand opening from December 26 to 28,1946. This invitation is for the third opening night on Dec. 28, which focused on attracting Hollywood’s elite to see and enjoy the new resort.
These artifacts will be on display alongside other objects from the early Flamingo era, including a pair of sunglasses owned by Siegel, a ceramic flamingo passed out to grand opening guests, a pistol owned by Siegel’s partner, Moe Sedway, and a colorful Flamingo slot machine.
In addition, the exhibit features a touchscreen allowing guests to dive deeper into the Flamingo’s story. The touchscreen features iconic images and compelling stories spanning the 75 years the Flamingo has graced the Las Vegas Strip.
The Museum’s Acquisitions
Before being acquired by the Museum, the down payment check, canceled casino checks, legal document and grand opening invitation artifacts had been in the possession of Wilkerson’s son, Willie Wilkerson. Author of two books about his father, Willie’s most recent publication is titled “Hollywood Godfather: The Life and Crimes of Billy Wilkerson.” Ralph De Luca, a prominent collector and member of The Mob Museum’s Advisory Council, aided the Museum in acquiring the legal document at auction and provided financial support for its purchase. The Museum acquired the other artifacts directly from Wilkerson.
“Separating fact from fiction is a critical task for our Museum,” said Geoff Schumacher, vice president of exhibits and programs, The Mob Museum. “It is important for our guests to understand that Bugsy Siegel did not ‘invent’ Las Vegas, nor was he the lone visionary when it came to building and operating the first modern casino resort in Las Vegas. This exhibit aims to set the record straight while at the same time acknowledging the significant contributions that Siegel made to Las Vegas.”
For more information, please call (702) 229-2734 or visit themobmuseum.org.
ABOUT THE MOB MUSEUM
The Mob Museum, the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, provides a world-class journey through true stories—from the birth of the Mob to today’s headlines. The Mob Museum offers a provocative, contemporary look at these topics through hundreds of artifacts and immersive storylines. Numerous interactive exhibits include a Crime Lab, Firearm Training Simulator and Organized Crime Today exhibit. The Museum is also home to The Underground, a Prohibition history exhibition featuring a speakeasy and distillery. The Mob Museum has accumulated numerous accolades, including being named one of TripAdvisor’s “Top 25 U.S. Museums;” one of Las Vegas Weekly’s “Twenty Greatest Attractions in Las Vegas History” and “Best Museum” by its 2021 Readers’ Choice Awards; one of National Geographic’s “Top 10 Things to Do in Las Vegas;” USA Today’s “Best Museum in Nevada,” 10Best Readers’ Choice travel awards for “Best Las Vegas Attraction” in 2020, “Top Five Best History Museums in the United States” in 2021 and one of its “12 Can’t Miss U.S. Museum Exhibits;” named “A Must for Travelers” by The New York Times and one of “20 Places Every American Should See” by FOX News. The Museum is a two-time winner of the Mayor’s Urban Design Award for Historic Preservation and Adaptive Reuse and is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The Museum is open daily; visit the website for admission rates and operating hours. For more information, call (702) 229-2734, visit themobmuseum.org, or download the Museum’s free mobile app.