Burlesque Haunts: Vegas
It’s June, which means tons of burlesque performers, producers, and fans, are heading to Las Vegas! In honor of Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend, we present to you- Burlesque Haunts: The Vegas Edition!
Bugsy Siegel’s Fated Flamingo Hotel and Casino
In a city where change is the only constant, the Flamingo has lasted longer than most Las Vegas establishments can ever dream. It has now seen several owners, but the original was the notorious gangster, Bugsy Siegel, in 1946. The project cost three times its preliminary estimate, and also cost Bugsy his life. Construction was halted several times due to battles over building permits and the post-war lack of resources. While Mafia men were inititally ecstatic to expand their gambling empires, the mounting costs and Bugsy’s shady dealings while trying to get the job done turned them sour. During the building of The Flamingo not only was the Mafia becoming displeased with Mr. Siegel, a successful career hooligan and rumored lover of the likes of Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe, but J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI were closing in on him as well. Knowing full well that mob bosses were becoming impatient with Siegel, Hoover only fueled the fire by using Walter Winchell to plant rumors about Siegel’s money mishandling. It all came to a head in the summer of 1947, just six months after the grand opening of Bugsy’s beloved Flamingo.
Many guests at the original hotel, and even after extensive remodeling of the resort, insist that Bugsy still revisits his pet project. Numerous patrons have sighted Siegel’s ghost in his fouth floor Presidential Suite. In true gangster fashion, this was no typical suite. The walls were reinforced with naval steel, the windows bulletproof, and the room came complete with gun portals and a dead-end stairway and hall meant to confound would-be assasins. Furthermore, the room had only one entrance but no less than five exits, including trap doors, secret passageways, hidden stairwells, and even a secret elevator. Unfortunately, though, none of these devices helped him when he was gunned down in his moll’s Beverly Hills home.
Visitors at the Presidential Suite have often seen an apparition of Bugsy in the room, usually lounging by the pool table or milling around in his pistachio green bathroom. On quiet evenings Bugsy has been known to visit the pool and has been sighted at the wedding chapel, as well as the rose garden, near his own historical monument.
While Bugsy Siegel’s afterlife activity is more pronounced than most, Las Vegas is host to many specters. Some say that they have seen Houdini haunting The Plaza’s showroom and others have spotted the white-sequined figure of Elvis both at the Las Vegas Hilton and the old RCA recording building, where he has been known to respond to any mention of his name. Liberace has been sighted in his restaurant, Carluccio’s, overseeing the staff, and one employee even encountered the reflection of a bedazzling, floating cape while cleaning a large mirror! The employee, Oscar Ortiz, stated that Liberace is “a good ghost who’s watching to make sure his place is clean.” Some customers at Whiskey Pete’s have sensed Clyde Barrow hanging about near the display that contains the car in which he and Bonnie Parker met their demise. Yet, of all the famous phantoms in Vegas, the ghost we would probably all like to encounter the most is Whiskey Pete himself, an old miner, bootlegger, and filling station owner who sometimes fills up customers’ cars while they gamble!