Source: This piece was originally posted at The New Democrat
One of my favorite quotes about Ben Siegel was about his friendship with actor George Raft. The quote being that Ben Siegel was a mobster who wanted to be an actor. And George Raft was an actor who wanted to be a mobster. That is sort of how I view Ben Siegel. This Hollywood looking mobster who is the lead character and the mobster that is profiled in either Italian or Jewish mobster movies. Ben Siegel just didn’t have the look of a criminal. At least not the look of a mobster or Ben’s case a mobster enforcer who worked for both the Italian Mafia, even though he was Jewish and not Italian and also worked for Jewish mobsters like Meyer Lansky.
Now, Ben Siegel did have the look of a white-collar criminal, a scammer, gold digger who scams wealthy widows out the the money that they inherited from their dead husbands. Not saying that Ben Siegel didn’t have the profile of a mobster or even enforcer but you see him walking around and he looks like a legitimate businessman. Perhaps a Jewish banker or something like that from New York. ( Not to play off on Jewish stereotypes )
But that is what made Ben so effective as a mobster is that even though he didn’t have the face of a mobster or the overall appearance, he had the mental and physical toughness of a mobster. Plus the intelligence of not a mobster but someone who would’ve been a successful New York businessman. He was a lot smarter than the average even successful mobster in America. And that is not like saying he makes idiots look stupid or something. Or he’s a really intelligent rookie. Siegel was a very bright man even though he never had much of a formal education. Who in some ways was even a visionary when it came to business especially gambling and casinos.
Along with Jimmy Hoffa, Ben Siegel is literally one of the architects of th modern Las Vegas that is so popular today. Siegel had the vision of a Las Vegas that would be come a popular entertainment vacation town back in the 1940s when Las Vegas was a town of about 10 thousand people or so. Seventy years later today Las Vegas is a city of about 600 thousand people and a metro area of about 2 million people. Siegel wasn’t just a mafia hitman who eventually has his own crew and division that was part of a broader Mafia family. He was a businessman and a visionary in business.
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