The Flamingo, Las Vegas 1970s
The Flamingo Hotel and Casino opened in 1946 and was first operated by mobster Benjamin ‘Bugsy ‘ Siegel, the driving force behind the development of the Las Vegas Strip. The third resort to open in the gambling mecca, the name was a tribute to the long-legged pink birds once common in Florida. A flock of flamingos was regarded as a good omen.
New York-born Siegel had been one of the founder members of Murder Inc., a violent organization that acted as the enforcement arm for the Italian-American Mafia and other organized crime groups. A bootlegger, he turned to gambling after Prohibition and moved to California where he was tried, and acquitted, of the murder of a fellow mobster.
He moved to Nevada and stepped in after the original owner of the Flamingo ran out of money. Seigel also ran out of patience with the project’s rising costs and had a unique way of keeping the contractor and architect motivated. He boasted to them that he had personally killed 16 men but assured them ‘we only kill our own.’
There were constant rumors among other underworld investors such as Meyer Lansky that Seigel was skimming money off the top. Suspicions grew after Seigel’s girlfriend Virginia Hill was revealed to have gone to Switzerland with $2.5m.
Another mobster Lucky Luciano wanted revenge but Lansky, who regarded Seigel as a brother, persuaded him to wait till the Flamingo opened in the hope that Seigel could recoup the losses.
Despite a splashy opening – bandleader Zavier Cugat provided the music and guests included Hollywood stars of the era such as Clark Gable, Judy Garland and Joan Crawford - the Flamingo was a flop, forcing Seigel to close the 105-room hotel until it could be finished.
The following year it reopened and began to make a profit. It wasn’t enough to save Seigel. He was shot to death at his house in Beverly Hills.
After Seigel’s demise, the Flamingo underwent several changes of ownership and the last of the original hotel structure was torn down in 1993.
The oldest resort on The Strip ( complete with flamingos who live in a specially constructed wildlife habitat) now has a 72,299 square foot casino and 3,460 hotel rooms. Its architectural theme is reminiscent of the Art Deco and Streamline Moderne style of Miami’s South Beach. It is owned and operated by Caesars Entertainment. This menu, we believe, is from the 1970s.
Courtesy Private Collection.
Each print is accompanied by a copy of the interior menu or cover.