December 26, 2018 | Matt
December 26, 1946
Today in history, the Flamingo Hotel opened on the Vegas strip. It was a not-so-grand opening.
While there were some entertainment luminaries in attendance, unusually bad weather kept the rest of the hoi polloi away. It was also not a profitable opening for the hotel. Because there were no hotel rooms available, the lay gamblers took their patronage to other casinos. In the first week alone, the Flamingo lost three hundred thousand dollars.
Bugsy Siegel, a notorious organized crime head, helmed the Flamingo. After a fashion, at least. The property was under development by Billy Wilkerson, owner of the Hollywood Reporter. Siegel, whose property investments in Vegas had recently paid off, ingratiated himself with Wilkerson, who accepted him as a partner. He brought a $1 million initial investment to bear.
Wilkerson handed Siegel the reins. Siegel renamed the casino “The Flamingo,” after his girlfriend, whose nickname was Flamingo.
After the disastrous opening, the hotel shuttered in only two weeks. It reopened as “The Fabulous Flamingo” on March 1st, 1947. That spring, Siegel strongarmed Wilkerson out of their partnership. The Flamingo continued to flap its wings limply, financially treading water.
Siegel was murdered on June 20, 1947, in his girlfriend’s Los Angeles mansion. A culprit has yet to be identified, though authorities suspect that Siegel was killed by organized crime associates who thought he was shorting them on Flamingo profits.
Today, “The Flamingo Las Vegas” is still open.
Matt lives in Southern California. He is interested in politics, history, literature and the natural world.