The accountant and his daughter in 1947
People my mother considered common were at the top of the order in Las Vegas. The hotels were their playgrounds. They had nicer cars, more expensive clothes, more privileges than the rest of us. And more power. Ed Reid in The Green Felt Jungle described “little Moey Sedway” as “a tiny guy with a large nose and moist, close-set eyes, who talked freely from both sides of his mouth . . . a punk . . . Bugsy Siegel’s personal flunky.” Ed Reid didn’t know Mr. Sedway the way I did. Moey hosted all of the social events for Mr. Siegel’s staff. He drove a big, black car, smoked imported cigars and had a beautiful mistress who wore mink to Friday night services, while my mother muttered “scum” under her breath, and whose daughter was in my Sunday school class. At parties, he was gracious, soft-spoken, and even playful. He had a fuzzy red bird toy that balanced on the rim of a cocktail glass and bobbed up and down. I thought he was the most sophisticated grownup I knew.

And then there was Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, my father’s and Moey’s boss. Handsome enough to be in the movies, he would bounce me on his knee and give me silver dollars for my piggy bank. My mother had a crush on him. She’d say, “Why can’t your father be more like Benny? He’s so refined.” She had no idea he’d murdered twenty or thirty people. My father probably knew, but he never said anything. He worshiped Siegel. Benny had monogrammed shirts made for him, and picked up the tab when the Sharniks from Detroit and California were in town. Irving was making good money in those days, especially after the Flamingo opened. He was promoted to head of skimming. I had no idea what that meant. I thought it referred to the skin on hot chocolate. I pictured my dad in a chef’s hat with a little ivory handled knife. What did I know? 

My mother was actually happy in those days. I remember when she came home from a New Year’s Eve party at the Flamingo. She had a paper hat on. She sat on the edge of my bed and told me about the cocktail waitresses in net stockings and the celebrities and the caviar and champagne. Seven months after the Flamingo opened Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel was shot full of holes in his mistress’s house in Los Angeles. They never found out who did it.  Everybody thought Meyer Lansky gave the order, but my father said he had a lot of enemies. Beldon Katleman, of the El Rancho hated Siegel’s guts. When Bugsy tried to horn in on the El Rancho, Katleman had him pistol whipped in front of everybody at the pool and dumped in the desert. Then, Bugsy goes and builds the Flamingo, like a slap in Katleman’s face.

My dad lost his job at the Flamingo. Nobody wanted to hire him because of Siegel.  Finally, Moey Sedway gave him a job at the Golden Nugget as a dealer. He had been demoted. He and my mother started yelling and screaming about money again. Colliers Magazine did an article about Vegas that featured a full-page photograph of my dad dealing cards at the Nugget. The caption read: The Empty Face of Las Vegas. He thought it was a compliment. My mother and her family were mortified. Our lives might have been very different if Siegel had lived but, as I realized when I was older, we wouldn’t have been safe. In Las Vegas, you’re better off being a nobody.

Wendy Hess
11/28/2011 03:50:00 am

I found this when I was digging around on-line and enjoyed reading it. Ruby Kolod was my great uncle by marriage though I never met him (he was married to my grandfather's sister Esther) and my grandmother used to tell me how nice he was to the family and how much fun he was to visit. My mother said he was also a dog lover and that he always had a dog or two (mostly toy breeds.)


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