Virginia Hill (August 26, 1916 – March 24, 1966) was a Chicago Outfit courier who was famous for being the mistress, and then girlfriend of infamous Jewish mobster Bugsy Siegel, following the breakdown of his marriage.
Hill was born in Lipscomb, Alabama, one of 10 siblings. The family later moved to Marietta, Georgia. Her mother later left her to take care of other children. Various early accounts of her family life recall her family situation during her early childhood as highly volatile; her father, who was a farmer, was by all accounts, an alcoholic and abusive to Virgina's mother and siblings. Reportedly, at one point when Virginia was seven years old, while her father was abusing her mother and attempting to abuse her, she was holding a skillet with scalding hot grease and threatened to burn him if he ever touched her or her mother again. Because of this event, it was necessary for her mother to move her and two of her siblings to Marietta to live with Virginia's maternal grandparents. As a teen, the by then lovely, leggy blossoming young Virginia began to earn a reputation amongst the young boys in the community where she was raised as a fast girl, one willing to turn sexual favors, most of the times for money.
Early criminal career
At the age of 17, Hill dropped out of high school and moved to Chicago with aspirations of performing on the stage, perhaps securing a gig in Vaudeville as a performer; this led her to try to find work at 1933 World's Fair in hopes of getting employed as a showgirl, or getting discovered by Hollywood or Broadway stage types that were there. During this time, Virginia would hold numerous odd jobs to support herself, as a waitress, and as a call-girl. While working a waitress at posh restaurant there, she met a gangster named Joseph Epstein, lieutenant of mafia financier Jake Guzik, and became his mistress and party hostess. During this time, Virginia also dated mobsters Frank Costello, Frank Nitti, Tony Accardo and Joe Adonis. Also during this time, she would meet various members of the gang of notourious mobster Al Capone, as well as to numerous connections to New York City mob figures. With these associations she became a courier, or, in mafia terms, a "bag woman", where as she squirreled funds into Swiss bank accounts for such figures as Brooklyn Jewish mobster/racketeer Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel; it did not take long for the relationship with Siegel to become a romantic relationship. Although Hill would later deny it, through her association with Siegel she had bought a new home for her family in Marietta for $10,000 - in cash.
Relationship with Bugsy Siegel
In 1942, in hopes of getting discovered in Hollywood, Hill moved to California, met up again with Siegel, who by this time had also relocated there with his wife and daughters. They would rekindle their adulterous affair; she would became his most steady mistress. Legend, if not also rumor, has it they fought as much as they made love, but this did not stop Siegel from womanizing. There are rumors that they were secretly married in Mexico but Siegel never divorced his wife Esta.
The Flamingo casino project/Hill's connection to Siegel death
Siegel desired to be a legitimate businessman, but the respectability he craved was beyond his reach. In spring 1946, he saw an opportunity to achieve legitimacy in William R. Wilkerson's Flamingo Hotel.
Siegel had traveled to Southern Nevada in 1934 with Meyer Lansky's lieutenant Moe Sedway, on Lansky's orders to explore expanding operations. There were opportunities in providing illicit services to the crews constructing the Hoover Dam. Lansky had turned the desert over to Siegel. But Siegel, wanting nothing to do with it, turned it over to Moe Sedway and fled for Hollywood. Lansky pressured Siegel to represent them in Wilkerson's desert project. Someone had to watchdog their interests. Siegel, who knew Wilkerson and lived near him in Beverly Hills, was the obvious choice as a liaison, but Siegel was infuriated. He wanted no part in any operation that took him back to Nevada permanently. It meant forsaking Beverly Hills and playboy life and enduring the heat of Nevada. At Lansky's insistence, however, Siegel consented. The project for the new posh hotel would be named the "Flamingo", the nickname Siegel gave to his mistress Virginia Hill. At this time, while Siegel lined things up in Las Vegas in the early 1940s, his lieutenants were working on a business policy to secure all gambling in Los Angeles.
Perhaps through the fear of being upstaged by Wilkerson in the Flamingo Hotel project, which would begin construction in 1945, or the need to control, Siegel began to demand more involvement in the project. To keep the project moving, Wilkerson agreed that Siegel would supervise the hotel while Wilkerson retained control of everything else.
On June 20, 1946, Siegel formed the Nevada Project Corporation of California, naming himself president. He was also the largest principal stockholder in the operation, which defined everyone else merely as shareholders (William Wilkerson was eventually coerced into selling all stakes in the Flamingo under threat of death, and went into hiding in Paris for a time). From this point the Flamingo became syndicate-run.
Siegel would engage in an exorbitant spending spree, staggering at even today's costs. He demanded only the finest building materials at a time of wartime shortages. Adding to the budgetary over-runs were problems with shady contractors and disgruntled unpaid builders. By day, trucks delivered black market goods. By night the same materials were pilfered and resold to Siegel a few days later. As costs soared, Siegel's checks began bouncing. By October 1946, the costs had soared above $4 million, $3 million over the $1 million the New York bosses granted him for the project. In spring 1947, the Flamingo would clock in at over $6 million; this, coupled with his defiance to the New York Syndicate bosses orders, would anger them to the point where they were moved to want to eliminate him, but, initially they were patient with Bugsy because he had always been proven to be a valuable profits man.
By begging the mob bosses to give his friend a second chance, fellow New York mobster and land developer Meyer Lansky was able give a time extension for Bugsy on the Flamingo project. After being granted a second chance, Bugsy cracked down and did everything possible to turn the Flamingo into a success. After initially opening in fall 1946 with financial losses, it reopened in March, 1947 and began turning a profit. However, by the time profits began improving the mob bosses above Bugsy were tired of waiting. On the night of June 20, 1947, as Siegel sat with his associate Allen Smiley in Virginia Hill's Beverly Hills home reading the Los Angeles Times, an unknown assailant fired at him through the window with a .30-caliber military M1 carbine, hitting him many times, including twice in the head (Smith).
According to various sources, Hill was reportedly threatened by members of New York mob bosses in the days leading up to Siegel's murder with the instructions to "hop on a plane to Chicago and to not return to California". No one was ever charged with Siegel's murder, and the case has remained unsolved.
The Kefauver hearings
In 1951, Hill was subpoenaed to testify before the Kefauver hearings and denied having any knowledge of organized crime. Described by Time magazine as the "queen of the gangsters' molls", she told investigators that her income came from gifts her boyfriends gave her because of her sexual prowess. A Time magazine article reported in its obituary of Hill on April 1, 1966, that Hill spent her time on the witness stand "boggling Senators with her full-grown curves and succinct explanation of just why men would lavish money on a hospitable girl from Bessemer, Ala."
Later life and death
Hill spent her remaining years in Europe because she was accused by the Internal Revenue Service of failing to pay $161,000 in income tax and indicted on June 23, 1954. In her last years, when she was separated from her husband, she was supported by their only child, Peter Hauser, who worked as a waiter. She died of an overdose of sleeping pills, an apparent suicide, in Koppl, near Salzburg, Austria on March 24, 1966 at the age of 49. Her body was found in a lone area by a bridge crossing the "Alterbach," a small stream. Hill is buried in Aigen Cemetery in Salzburg, Austria.
According to Andy Edmonds' biography Bugsy's Baby: The Secret Life of Mob Queen Virginia Hill, Hill's death was suspicious, since her body was found outdoors, near a brook, two days after she met with a former lover, former Genovese family boss Joe Adonis, who reportedly had her escorted home with two of his bodyguards. The Austrian media, which were well informed about her former relationship with Siegel, speculated that she tried to get money by using her knowledge of the Italian-American Mafia.