August 26, 1916|
Lipscomb, Alabama, U.S.
|Died||March 24, 1966
Koppl, Salzburg, Austria
Virginia Hill was born on August 26, 1916 in Lipscomb, Alabama. She claimed to have neither worn nor owned a pair of shoes until the age of seventeen, when she ran away.
She found a job waitressing at the 1933 Century of Progress Chicago's World Fair. Then she happened to come to the attention of a wealthy bookmaker and gambler, Joseph Epstein, who became her lover, financial advisor and ultimately, her entree into the Chicago Outfit crime organization. She was used to pass messages to mobsters. One contemporary commentator explained Hill was:
...more than just another set of curves. She had ... a good memory, a considerable flair for hole-in-the-corner diplomacy to allay the suspicions of trigger-happy killers and a dual personality, closelipped about essentials and able to chatter freely and apparently foolishly about inconsequentials.
She became the lover of acting boss and capo Joe Adonis of the Genovese family, then the Frank Costello crime family. Even law enforcement eventually concluded that she was a "central clearing house" for intelligence on organized crime and enjoyed an independent power base within the Mafia. She told people when arriving in Chicago that she was a Southern-belle society girl who had gone through four rich husbands, all divorced or dead, and that she had received $1 million each from their estates, but authentic socialites saw through the ruse. She built up an entourage of hangers-on and Latin gigolos hanging out on Broadway Avenue and frequently picked up the check. Four days before her lover, mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, was assassinated at her home in California, she took an unscheduled flight to Paris, France. There were rumors that she and Siegel secretly got married in Mexico after Siegel divorced his wife Esta in 1946, but there hasn't been any evidence to prove the theory.
Lore has it that Siegel named the Flamingo Las Vegas resort after Hill, who loved to gamble and whose nickname was "Flamingo," a nickname Siegel gave her due to her long, skinny legs. Organized crime king Lucky Luciano wrote in his memoir that Siegel once owned an interest in the Hialeah Park Race Track and viewed the flamingos who populated nearby as a good omen. In fact, the "Flamingo" name was given to the project at its inception by original resort financier Billy Wilkerson.
In 1951, she was subpoenaed to testify before the Kefauver hearings, where she denied having any knowledge of organized crime despite being described by Time magazine in March of that year as the "queen of the gangsters' molls."
After she was indicted for income tax evasion in 1954, she moved to Europe, where she lived for the rest of her life with her only child, Peter Hauser. She died of an overdose of sleeping pills in Koppl, near Salzburg, Austria on March 24, 1966 at the age of 49. Hill is buried in Aigen Cemetery in Salzburg.
According to Andy Edmonds's biography Bugsy's Baby: The Secret Life of Mob Queen Virginia Hill, her death was suspicious despite it being an apparent suicide. 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 and the Mexican drug cartels.[clarification needed]
Hill was the subject of a 1974 television movie, in which she was portrayed by Dyan Cannon. She was played by Annette Bening in the 1991 film Bugsy, a dramatization of her relationship with Bugsy Siegel (portrayed by Warren Beatty).
- Murder in Beverly Hills, Time magazine, June 30, 1947
- "More Las Vegas FAQs". Travel Channel. 2007-08-26. Retrieved 2007-10-06.
- "The Fabulous Flamingo Hotel History - The Wilkerson-Siegel Years". classiclasvegas.squarespace.com. Retrieved 2015-07-19.
- "Virginia Hill, 49, Dead in Austria". The New York Times: 57. March 25, 1966.
- Investigations: Crime Hunt in Foley Square, Time magazine, March 26, 1951
- Time magazine reported in its obituary of Hill on April 1, 1966, that she 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."
- Newton, Michael (2009). Mr. Mob: The Life and Crimes of Moe Dalitz. McFarland. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-7864-3516-6. Retrieved July 5, 2010.
- "Virginia Hill". findagrave.com. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
- Compare the Salzburger Nachrichten, Salzburger Volksblatt (defunct since 1979) and the illustrated newspaper Bunte made by Burda – Offenburg in Germany from spring 1966.
- "Virginia Hill (1974)". IMDB. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
- Edmonds, Andy. Bugsy's Baby : The Secret Life of Mob Queen Virginia Hill. Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Publishing Group, 1993. ISBN 1-55972-164-2