Bugsy Siegel in Los Angeles Part 1

ben-bugsy-siegel portrait

The year that Bugsy Siegel arrived in Los Angeles to be the New York mob’s man on the West Coast varies from source to source. Siegel himself claimed in a legal document that he had been a resident since 1935. It’s known a that he visited at least twice before that, starting in 1932.

1932 olymipics summer games los angeles


Like thousands of other tourists, Siegel, wife Estelle (“Esta”) and their baby daughter came to Los Angeles in June 1932, as the city was hosting the Summer Olympic Games. They made the trip by sea, traveling on the Panama-Pacific liner S. S. Virginia.



Benjamin Siegel and family arrive in Los Angeles on June 25, 1932 aboard the S.S. Virginia.



August 1932 ad for the Panama Pacific Line’s Los Angeles-to-New York run via the Panama Canal. The 14 day trip included a port of call in Havana.



Hand-tinted postcard view of the Panama Pacific Line’s S.S. Virginia mailed 1934.


Siegel, who had become wealthy through bootlegging, would later say that after Repeal in December 1933 he tried to go legitimate, but lost his money in the stock market crash. His timing is slightly off, however, as the Crash was in 1929 while Prohibition was still in effect. In any case, he may have been scoping out the rackets when the Siegels, now a family of four, visited Los Angeles again in the summer of 1934 with their young daughters. They departed for New York on September 3 on the Panama Pacific Line’s S.S. California.



The Siegels, now a family of 4, departed Los Angeles for New York aboard the Panama Pacific Line’s S.S. California, sister ship of the S.S. Virginia, on September 3, 1934.


9-10-34-panama pacific ad S.S. Virginia, California etc

September 1934 ad for the Panama Pacific Line’s Los Angeles to New York sailings. The cost of a first class cabin had decreased since 1932 from $225 to (as low as) $185, though you still had to cough up $240 to $275 for a room with private bath. What ex-bootlegger didn’t have to watch his bottom line, now that Repeal was fully in effect?


In February 1935, Siegel arrived in Los Angeles on a solo visit, again via the Panama Pacific line. His official home address was the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York City.



Ben Siegel arrived in Los Angeles on February 9, 1935, again aboard the Panama Pacific liner S.S. California.


In May 1936, Siegel (his name misspelled Sagel) made another trip to Los Angeles from New York. His home address is listed as 190 Old Army Rd., Scarsdale, NY.



Benjamin Siegel (misspelled here as Sagel) arrived in Los Angeles from New York aboard the Grace Line’s S.S. Santa Rosa on May 24, 1936. His home address was officially 190 Old Army Rd., Scarsdale, NY.



1936 ad for the Grace Line’s New York to California route.


By October 1937, Siegel had decided to put down roots in Los Angeles, purchasing a lot on Delfern Drive in exclusive the Holmby Hills section of Beverly Hills, where he would build a home.

Los Angeles Times, October 1937.

Los Angeles Times, October 1937.

*Siegel made the claim in an affidavit in 1941 while awaiting trial, requesting permission to leave the country “on business” (which was granted).