Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.
I was talking with Siegel about seven o’clock on the Friday evening of his death. He called me at the office of Hollywood’s Daily Variety, for which I was then writing a column. He said he wanted to thank me for a review I had given the floor show at the Flamingo that week.
“I’m planning a whole new advertising campaign and am using your description, ‘the fabulous Flamingo,’ prominently in all the ads,” he told me. “I’m cutting prices in the rooms, too, and have just signed the Ritz brothers to open in September. I’m paying them $25,000 a week ($236,604.65 USD 2005), but I think they’re worth it.”
He told me he came to Los Angeles to meet his two daughters, who were arriving from New York on Sunday morning, and he also explained that Virginia Hill was on her way to Europe and would be gone all summer. He had been divorced from his wife a few months before in Reno, and I asked him if he and Virginia were planning to be married.
“That’s a tough question to answer,” he said, laughing. “I’ll tell you more about that a few months from now.”
He certainly didn’t talk like a man anticipating the possibility of someone trying to bump him off. He apparently was taking no precautions to prevent such an erasure. He said he was going to Jack’s-at-the-beach for dinner and asked me if it was as good a place to eat as reported. It had just opened two days before. A man looking to dodge bullets doesn’t so freely discuss his plans for the hours ahead.
I heard of his death on the radio shortly after 11 p.m. as I was driving along Sunset Boulevard on my way to a party at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I went immediately to Virginia’s home at 810 Linden Drive, just a few blocks away. He was still slumped on the couch with part of his handsome face torn away, while the Beverly Hills police went about their motions of handling a murder.
Perfume pervaded the room from the night-blooming jasmine clustered outside the window through which the deadly shots had been fired. The Los Angeles Times was lying across his knees and on it was stamped: “Good Night. Sleep peacefully with compliments of Jack’s.” Bloody sections of his shattered brain partially blotted out the eight-column headline telling of another fatal shooting in a poorer section of Los Angeles. As I moved the newspaper to see what he had been reading, blood dripped on my satin evening slippers. His right eye was found fifteen feet away on the tiled floor of the dining room. From the jamb of the wide doorway into that room I picked the sliver of flesh from which his long eyelashes extended.
And so he died where he sat on the gay chintz-covered couch. He died as violently as he had lived and never knew what struck him.
Florabel Muir, “Headline Happy” 1950