Las Vegas’ Dark Past

Celebrity Q&A, On the Road, Travel Destinations
on November 6, 2005

What's the real story on the "gangster" past of Las Vegas? My husband and I just returned from a great trip there, and we couldn't believe how clean and family-friendly everything had become since our last visit in the 1970s.
—Vivian R., Titusville, Fla.

One of the founding fathers of Las Vegas was, indeed, the notorious gangster Benjamin Siegel, nicknamed "Bugsy" for his inclination to go "bugs," or crazy, in retaliation at the slightest provocation. Siegel built the Flamingo, Vegas' first major resort, in 1946, ushering in an era of mob-related enterprise that turned the city into a gambling mecca—and a hot spot for organized crime that lasted for decades. For a fascinating look at the town once known as "Sin City," tune in Nov. 14 and 15 for the two-part Las Vegas: An Unconventional History on the PBS series American Experience.