We all know that famous scene in “The Godfather,” the one where the camera cuts back and forth between Michael Corleone attending a baptism and the slaughter of the Corleone family’s enemies. One of the most iconic shots (no pun intended) during the sequence is the scene in which Moe Greene, the Jewish gangster in charge of a number of Las Vegas casinos, is shot through the eye during a massage.
Greene, like a number of characters in “The Godfather,” was based on a real life mobster – Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. Like the fictional Greene, Siegel, along with fellow Jewish mobsters Meyer Lansky and Moe Sedway, was one of the primary figures behind the creation of Las Vegas as a gambling oasis. Also like the fictional Greene, Siegel was murdered with a shot in the eye (and 8 other shots). Siegel’s murder is one of the most notorious open murder cases in the country, but an article by Amy Wallace in Los Angeles Magazine may have cracked the case.
Wallace’s article focuses on the story of Bee Kittle, wife of Moe Sedway, Siegel’s business partner and childhood friend. To hear Kittle tell it, the murder had little to do with monetary concerns. Unlike most mob murders, this one wasn’t business. I don’t want to spoil the story, which is long and convoluted with a number of characters and moving parts, but according to Kittle, the murder was committed by her lover “Moose” Pandza (one of the most fascinating parts of the article is the strange love triangle of Pandza, Sedway, and Kittle). You’ll have to read the full piece to find out all the sordid details.
Like “The Godfather,” the story of Kittle, Sedway, Siegel, and Pandza, is a compelling mob drama all its own. That Kittle’s testimony is cast into doubt at the end of the article is immaterial. It’s a fun story despite its holes and dubious source – as mob historian John Buntin says in towards the end of the piece, “The past really is past. And sometimes the truth is impossible to uncover. That’s why history is an act of re-creation. It involves imagination in a big way.”