Mystery and Crime of the Flamingo Hotel

By: Callie Mellon

The colorful menu at the Flamingo Hotel showcased the various dishes that would be served during this time. To see more about the menu check out this link: http://menus.nypl.org/menus/29431

On December 26, 1946, The Flamingo Hotel opened its doors, and went FLOP. The opening of the famous hotel was not successful, and lost $300,000 during the first week. Who was funding this opulent hotel in the middle of the desert? One of the biggest mobsters during this time, Bugsy Siegel and his partners were responsible for the hotel, and are also the reason that The Flamingo has such a deep rooted history in crime, and wealth. The opening weekend was unsuccessful due to the lack of places to stay for the gamblers, and severe weather conditions caused many to stay home, and not travel that week. Although opening week was proven to be an unsuccessful time for the hotel, Siegel was able to still have well-known singer and comedian, Jimmy Durante headline at night, as well as Cuban band leader Xavier Cugat. In attendance at the shower were Siegel’s infamous gangster friends, as well as many famous actors from Hollywood.

Bugsy Siegel was shot and killed at his girlfriend, Virginia Hill’s house in Beverly Hills, CA. He was only 41, but this is not shocking, especially because of his dangerous lifestyle. Photo Credit: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Bugsy-Siegel

It wasn’t long until Siegel’s life started impacting the hotel in many positive and negative ways. Many of his guests flocked to the hotel because they knew he would have a successful hotel due to the lifestyle that he was known for, which was full of drugs, prostitution, and money. In order to keep up with this image, he invested 1 million dollars in order to provide luxurious amenities to his guests. This included; the first neon sign to be on The Strip, a spa, health club, showroom, golf course, nightclub, and also an upscale restaurant that provided anything, and everything to their guests, and customers. It wasn’t long at all until these expenses caught up with Siegel, and after only 2 weeks of being open, the hotel was forced to close their doors.

Reopening of the Hotel

After a period of closure, the hotel opened once again on March 1, 1947, but under the name “The Fabulous Flamingo.” Siegel wasn’t one to let people take advantage of him, and many believe this hotel to be the reason for his death later that year on June 20th. He was known to have gotten in an argument with his girlfriend Virginia Hill a couple days before, and she flew to Paris immediately after the argument. However during this time period, many mobsters have unexplained deaths because gang members often cover up their deaths in order to save themselves from being publicly outed. “Bugsy” an American crime film highlights the life of Bugsy Siegel, and his girlfriend Virginia Hill, it also shows us what it was like to develop Las Vegas into what it is today.

Soups of the Day

On the menu there was also a wide array of soups that were offered including; chicken broth with Matzo balls, onion soup with a cheese crust, and an intriguing soup known as Beef Consomme Soup with egg drops. These three dishes I mentioned all originate from Eastern Europe, and during this time period, many people were immigrating from countries in that part of the world, and bringing their culture to America. Beef Consomme with egg drops is a lighter fare that was very popular among the elite for a very long time, but when formal dining became less popular in the end of the 1960s, so did Beef Consomme, and now it is very hard to find on menus today. Onion soup with cheese crust is often referred to as French Onion Soup, and it can still be found on menus today, usually at steak houses or other formal dining establishments. This dish was very popular throughout the 50s, and even still popular during the 80s, when French cuisine had a great influence on American cuisine. Although this dish was known to be enjoyed by the Kings and Queens of France, it is also very popular because it is inexpensive to make, and can be enjoyed by the lower classes as well. 

Goodbye Dirty Martinis, Hello Seafood Cocktails

On the menu there are a wide array of seafood cocktails that are offered as hor d’oeuvres. During this time period cocktail parties were very popular, and once refrigeration became available, shrimp was able to be harvested and transported with more ease. This made it possible for places like Las Vegas to have shrimp available on their menus. There weren’t just shrimp cocktails offered, but also an Oregon Crabmeat Cocktail that was also served with cocktail sauce. Shrimp cocktails have an interesting history, and they became popular during Prohibition because restaurants were no longer allowed to use their cocktail glasses for alcoholic beverages, so instead they were filled with seafood, and served to their customers.

The development of the cold chain in the 19th century made it possible for seafood to be transported to The Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas in a safe and manageable way. Photo Credit: https://www.fuelingasouthernsoul.com/how-to-make-shrimp-cocktail-in-a-sous-vide/

The Main Course

When it comes to the entrees that are popular on the menu at The Flamingo, there are menu fish, poultry, and red meat dishes offered. In particular dishes such as; Cold fresh boiled Chinook Salmon, Double French Spring Lamb Chops, and Cracked Large Crab all seem like dishes that I would love to indulge in. Most of the fish on the menu is known to be from the Pacific Ocean, and this makes sense because during the 1950s it was much easier to have fish transported from the west coast because the fish could go bad by the time it is transported from the east coast to the west coast. Double French Spring Lamb Chops is another dish that caught my attention, it is a delectable entree that is prepared with rosemary and garlic, and sauteed on a cast iron pan. Spring lamb chops refer to the time when the lamb is born, and are different from other lamb chops because the meat is more tender, and has a sweeter taste. The cracked large crab dish is made for someone who doesn’t want to spend their time at the table cracking open the claws, so for someone who wants to avoid smelling like crab later on in the night, this would be a great dish to order. 

The Sweet Ending

The final part of the menu is the dessert menu, and there were many sundaes, pastries, and pies offered. The Blueberry Black-Bottom Pie is a southern dish that was on the menu, and this seems to be a dish that was very popular during this time because of the southern nostalgia that came along with indulging in this fare. The Black bottom of the pie made from a chocolate pudding is supposed to represent the swampy-lowlands of the Mississippi river. Despite it being a southern dish, it was invented in Los Angeles by Monroe Boston Strause, the man who also invented the graham cracker crust. After desert was over guests would leave the restaurant, and go to the casino where they would gamble their money away.

Black Bottom Pies were very popular during this time, but at The Flamingo instead of a custard filling, it was blueberry, and still had a chocolate crust. Photo Credit: https://www.rockrecipes.com/ragged-rock-black-bottom-pie/”

Sources

Ragged Rock Black Bottom Pie – mmm…rum & chocolate!

A Brief History of Cocktail Sauce | The Saucy Bits of Simply West Coast

The Flamingo Hotel: Menus

https://food.list.co.uk/article/73562-spring-lamb-for-autumn/

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1179222/

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