I've always loved reading biographies of women from 20's, 30's, and 40's. Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Bettie Page... and Virginia Hill. Most people don't know about Virginia Hill. She was an influential member of the mob during the 1940's and she was so important, she sat in on mob conferences with the men, laundered huge sums of money, and was trusted with the job of spying on Ben Siegel with the intent of digging up dirt on him.
Virginia was born in Marietta, Georgia, a white trash tomboy who was abused by her father and liked to hike mountains barefoot. She moved to Chicago at the tender age of 17 and attracted the attention of Joe Epstein, a member of the Chicago mob who acted as her personal Henry Higgins, glamorizing her and trusting her with missions for the mob. Virginia, unlike a lot of the stupid, unstable women involved with mobsters, knew how to keep her mouth shut. She never acted without instruction and was good at keeping secrets.
LA during the 40's was highly corrupt. The mob paid off politicians, not to mention the LAPD, and were considered to be as cool as the movie stars. In fact, Ben Siegel was often present at Hollywood parties and Virginia Hill was constantly chased by paparazzi. She became a big news story when Errol Flynn hit on her at a restaurant and she threw a plate at his head.
Ben and Virginia had a troubled, passionate relationship. They cheated on each other constantly, but always came back to one another. He named his club/casino, The Flamingo, after her long legs.
After suffering a brutal beating at Bugsy's hands, Virginia flew to Paris. The Bug stayed behind and was assassinated at Virginia's luxurious Hollywood home. Virginia ended up dying in 1966 in Austria, purportedly by suicide, but it's said that she was wacked (and I believe it) for threatening to publish her memoirs, a precise diary she kept of criminal activity, in which she gave dates and names of major mob figures.
Virginia is noteworthy on a superficial level for several reasons. She was a glamorous, fast-talking, cool-headed lady of the mob. She hobnobbed with dangerous gangsters and used men for her own purposes, never playing second fiddle. She lived a luxurious life and had fine tastes. She was an extra in several Hollywood films, though her scenes were cut out. Virginia was also a major player in the Kefauver Hearings, in which a senator from Tennessee headed a movement against the mob, and was interrogated on film (these clips are awesome. she's so feisty and intolerant of them all, and she point-blank tells them that she received gifts from mobsters because she was good at giving head).
Here's to you, Virginia Hill, not because you were a good person, but because you kicked ass in your own special way!