Virtual Event

Thursday, August 12 at 6:00PM (pt)

The Dark Side of the American Dream
in conversation with WR WILKERSON III

The story of the notorious Jewish gangster who ascended from impoverished beginnings to the glittering Las Vegas strip.


In a brief life that led to a violent end, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel (1906-1947) rose from desperate poverty to ill-gotten riches, from an early-twentieth-century family of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side to a kingdom of his own making in Las Vegas.


In this captivating portrait, author Michael Shnayerson sets out not to absolve Bugsy Siegel but rather to understand him in all his complexity. Through the 1920s, 1930s, and most of the 1940s, Bugsy Siegel and his longtime partner in crime Meyer Lansky engaged in innumerable acts of violence. As World War II came to an end, Siegel saw the potential for a huge, elegant casino resort in the sands of Las Vegas. Jewish gangsters built nearly all of the Vegas casinos that followed. Then, one by one, they disappeared. Siegel's story laces through a larger, generational story of eastern European Jewish immigrants in the early- to mid-twentieth century.

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Michael Shnayerson became a contributing editor at Vanity Fair in 1986 and is the author of eight books on a range of nonfiction subjects, including Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers, and the Rise of Contemporary Art.

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in conversation

Raised and educated in England, William R. Wilkerson III graduated from the University of Southern California in 1977, with a degree in music composition. As a writer, he has published articles in The Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter, USA Today, The Herald Examiner, and The LA Weekly. Wilkerson has lectured widely on Hollywood’s history and folklore, delivering presentations to such groups as the LA County Museum and the Nevada State Museum.