The main character in my third book, Queenpin, which is about to come out in Spain, was heavily inspired by the tumultuous life of mob courier Virginia Hill, née Onie Hill, a.k.a. Virginia Norma Hall, a.k.a. Virginia Herman, a.k.a. Virginia Oney d’Algy, a.k.a. Virginia Gonzalez, a.k.a. the Flamingo.
I wrote the book exactly four years ago and somehow never came upon this terrific glamour shot that Cultura Impopular located for this interview:
Four years after I wrote the book, she still intrigues me. One of ten children born, as legend has it, to an drunken marble carver and mule salesmen, she left home at 17 and moved to Chicago, where she made some very dangerous friends.
If remembered at all now, it’s as a gang moll, Bugsy Siegel’s girl, the one for whom he named the Flamingo Hotel. But she was more than that (and nothing like the Annette Bening character in Warren Beatty’s heavily sanitized Bugsy). An extremely powerful mob courier for what used to be called “the syndicate,” she shuttled hundreds of thousands of dollars in the 1940s and early 50s, to Swiss bank accounts and back.
It was a dangerous business too, and her end was not pretty. (A case of questionable suicide at age 49.)
You can see her testifying at the Kefauver hearings here, at 0:43 (omerta, indeed):
She was also highly quotable, declaring to an eager press corps at one point that she had more fur coats than any woman in the country.
Gloria, the mob courier in my book, is in many ways much softer than Hill. When reporters tracked her down in Paris to give her the news that her lover Bugsy Siegel had been murdered in the home he bought for her, Hill reportedly replied:
“It looks so bad to have a thing like that happen in your house.”