We were deep in the bowels of Number One Valley Sun Lane. There were four of us. One of us was a dog. Another was anonymous. It was me, the Editor, Miss Audrey Hepburn (the dog) and the Anonymous Source.
The Editor was incredulous, as editors are wont. “You want to write about how Bugsy Siegel did not get arrested? Was Bugsy Siegel even here in 1926?”
No, I said. It was a different Benjamin Siegel who was arrested in Flintridge.
The Anonymous Source sprang to my defense. “It was a good thing it wasn’t him!”
My Editor raised an eyebrow. Flintridge, despite the cavorting of Howard Hughes and his debutantes, has always been a family town. Plus, my columns on Roy Lanterman and the prostitute had raised some hackles in the local historical community.
We know that Flintridge is a family town. We know this because of the real estate ads. Case in point, an advertisement placed in our mother ship, the Los Angeles Times, on February 12, 1927. The ad announced:
Here in Flintridge your children will have the chance that is rightfully theirs — for health — happiness — and safe companionship
The ad is proof positive that Flintridge has always been a healthy place for the best sorts of people, providing safe companionship for the children. Which is why it was a good thing that the Benjamin Siegel arrested for the 500 gallon still in his Flintridge chicken coop on July 20, 1927, was not mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.
Or so we think.
Silently, the Anonymous Source handed a clipping to the Editor.
FOWL COOP PROVIDED WITH STILL
Pasadena, July 20, A 500-gallon whiskey still, operating in a chicken coop behind a mansion on Michigan Avenue, Flintridge, was raided by Federal prohibition officers and local police early today, resulting in the seizure of 175-gallons of whiskey, 60 barrels of mash and considerable equipment and the arrest of two men and a woman.
She continued to read:
the men gave their names as Morris Dan and Benjamin Siegel and the woman refused to reveal her identity the officers reported that the woman offered them $50 a day if they would stay away from the still
Tell me more, said the Editor.
The chicken coop was equipped with an electronic buzzer system, I replied. And there was another raid one year earlier at another mansion overlooking the old country club.
What does this have to do with Bugsy Siegel? she asked.
I paused before replying. Then I explained that Bugsy Siegel was born in 1906. He was involved in uh business ventures on the East Coast. By 1937, there were contracts out for his life, so he came to the Los Angeles area, where he was eventually assassinated on June 20, 1947.
How can you write a column about something that Bugsy Siegel didn’t do? she asked.
Easy! I replied. I want the readers to know that our town has a history as a place known for health — happiness —and safe companionship despite the bootleggers in the Meadowgrove mansions.
It’s a stretch, she said.
ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident. E-mail her at email@example.com.