“I just got out of bed and I’m loaded with drugs.”
–Moe Sedway to the Kefauver Committee
As a lover of Las Vegas history, I have a special place in my heart for Moe Sedway.
Maybe it was his drooping profile and sad-dog eyes, which set him apart from his vain and polished running mate Benjamin Siegel, that did it. Unlike the infamous Bugsy, there was no mistaking Sedway’s mug for a movie star.
Or it could be his unintentionally hilarious testimony before the U.S. Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce, better known as the Kefauver Committee, that won me over. Any guy who can accidentally rat out an entire network of mob contacts while simultaneously explaining his heavy drug use and weeks-long battle with that heartless intestinal gangster diarrhea qualifies as a colorful character and then some.
Gone since 1952, of natural causes no less, Sedway lives again in the pages of Larry D. Gragg’s latest Las Vegas study, Bugsy’s Shadow: Moe Sedway, “Bugsy” Siegel, and the Birth of Organized Crime in Las Vegas. Published by High Road Books, an imprint of the University of New Mexico Press, it brings interesting depth to a character treated more like a sidekick than a superstar in most reviews of the mob’s unmistakable role in the building of modern Las Vegas.
Born in Poland, Sedway came to Las Vegas with Siegel in 1941 from New York City by way of Los Angeles. Sedway was, indeed, Bugsy’s shadow. Sedway had a keen way with numbers and was all but indispensable when it came to administering the mob’s horserace wire to the West Coast. He wasn’t exactly a wallflower; he’d been charged but not convicted of assault and robbery. But compared to the volatile Siegel, Moe was a hand-wringing United Nations negotiator.