The Truth About 'Mob Queen' Virginia Hill

Virginia Hill was born one of 10 children in a burned-out boomtown in rural Alabama, but by the time her body was found near Salzburg, Austria, she was an infamous mobster recognized as much for her love of wild and glamorous parties as for her expertise in facilitating a flow of narcotics across the U.S-Mexico border.

Gorgeous, volatile, and fiercely intelligent, Hill was the highest-ranking woman ever to inhabit the Mafia world, according to AL, an equal to some of the most influential gangsters of all time. It's possible that she also suffered from some form of borderline personality disorder or sociopathy as well as alcoholism, per the Mob Museum, and her life was a tumultuous spiral from the highest highs of extreme glamour, fame, and wealth to the lowest lows of criminal corruption and suicidal ideation. 

One thing is certain: From start to finish, everything about Virginia Hill was a wild ride.

Virginia Hill's turbulent early life sows the seeds of her mob queen future

Hill was born on August 26, 1916, in the tiny town of Lipscomb, Alabama. Her childhood was difficult, as her father, an alcoholic mule trader named Mack Hill, beat her and her ten other siblings — at least until an 8-year-old Hill slammed a greasy skillet into her drunken father's chest, per KNPR.

Hill became sexually active at age 12, and married a man named George at age 14, according to the Mob Museum. At 17, Hill made her first great escape when she moved with George to Chicago. Soon after she left the city, Hill then promptly left her husband and became a sideshow dancer and possibly a sex worker.

She then began waitressing for the San Carlo Italian Village, an Italian restaurant housed at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, according to the Mob Museum. The restaurant was a popular mob hangout, and it was there she met Joey Epstein, bookmaker for the Capone group, and launched her descent into the city's crime-ridden underbelly.

Epstein took a shining to the young, beautiful, matter-of-fact Hill, and asked her to help launder money by placing bets at Chicago horseraces. Hill complied, and for the rest of her life, she would be embroiled in the sordid, diamond-studded world of the mob.

Virginia Hill ascends to true 'mob queen' status

Hill began working for the mob as a "bag girl," responsible for transporting stolen merchandise and bags overflowing with cash from one gangster to the next. According to KNPR, she would often transport these goods via deluxe trips on the Twentieth Century Limited train from Chicago to New York, sporting increasingly luxurious luggage as her income grew.

In 1937, Hill moved to New York, where she met and married NYC don Joe Adonis — all while reporting Adonis's every word to the Chicago mob. But her partnership with Adonis ended the moment she met the handsome mobster Ben "Bugsy" Siegel in a Brooklyn bar, according to the Mob Museum. The two went home together immediately, but their tangled romance wouldn't kick into high gear until much later. 

Hill left New York for Hollywood in 1938, where she began consorting with Tinseltown elite along with the LA mob. According to KNPR, she also took frequent trips to Mexico, immersing herself in Mexican high society, throwing elaborate parties, and spending lavishly — but her time in Mexico had a much more serious purpose: She was responsible for facilitating the mafia's flow of Mexican narcotics. 

The rise and fall of "Flamingo" and Virginia Hill's downward spiral

While in Hollywood, Hill acquired the nickname "Flamingo," possibly a reference to her flowing red hair. Also while in Hollywood, Virginia met Ben Siegel again, and the two started an ongoing affair.

At this time, Siegel was embroiled in an attempt to start a casino called The Flamingo in Las Vegas, per the Mob Museum. Possibly flattered by the casino's name, which may or may not have been inspired by her, Hill moved to Vegas to be with Siegel. But the casino foundered upon opening and wound up losing money.

Never one to stay in an unprofitable situation, Hill soon fled for Europe. But upon receiving the news that Siegel had been shot in Hill's own Los Angeles home in 1947, Hill attempted suicide twice in Paris and in Monaco.

She survived, and returned to the United States, where she met and married a ski instructor named Hans Hauser. However, an ill-fated decision to appear on an organized crime TV show left her homeless and slammed with a bill for $130,000 from the IRS, according to KNPR. After several moves across the nation, Virginia fled the country with her husband. Hill would spend the rest of her life on the run, staying in luxury hotels and drinking with increasing desperation.

In 1966, she met with her first husband Joe Adonis, then based in Naples, for unknown reasons, according to the Mob Museum. Several days later, Hill's body was found beside a brook in a snowy forest near Salzburg, Austria, per Al. She had overdosed on sleeping pills, and her death was recorded as a suicide.

Today, the infamous mob queen's body is at rest alongside her family in a cemetery in Salzburg.