When Bee Kittle was growing up in the Finger Lakes area of New York, she wanted to dance like they did in the movies. Her father, a sometime housepainter and assembly line worker, didn’t make much, but as often as he could, he’d take Bee to the pictures. Eleanor Powell and Ruby Keeler, best known for partnering with Dick Powell in the 1933 Warner Bros. musical 42nd Street, delighted her. “You’re as good as they are,” said her father, who saved his lunch money to buy his daughter tap shoes. Bee believed him. In 1935, when she was 17, she packed a suitcase full of shoes and costumes and bought a $9 train ticket to Hoboken, New Jersey. The ferry to Manhattan cost another nickel. She arrived in the Bowery with 95 cents and the name of a photographer, who she hoped could help find her work. When she visited him, he told her about the Paradise Cabaret.
The Paradise was in the heart of Manhattan’s theater district. Landing a gig there, where famed Broadway producer Nils T. Granlund booked the acts, was an established route to stardom, and Bee was determined to make the most of her audition. Gesturing to the bandleader, she told Granlund, “If that gentleman can play ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart,’ I can even do it on roller skates.” Bee nailed her routine, and Granlund put her in the show that night, saying he would hire her “if you get a hand.” Bee got a standing ovation. The $40-a-week job was hers.
What Bee didn’t know was that the Paradise was a favored hangout for mobsters. Two men often sat at a table on one side of the cabaret: “Fat Irish” Green, an aide to Ben Siegel, and Israel “Icepick Willie” Alderman, one of Moe Sedway’s top lieutenants. When Bee made her debut, Moe—the five-foot-two co-owner of the club—was in Europe, but his underlings told him about the new “little bitty” girl in the show. At their first meeting, he teased Bee about her clothes and her dime-store jewelry. She lost her temper and fled the restaurant for the apartment she shared with another chorus girl. Moe, on her heels, begged for forgiveness. A lifelong bachelor, he was smitten by the teenage beauty with the smart mouth and the impish smile. Soon he was sending Bee roses after every show.
Six weeks into their courtship, Bee said Moe told her, “I want you to meet one of my best friends in all the world.” Bee recalled being taken to an office near the Paradise where she encountered Siegel. “His eyes just fascinated me,” she said. “Such a beautiful blue.” But this introduction, too, would be a bust, as Siegel was quick to hurt Bee’s feelings. “Moey, she’s so pretty, but she’s got that little hairline space between her teeth,” Bee remembered Siegel telling her beau. “We’re gonna get that fixed, and she will be gorgeous.” Bee lost her temper again. “I could feel my face get red. I got up from the chair and I said to Moey, ‘How dare you let him talk to me like that!’ And I said to Ben, ‘I’m going to find out who your mother is, and I’m going to tell her how bad mannered you are.’ And I ran out.”
Few dared to address Siegel like that. But Bee’s feistiness seemed to intrigue him. He followed her, with Moe right behind him. “Moey kept saying, ‘My God, apologize to her! Say something to her! I want to marry her!’ That shocked me. Because he’d never asked me to marry him,” Bee would recall. “And then Ben says to Moey, ‘Let’s take her up to Meyer.’ ” Next thing Bee knew, she was in the apartment of Meyer Lansky, another childhood buddy of Ben and Moe. He was a kingpin in the Jewish Mob and, as such, their boss.
The three men’s friendship had been forged on the streets of the Lower East Side. Moe, born Morris Sidwirtz in Poland in 1894, lived in Brooklyn, but he and Siegel had made their first money in the Bowery, extorting street vendors in exchange for protection. “The Jewish kids charged the pushcart dealers a dollar to keep all the other gangs from stealing,” said Bee, adding that even then, Siegel was the most fearsome. “Moey said Ben was the protector, the first one to fight. They all had to fistfight—you had to prove yourself. But Ben was always saving everybody’s back.”
Joining this pack of shtarkers (Yiddish for tough guys) was Lansky, a scrawny boy who’d emigrated from what was then White Russia in 1911. Their pack became known as the “Bugs and Meyer Gang,” and during Prohibition, they often rode shotgun for “Lucky” Luciano to prevent hijackings of beer and liquor shipments. “Moey and Ben and Meyer were the closest I think of anybody,” Bee would say. But Siegel—who at nearly six feet tall towered over his friends—looked the most like a leader.
Bee had fallen in with Murder Inc., the name the press had given to the enforcement arm—part Jewish, part Italian—of the American Mafia. Before the group was exposed and prosecuted, it is believed to have been responsible for as many as 1,000 contract killings. But to Bee, this was hardly cause for concern. One night she, Moe, and Ben were at a restaurant with Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, the leader of Murder Inc., when a car rounded a corner and machine gun fire strafed the window. Ben yelled, “Down!” and he and Moe tipped the table up, crouching behind it. Bee slid on her stomach to take cover in the restroom. By the time Moe came to the powder room door minutes later and said, “Honey, you can come out now,” the table was reset with a new plate of antipasto as if nothing had happened.
On Thanksgiving Day 1935, Moe and Bee married at the New York City courthouse. Their honeymoon was a luxury cruise on the S.S. Lurline to Panama. Ben Siegel came with them, because Lansky wanted Siegel and Moe to continue on through the Panama Canal to Los Angeles to expand the Mob’s reach on the West Coast. On the ship Bee and Moe conceived their first child, Richard. But it was Ben, not Moe, who had the perfume shop deliver $400 worth of the finest scents to Bee’s stateroom. More than anyone else, Ben seemed determined to instruct Bee on how to be a Mafia wife.
“Ben taught me things,” Bee told the documentarians, remembering the distinctive way he’d walk through a door. “He used to say, ‘Whenever you walk into any room, you hold your head high and hesitate a little and look all around like you own the place. If you walk in like that, they’ll figure you’re someone important. But if you walk in all hunched up and embarrassed, that’s how you’re going to be treated.’ ”
Siegel had first come to L.A. in 1933 to visit the actor George Raft, another childhood friend. A natty dresser, suave if not classically handsome, Siegel was immediately seduced by the movie industry. But when he initially moved his wife and two daughters from Scarsdale, New York, to Beverly Hills, he had other things on his mind. Asked by Lansky and Lucky Luciano to revamp the Mob’s westernmost outpost, Siegel brought discipline to its disorganized ranks. He expanded its illegal gambling interests as well as its legal ones: the S.S. Rex, a floating casino just off Santa Monica’s shoreline. Open 24 hours a day, the ship had a crew of 350, including waiters, chefs, a full orchestra, and an armed security force. Though owned by a bootlegger and ex-con named Tony Cornero, it was controlled by the Mob, and Siegel made sure it appealed not just to high rollers but to the middle class with the promise of overnight riches. It was the same business model he’d soon seek to put into place in Vegas.
Bee and Moe and their newborn son, Richard, had moved west as well, and soon Moe was spending a lot of time in Vegas. That was all right with Bee. For her, Los Angeles was a year-round holiday. She didn’t let her husband’s frequent absences—or his mistresses, whom she knew about—get in the way of her own good time. Bee loved to entertain and go out on the town. Eventually that would put her in the path of the man who would change not just her life, but—if her account of Siegel’s murder can be believed—the course of history.
It was a Friday night at Marco’s, a club on “the bad end of L.A.” that she’d begun to frequent. “I used to take all the wives with me,” she told the documentary makers. “I used to dance with this fella named Johnny—no love interest or nothing, just good dancers we were. So one night the swinging doors open and this handsome guy walked through. And he had boots on. Brown boots. And he had light tan pants and a big trucker’s belt with a buckle in the front. He had rolled-up sleeves, and he had muscles. He was huge. So I said to the guy, Johnny, that I was dancing with, ‘God, look at what that guy looks like!’ He said, ‘Would you like to meet him? That’s my brother.’ ”
Moose was a native Angeleno, born in 1920 to Yugoslavian immigrants. He stood six feet three and was about 250 pounds, with a physique made hard by manual labor. He and Johnny had grown up in Chavez Ravine, part of a group of Slavic immigrants who would soon come to dominate the city’s construction professions. Yet for all his physical power, Moose tended to hang back. The night he walked into Marco’s, he sat down at the end of the bar, and Johnny took Bee over to say hello. “I said to him, ‘Don’t you want to dance with me?’ ” Bee recalled. “And he said, ‘Not really.’ He was very shy. Later I found out he wasn’t really that good a dancer.”
Moose had other talents. He was a great cook, just like his father, who more than one person told me had worked at the historic Brown Derby restaurant. An experienced hunter and an admired crane operator, Moose had an instinct for how machines worked. He was quiet, sure, but Bee was vivacious enough for the both of them. For months they saw each other secretly, but this wasn’t a dalliance for Bee. It was love. Never one to avoid confrontation, Bee told her husband.
She and Moe, whom she called “Daddy,” were in their living room: he in his favorite wingback chair, she kneeling at his feet. She put her chin in Moe’s lap and looked up at him. “I’ve met somebody, and we want to get married,” she said. Moe was stunned. Still, he said, “I want to meet him.”
Bee arranged a home-cooked meal to introduce her lover to her husband, and at one point that evening the two men retired to the den. There Moe told Moose they would share Bee. “When I’m around, she will be with me,” Moe told his dinner guest, who stood more than a foot taller than him. “And if you really love her, you will let us stay together.” Then Moe added one more condition: “I must have your promise that you will marry her when I am dead.” The men shook hands, and soon Moose moved into the Beverly Hills house.
Man, you’re digging up tombstones here,” says H. Read Jackson, seated at a table at the Corner Bakery in Calabasas. For him, Bee’s story is the one that got away.
Jackson, now 69, was a journalist turned TV producer when Bee entered his life. He’d worked on segments for 60 Minutes, World News Tonight, and 20/20, and he had a nose for a good yarn. He and Bee had been introduced by a mutual acquaintance, and Jackson says the first time they spoke, Bee cut to the chase: “I know who killed Bugsy Siegel.”
Bee said that she’d been inspired to tell her story after working with Warren Beatty on Bugsy. Seeing the movie floored her. She couldn’t stop crying. “It is one thing to remember your life,” she told Jackson. “It’s another thing to see someone bringing it back to life.” She had a closet filled with boxes of photo albums and newspaper clippings, and one night she found herself drawn to it. Suddenly, her book proposal says, “she understood what she would do with her remaining days.” It was time, Bee told Jackson, “to right some wrongs.”
“She was a ballsy lady, smart and a little scary,” he tells me. “I kind of had the feeling that she could bump you off if she didn’t like you. Just a tingly Spidey sense that if she said she did this, what else had she done? What else could she do?”
They sat around his kitchen for months, talking, listening, writing. “I was hooked,” he says. “I’d wake up at night and say to my wife, ‘I’m driving to Vegas.’ And she’d say, ‘What for?’ ‘I’ve got to take the road Bee took.’ And she’d say, ‘But it’s night.’ ” He’d be out the door, “hauling,” just like Bee once had. “Doing it in record time.”
Jackson’s efforts to confirm Bee’s story were stymied by two things. Already, in the early ’90s, most of the players who might have had independent knowledge of the crime were dead. The Internet had not yet evolved into the research tool it is today. He found himself in the library, scrolling through microfiche, looking for clues that might bolster Bee’s story but feeling as if he were searching for gold coins in a sand dune. He was tortured by doubt: If Bee and Ben Siegel had been so close, why couldn’t he find any photos of them together? Should he take Bee at her word? Was that enough?
Before he could decide, Jackson says, those questions were made moot when Robbie shut down the project for fear of reprisals (a detail that Robbie omitted when talking to me). Retribution from the Mob seemed unlikely, Jackson admits, but not out of the question. He argued with himself, imagining the headlines. “I thought, ‘Los Angeles Writer Breaks the Bugsy Case.’ Then ‘Los Angeles Writer Killed by Bugsy’s Murderer,’ ” he says.
And yet, Jackson says, “I would have kept going if the son didn’t say stop.” He was disappointed but consoled himself with the idea that Bee had exaggerated her role and that he was avoiding publishing something that would potentially obscure the truth, not reveal it. “I kept saying, ‘This is a romantic glory-day memory of an older woman that somehow expanded,’ ” he says. “But then I’d think, ‘What if it’s not?’ ” More than glory, Jackson tells me, he sometimes thinks Bee “was looking for forgiveness. Or absolution of guilt.”
He still worries that he gave up too soon. “Did I walk away from it and chicken out?”
They must have made quite the pair, Moose and Moe, the Slav giant and the diminutive Jewish mobster, the latter under threat of death at the hands of his lifelong friend. After being summoned to Vegas by Bee in early 1947, Moose became Moe’s shadow—“as close as two fingers on one hand,” says Bee’s book proposal. Bee would kid Moose that she had lost him to her own husband. “Well, you put me there,” he’d say.
From the start Bee had bossed Moose around. Robbie’s niece, Mindy, lived with Moose and Bee in the ’70s. “Moose was soft-spoken, the gentlest soul,” she says. But Bee? “My grandmother was very controlling. She flew off the handle. She scared the shit out of all my friends. She would stomp and yell.” Moose often bore the brunt. “He would do something wrong in the kitchen, and she’d get mad and not talk to him for days on end. He would beg her to talk to him. He would have done anything for her.” When she says it, I hear the echo of Robbie: “Anything at all.”
According to Mindy—and the other family members Bee told her secret to—Moose not only would have done anything for Bee, he actually did. Three months after Ben Siegel is alleged to have publicly threatened Moe Sedway’s life, Bee said that another meeting of the Las Vegas Mob was held. This time Ben was the only one not invited. Moe had decided he couldn’t continue to live in fear. “Moose, he’s got to be gotten rid of,” Moe told Bee’s lover, who had become his trusted friend. “What other answer is there?”
Meyer Lansky had been consulted and had given his blessing to the hit, Bee said. At the meeting, though, Moe told those assembled that Lansky had one request: Nobody within the “family” could be involved. Moose, seated close to Moe, listened quietly, then spoke up. A Slavic crane operator with no criminal record would never be suspected, he told the group. As for the shooting, “Well, that ain’t such a hard thing,” Bee recounted him saying. “I can shoot. I always went hunting and things with my father.”
He practiced shooting targets in the sand dunes of El Monte, borrowing a gun from a friend who had just returned from the war, Bee’s book proposal alleges. Then in the final weeks leading up to the appointed day, Robbie says his mother told him Moose monitored police patrols on Linden Drive, charting the 30-minute intervals in which the cars typically made their rounds. On June 20, 1947, Moose picked up Siegel’s trail and followed him first to the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Siegel bought a newspaper and a Chapstick in the hotel shop. When Siegel drove to the rented house on Linden Drive, Moose was not far behind. Arriving at the elegant Spanish-style home, he waited for Siegel to get settled. Then he walked up the driveway and around the side of the house. It was dark as he stepped through the flowerbeds, rested his carbine on the windowsill, and framed the famous mobster’s head in his sights.
It didn’t take long to fire nine rounds. As Siegel slumped forward on the couch, his tie red with blood and a few of his eyelashes plastered on a nearby doorjamb, his killer was already on his way back to the car. Police would later say the only evidence they uncovered related to the killing was a sketchy report of a black car that “headed north on North Linden toward Sunset.” Bee claimed that Moose didn’t stop driving until he pulled into an alley in Santa Monica, where he broke down the rifle. He tossed the barrel into the ocean, the butt on a rooftop. “It is probably still down there on top of one of the buildings,” Bee’s proposal says.
In the coming days Moe asked Bee to take Ben’s widow, Esther, and their two daughters under her wing. She did, at one point escorting Siegel’s daughters to Saks Fifth Avenue to buy dresses to wear to his burial. The funeral at what is now called Hollywood Forever Cemetery was a small affair, held in secrecy. Bee did not attend.
Immediately after the killing, Moe was put in charge of the Flamingo. That made him a prime suspect: a man with a motive. For months Moe would be brought in for questioning every time he came home to Los Angeles. Once the interrogations were over, Moose and Bee would go to the Beverly Hills station house to pick him up.
Moe had a weak ticker and would soon suffer a series of heart attacks. In January 1952, he boarded a plane in Vegas for Miami. Just before landing, he was stricken and died of coronary thrombosis. Mindy says Bee told her Moe was traveling with his mistress at the time. Robbie remembers his mother screaming when she got the phone call that Moe was dead. His body was flown back to Los Angeles, where he was entombed in a silver-plated copper casket covered in red roses and orchids. Bee and her two young sons placed a ribbon with the inscription DADDY on top. The honorary pallbearers included entertainers (Danny Thomas, Frankie Laine, the Marx brothers) who’d been regulars at the Flamingo; the Clark County sheriff, whose territory included Las Vegas; Nils T. Granlund, the producer who’d hired Bee at the Paradise; and George Raft. The pallbearers who did the heavy lifting, however, were men far closer to home, among them “Icepick Willie” Alderman and Moose.
With Moe gone, Bee went on an extended bender. “Scotch or bourbon, she was drunk every day for a year,” remembers Penny Neal, who was then dating Dick, Moe and Bee’s eldest son (she would soon marry him and give birth to their daughter, Mindy). It was during that miserable period that Penny remembers Bee saying to her, “You don’t ever want to fuck around with Moose.” Penny says Bee had never before insinuated that Moose killed Ben Siegel, but when she spoke those words, “she made this face where her lips were like a smile but they went downward. And that kind of scared me when she did that. I kind of put two and two together.” They didn’t speak of it again, and after a year of hard drinking, Bee got sober for good. “She never touched another drop of liquor again,” Penny says. That part of Bee’s life was over.
I don’t think Moose was the triggerman,” John Buntin says.
I’ve called the writer of L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City one morning at his home in Nashville. Buntin’s book is the definitive history of the rivalry between mobster Mickey Cohen and L.A. police chief William Parker, so I’m asking Buntin to help me envision the city Bee encountered when she moved here from New York. I’m also hoping he’ll fortify me, writer to writer, with a pep talk. I’m struggling over what to believe.
Here’s the problem: Bee Sedway is my only primary source. Every person I’ve tracked down who believes Bee’s story—her son Robbie; his wife, Renee (and her son Adam); Bee’s granddaughter, Mindy; the list goes on—heard this story only from her. Her book proposal, too, is her account. On top of that, almost everybody I’m writing about is long gone, so it’s impossible to run down all the leads.
I’d also called Nick Pileggi, who in addition to writing the movies Goodfellas and Casino also wrote the Mob documentary in which Bee briefly appeared—the one whose raw interview footage Robbie has given me. Pileggi is a renowned expert on all things Mafia related, and while he doesn’t want to be quoted, he advises caution when it comes to Bee’s story, which he suspects is a self-serving fantasy drummed up to get attention. If he had to put money on who killed Siegel, he says, he’d probably go with Chick Hill, the brother of Siegel’s girlfriend, Virginia—a Marine who was said to be livid over a beating Siegel had given her.
Now I’ve got Buntin on the phone, and I’m feeling a little desperate. Have I been spending months going down a rabbit hole? Maybe, Buntin says, adding that he favors a different theory from Pileggi’s: that Frankie Carbo, a onetime boxing promoter and gunman with Murder Inc., engineered Siegel’s killing. Siegel and Carbo were tight (they are believed to have committed the 1939 murder of Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg together in L.A.), but many think Carbo was tapped to rub out Siegel. “I’m more inclined to believe that, but with this great caveat,” Buntin tells me, and what comes next is delivered with the force of a coach exhorting his quarterback to rally in the middle of a bruising game: “The past really is past. And sometimes the truth is impossible to uncover. That’s why history is an act of re-creation. It involves imagination in a big way. That sounds bad, but it’s true.”
My best chance at verification might rest in the archives of the Beverly Hills Police Department. Early on I told my tale to Lieutenant Lincoln Hoshino, who handles media inquiries. He was polite, if a little weary sounding. I told him I wasn’t quite ready to spill the beans about my suspect, which is when he made me a promise: “If you can provide us with a name, we can tell you if he was a suspect or is a suspect.”
Several weeks later I call back and am referred to Sergeant Max Subin. He, too, is polite, and he, too, says that if I e-mail the name of the alleged triggerman, he will let me know whether Moose was ever a suspect. I send the e-mail minutes after we hang up, asking, among other things, “Was Mathew ‘Moose’ Pandza ever questioned about the killing or considered a suspect?” Almost two weeks pass before Subin calls back. This time he says that, contrary to our earlier agreement, he will not be providing any information at all. He acknowledges that he’s reneging on something both he and Hoshino offered. But now, with my suspect’s name in hand, he’s run it up the chain of command and been told to be quiet. I’m left to wonder: Limited resources? Or am I on to something? “We thought we could sit down with you,” he says, but he’s been told he can’t. “It’s in the best interest of the city of Beverly Hills not to speak to you.”
From the minute I learn Moose’s name, I start looking for his relatives. His brother, Johnny—the one who introduced Moose to Bee—died in 1995. After some searching, I find Johnny’s son, John Steven Pandza Jr., who lives in Yucaipa. Steve, as he’s known, buys and sells used construction equipment now, but he spent many of his 63 years in the same profession that his father and uncle mastered before him: crane operator. The Pandza men, it turns out, have a knack for making iron bend to their will. “Anybody can get on a piece of equipment and make it move. But not everybody can get on a piece of equipment and make it do things you didn’t think it could do,” says Steve, adding that, in a similar vein, both he and his father were skilled marksmen. “It’s an instinct. It comes down to understanding limits. And a little bit of no fear.”
Steve confirms that his father was, indeed, an excellent dancer, just like Bee said. Steve remembers his dad saying that Moose spent time in Las Vegas at one point. And he knows Johnny and Moose loved to visit nightspots together. “They were construction workers by day, party animals by night,” says Steve. However, there was a key difference between his dad and Moose: “My dad was a womanizer, but I remember him telling me, ‘Moose has been a one-woman man all his life.’ ”
Little-bitty Bee, whom Steve remembers meeting when he was a boy, was that woman. “I remember my dad telling me that Moose was deathly afraid of Bee,” Steve told me. “My dad said, ‘Dynamite comes in small packages.’ ”
When I tell Steve that his uncle is alleged to have murdered Siegel, he doesn’t flinch. He’s long suspected his family had secrets, he says, adding that his father once told him, “One of these days we’re gonna have to sit down and talk about your family history, because there are some interesting things that went on in L.A. that your family was involved in.” That conversation never happened, Steve says, but “I took it as dark history.”
Steve, who stands six feet four, remembers that his Uncle Moose was a “monster of a man,” with hands “three times bigger than mine and fingers like sausages.” And yet he had a sweetness to him. “So this story, that he’s the one that took out Bugsy, is really odd,” he tells me. Barely a beat later, though, he says, “But you know, you do things for love that you wouldn’t do for other things.”
If Moose had kids, of course, I’d be talking to them. Which is a thought I share with Penny Neal, the ex-wife of Robbie’s brother, Dick, when I reach her a second time. She and I have been talking about her memories of the Sedway family. She’s said that Bee told her the engagement ring that Dick gave her was “hot”—someone handed it over at the casino when they ran out of money. Penny is a colorful talker, and when I mention Moose’s lack of offspring, I’m just filling the spaces in the conversation like reporters sometimes do. But the minute I say it, there is silence on her end of the telephone. Wait, I say, did Moose have kids?
That’s when another secret drops: Penny believes that Robbie is Moose’s son. “It was so obvious,” she says. “He looked nothing like his father. He looked nothing like his brother. He was a horse of another color. He was a great big kid. Like Moose.” Even though he is diminished by illness, I have noticed how tall and square shouldered Robbie is—five feet ten. It’s odd, especially given how tiny his parents were. In photographs from the 1970s and ’80s, Robbie is striking—blond, rugged, not unlike a young Robert Redford. Dick wasn’t handsome like that, Penny notes. Neither was Moe Sedway.
I soon learn that Penny is not alone in her suspicions about Robbie’s connection to Moose. Mindy, too, remembers noticing that her uncle and Moose had the same hands: large and strong, the kind that dwarf your own in a handshake. Hurriedly I get in touch with Adam, Robbie’s stepson, saying there’s one more thing I need to ask Robbie. I know Robbie’s health is failing. The last time I saw him, I sat next to him on the bed in his and Renee’s sunny bedroom near the ocean. He was alert and articulate, but I noticed he was constantly struggling to clear his throat.
Now, Adam tells me, things have taken a sudden turn. Robbie’s gone into hospice. The next day, on July 6, just 48 hours after Penny has revealed that Moose may be Robbie’s father, Robbie passes away.
When I visit Renee several weeks after her husband’s death, she tells me that she, too, suspected Moose was Robbie’s real father. She even raised the topic with her husband once after she and her sons noticed the resemblance. “He said, ‘No one’s ever told me. I have my own suspicions, but I’m leaving it at that,’ ” she recalls. “I never pushed it.”
I reflect on a conversation I had with Robbie about the benefits of being a Sedway. For years after Moe passed away, when Robbie was a young man, he’d go bet on the greyhounds at the Agua Caliente Racetrack in Tijuana. His mom still kept in touch with Johnny Alessio, who helped run the place. So when Robbie arrived south of the border, he’d invoke Moe’s name, and Alessio would appear from the back office, ready to help. “We’d give him a program, and he would mark each race,” Robbie told me with a smile. “We always went home a winner.”
Indeed, there were perks that came with the Sedway name. Bee enjoyed them, too, even after her fortune was squandered, her lots on the Strip given away too cheaply, her Beverly Hills mansion lost to the highest bidder. Even after marrying Moose, she did not change her name to Pandza. She was a Sedway to the end.
I think about how H. Read Jackson, Bee’s would-be co-author, told me her book project was her attempt to gain forgiveness or to absolve her guilt. But now I wonder whether there was another secret Bee wished she could share. Maybe Moose left not one indelible mark on the world but two. It is possible, at least, that Mathew “Moose” Pandza eliminated one man from this earth and also that he helped create another. Maybe what Bee felt remorse about was not merely the role she said she’d played in a mobster’s death. Maybe it was also the fact that she had never acknowledged Moose’s other legacy, the one that would outlive him: Robbie. And maybe, without meaning to, an unwitting Robbie led me to that realization, too, just before dying himself.
He opened the door. And it’s still open.
Amy Wallace is the editor-at-large of Los Angeles. Her article on Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s movie Son of God appeared in the February 2014 issue.
This feature originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Los Angeles magazine.