Kiki Roberts

“Kiki” by George H. Rothacker, 2013
acrylic on canvas - 24" x 16"
(Click image for larger view)
Though women have played secondary roles in crime throughout history, their reputation within the mob world grew to legendary proportions in the 1920s and 30s as their fates intertwined with those of gangsters and mafia men.

Margaret Kelly “stood by her man” when arrested for a dance hall holdup and murder in New York in 1932, and 17 year-old Nancy Serville was charged in 1936 for being the lookout for a gang in Queens.  Marie Baker… Margaret Kane….Lottie Coll…. and Jean Hanover were all taken in by the charms of mob men, but no mob affair was more notorious than that of Jack “Legs” Diamond and Marion “Kiki” Roberts.

Legs Diamond began a life of crime in the 1920s, bootlegging, trafficking drugs and raqueteering. By 1931, he was the most notorious gangster in New York City.

Roberts was a beautiful showgirl who had performed for several years with the Ziegfeld Follies. Legs, a married man,  was captivated with Kiki’s looks, figure and attitude. Kiki found Legs charming and dangerous. So dangerous , in fact, that she was with him during an attempt on his life in 1930, and the night of his murder in an Albany Hotel in December of 1931.

After Legs Diamond’s death, Kiki went to Hollywood with aspirations to become a film star. But her past caught up with her, and she was found too “shady,” by the film censorship czar Will Hayes, to appear in movies. She moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania, for a short returning to the stage by trading on her fame as the “sweetheart of a notorious gunman.”  She eventually faded into obscurity.