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Wednesday, August 12, 2015


I just watched a documentary about Leona Helmsley, “The Queen of Mean.”  In 1972, Leona married Harry Helmsley and the Helmsley Hotel fortune, after Harry divorced his wife of 33 years.

Leona got her title for good reason.  She was ruthless and mean.  Stories of her business and personal brutality were Legendary.

The Helmsley's were filthy rich; Their Hotels and other real estate were worth billions.  Apparently that was not enough.  Though they paid millions in taxes, the Helmsley's hid some Hotel profits by lavishing their private properties using hotel profits and declaring it business expense.  To be fair, this was a common practice, and even today many meals which have nothing to do with “Entertaining” go on a business credit card.

When Ronald Regan changed the graduated income tax schedule from Draconian highs for the wealthy, over 70% for people earning over $200,000, the IRS also cracked down on unreasonable business expenses.  The Helmsley's did not relent and they got caught.

Both Helmsley's fought the charges and both went to jail.  Many thought the main reason Leona went to jail was because she was so unrepentant, and because she was just universally disliked for her ruthless business tactics.

I was not displeased when she went to jail.  I had a personal vendetta with the Queen of Mean.

In 1987 there was a frightening stock market crash.  Brokerage systems could not handle the incredible trading volume and the back office operations were in danger of not being able to process transactions.  The collapse of back office processing would have further exacerbated the market panic of that time. 

In 1987 I was a supervisor of transaction processing for a large brokerage firm.  When the crash hit on October 19, 1987 our staff worked through the night.  On day 2 of the panic many workers were put up in city hotels.  With no sleep for thirty five plus hours, I had a quick dinner and went to a Helmsley Hotel to share a room with my boss.

I showered for the first time in days, and piled into my bed exhausted.  As I drifted off to sleep, I rolled over and was startled by sudden dampness and the foul odor of urine.  It took several seconds before I realized what I was lying in and then I jumped out of bed yelling “WTF!”

My boss was startled, “What’s wrong?”

“This fucking mattress is soaked with piss.”


“Piss…Fucking Piss!”

We called the desk and complained…I just wanted to sleep.  I took another shower and waited in a bathrobe for a new mattress.  When services arrived with a new mattress, they found the mattress soaked in pee, me in my bathrobe with sleep deprived saggy eyes, and my older boss awake in his bed.

They changed out the mattress with not an apology, but instead accusatory glances at two “Gay Dudes” (Not that there is anything wrong with that) that couldn’t hold their water.

I was double pissed.  I called the desk demanding money off (for the firm, I was not paying) a free breakfast, or complimentary anything and an apology.  I got nothing.

The Queen of Mean’s personality apparently filtered down to her management and her staff.

Years later when Leona was found guilty and sentenced to sixteen years in jail, I thought the punishment was more than she deserved.  They made an example of Leona to warn others.  They picked Leona to make an example because she was so universally disliked.

It really wasn’t fair.  Harry and Leona got 16 years, practically life sentences.  Leona was 72, Harry 83.

How did I feel about it?



  1. Enjoyed reading the story...

  2. I dream of being filthy rich, but would never ever be mean about it. My plan is to share with my family, that's about 2 dozen people.
    I'd say those Helmsleys got what they deserved.

  3. Well, that was a disturbing story! Gross!

    And that picture makes me wonder if she was 'transitioning'?

  4. I remember all that kerfuffle, and never shed a tear for Leona.

  5. People do take advantage of business tax expenses. One of my friends in an other job used to make doll dresses on the side. She would buy and use things once for the business and then for personal use as her accountant said that if she used even a small part of the things she bought still the whole purchase is tax deductable. Leona Hemsley took this loophole to a much greater level than a couple of yards of wholesale purchase of cloth or even thread and needle.

  6. I always think about "Karma" when Leona's name comes up. I still cringe at her statement: Taxes are for the little people.

  7. I couldn't remember so I googled her and saw that she served 19 months in jail and 2 months house arrest. I agree 16 years is a lot unless anyone else who didn't pay taxes got the same (heck "half" of Congress should be in jail). I think you were more tolerant than I would have been about the mattress.


  8. I remember her. Money doesn't guarantee class at all. Not one bit.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

  9. I do remember that mess and I think her face alone made me glad she got prison. No one has a face like that unless it was earned. I always think Dorian Gray when I see that photo.

  10. Oh wow she just looks like a mean person. ....actually she kind of looks like a teacher from my elementary school, who was just as nice.

  11. Didn't Leona leave her money to her dog? I'm surprised nobody paid a portly mailman to kidnap it...

  12. She was mean, and it's awful that they ran their hotels so poorly that housekeeping overlooked such a mess.

  13. My goodness that was not a nice experience for you! Really gross, in fact!

  14. Totally understand how you felt! And since I'm one of those "little people" who pays taxes, I still have that same taste in my mouth as when she originally made that comment.

  15. Is this one of those "Hand me a mop....with all this horse piss, there's gotta be
    a horse in here, somewhere" stories?
    I do remember that Helmsley messy story. I'm getting so dang old, it seems
    like yesterday. LOL