As the recollections of late hotelier Leona Helmsley start pouring in, the New York Post does its best to illustrate the impenetrable nature of her character in the form of an unintentional point-counterpoint between columnists Andrea Peyser and Cindy Adams. The issue in question? How Leona felt about the gays.


In 2003, a leather-loving freak named Charles Bell sued Leona - claiming she'd fired him as Park Lane Hotel manager because he was gay. Which, in the homosexual-heavy hotel biz, would be like firing an interior decorator for having good taste.

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Two years earlier, a much-younger man, Patrick Ward, tricked Leona into believing he was her boyfriend. With great mortification, she discovered Ward was gay. Of course, he sued her, too.

The back-to-back scandals gave Leona a rep as a homophobe, when she was nothing of the kind. I tend to think she was misunderstood. Or an easy target. Perhaps she just never cared what anyone thought of her.

Perhaps! Cindy?

I maintained a Palm Beach apartment where my fragile, wheelchair-bound mother went every winter, accompanied by loving people to care for her. Leona had a lavish spread nearby which, with all her problems, she couldn't visit. Although it wasn't necessary or requested, she insisted my mother use her facilities. This satisfied no need for us. It actually was bothersome because mom had to be transported there. Anyway, possibly motivated by a sense of control, Leona kept insisting. My little group finally went.

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When Mrs. Helmsley's monitors reported to her that mom's small coterie of caretakers and their friends were gay, she went ape. She screamed: "Remove them. I will not have homosexuals in my cabana. Throw the whole bunch out!!!"

Startled, reeling in disbelief, they began falling all over themselves to grab up their clothes and gear because Leona had actually summoned marshals. These marshals came onto the property and physically removed my mother.

Wow, the issue seems so murky and difficult to determine. We'd turn to Gail Collins over at the Times to settle the whole thing, but her encomium somehow doesn't once mention the gays, so we're over it.

The Leona Chronicles [NYT]