Hotelier Helmsley Dead at 87

'Queen of Mean' learns certainty of death, if not taxes

By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 20, 2007 1:21 PM CDT

(Newser) – Leona Helsmley, the notoriously tyrannical real-estate baroness dubbed New York’s “Queen of Mean,” died of heart failure today at 87. The Brooklyn native took the reins of her husband Harry's real-estate empire in the 70s, and soon her name was synonymous with both luxe hotels and the churlish, hard-nosed style of public figuredom she helped forge.

Helmsley got most of her exposure during a sensational tax-evasion trial, prosecuted by Rudy Giuliani, which fanned her alleged declaration that “only the little people pay taxes,” and led to an 18-month prison sentence. The four-time-bride and multi-billionaire left prison one of the most reviled people in New York—even her lawyer describes her as a "tough bitch"—despite generous and promiscuous charitable donations.

Leona Helmsley and her husband, self-made billionaire Harry Helmsley, arrive at federal court in this file photo of April 30, 1988, in New York, where they were facing tax evasion charges. Leona Helmsley...   (Associated Press)
Leona Helmsley In Court.   (Getty Images)
Hotelier Leona Helmsley is surrounded by her attorneys Jeffrey Taub, left, and Steven Eckhaus, right, outside State Supreme Court, in this file photo of Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2003, in New York. Helmsley,...   (Associated Press)
Hotelier Leona Helmsley is escorted by her attorney Steven Eckhaus outside State Supreme Court, in this file photo of Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2003, in New York. Helmsley, who was reviled as the "queen of mean,"...   (Associated Press)
Hotelier Leona Helmsley, 87, shown in this September 1991 file photo, died in Greenwich, Ct., Monday, Aug. 20, 2007. Helmsley, who was reviled as the "queen of mean," and went to prison as a tax cheat,...   (Associated Press)
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