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. (Read more Leona Helmsley stories.)