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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 59

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This is the grave of Leona Helmsley.

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Born Lena Rosenthal in Marbletown, New York in 1920, Leona Helmsley was always a rather strange individual, having changed her name over and over again for years before deciding upon Leona Roberts. She married an attorney and then a garment industry capitalist before she met real estate entrepreneur Harry Helmsley in 1968 while working in a real estate job. She was already a millionaire, in part due to his previous marriages and in part to her work in selling luxury New York apartments. She joined Helmsley’s firm as a vice-president. He then divorced his wife of 33 years and married her in 1972. Her real estate license was suspended soon after for forcing the tenets of one her apartment buildings to buy condos. She then turned to managing Helmsley’s hotel empire.

Leona Helmsley was not a nice person. When her only son died in 1982, she sent his wife an eviction notice within a few days of his funeral. She was known for force employees on their knees to beg for their jobs, refusing to pay bills for her projects, and for screaming at people. When their engineer, trying to protect himself, asked Helmsley to sign a document invoicing expenses, she screamed “You’re not my fucking partner! You’ll sign what I tell you to sign.” The employees of her hotels actually created an alarm system when she came to visit one of the properties so they could prepare for the horror to come.

Tax evasion was a particular specialty of the Helmsleys. Her most famous statement of course was “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” It got so bad that even the utter loathsome U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani indicted her and her husband on tax fraud and extortion, by which time they owed over $4 million in back taxes. She was convicted and originally sentenced to 16 years in prison, although her lawyers got it reduced to 19 months.

When she died in 1997, Helmsley was worth around $5 billion. She famously left her dog a $12 million trust.

Donald Trump of course has claimed that she wanted to have sex with him.

As you can see, the Helmsleys were all class and subtlety. And thus they did something that the rich haven’t really done in a century–build themselves a gigantic Gilded Age-style mausoleum, of which you only see a small bit of in this picture I took. They wanted the dog interred with them, but New York state laws forbids that. Hopefully President Trump can Make New York Great Again and fix this tyranny.

Helmsley has been portrayed a couple of times on the screen. Suzanne Pleshette played her in the 1990 TV movie Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean. And Mary Manofsky played her in a 2007 episode of The Ointment, in which she evidently appears from the grave. That’s a horror story too scary for me.

Leona Helmsley is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, New York.

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