Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Leona Helmsley: 'The Queen of Mean'

The 'Queen of Mean'

Few people sympathized for the Helmsleys' predicament. In fact, many welcomed the news that the Helmsleys could face jail time, especially Leona, who had a made lot of enemies. She had become notorious for her gross mistreatment of employees at many of the Helmsley hotel chains across the United States. Yet, she was even more widely known throughout the country for her obsession with perfection.

Leona was brought into the public spotlight when she appeared in a series of highly successful ad campaigns devised to boost occupancy sales for their luxurious Madison Avenue hotel known as the Helmsley Palace. Her image as a demanding "queen" expecting the best in terms of luxury accommodations appeared in magazines, newspapers and billboards in almost every major city and airport across the United States. Leona's image was almost as popular as many household brands.

Leona in ad for the Helmsley Palace
Leona in ad for the Helmsley Palace

In actuality, Leona considered herself to be a queen of sorts, at least of the Helmsley hotels. She had absolute rule over the operation of her and her husband's hotel properties and she was a stickler for perfection. Any transgressions by employees would be met with scathing contempt, ridicule and banishment from her realm.

Her volatile temper and intolerance to disobedience became legendary. There were hundreds of accounts from ex-employees concerning incidents where Leona would threaten and verbally abuse them before being terminated for the slightest infraction. She was also known to extort money and services from employees and business suppliers, under threat of losing their positions or her as a client. Employees were even known to tremble out of fear in her presence because of her unpredictable behavior. Leona's notorious moods and unpleasant character earned her the nickname, the "Queen of Mean." Her reputation and unethical business conduct would eventually prove to be her undoing.


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