Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Leona: Homophobe?

Lots of news stories in the wake of Leona Helmsley's passing. The one that caught my ear when I was getting ready for work this morning was an assertion by gossip columnist Cindy Adams. Adams' elderly, disabled mother was staying as an invited guest at Leona's Palm Beach estate until Leona found out that some of the mother's attendants were gay. Then she called federal marshalls to escort the elderly woman off the premises.

This seems like one of those apocryphal stories about the Queen of Mean, and easy to believe, except it flies in the face of something I know from close secondhand experience. My mother used to work as a secretary at one of Helmsley's companies and a lot of the executives were gay. In fact, the only story I distinctly remember my mother telling me about the Queen saying "Off With Her Head" was about a temporary receptionist who said, "One moment, Ms. Hemsley," making the real estate mogul a distant relative of George Jefferson.

But by all accounts she was difficult to work with, and a real character, and the stories about her will perpetuate for many years.

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