Monday, September 10, 2007

Leona Helmsley, the original Freeper

Leona Helmsley had to have been one of the nastiest people who ever lived.

When the multibillionaire hotelier died last month at the age of 87, her autocratic ways were rehashed for the whole world to see. Helmsley was spoiled most of her life. She wasn't one of the guiltily rich but rather the type who thought everyone owed her. When I was in high school, during Helmsley's tax evasion trial, there was some girl in my class who always referred to her own mom as "Leona" because she was supposedly mean and greedy.

Helmsley gained infamy years earlier for greedily encouraging her husband to ruin numerous apartment buildings by converting them into condos for the very rich. Once, Leona Helmsley tried forcing her apartment tenants to buy condos - and when they refused, she verbally abused them until they sued her.

During the later tax evasion trial, one of her former housekeepers said that Helmsley gloated, "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes." When Helmsley got sent to prison, she reportedly had the nerve to complain about the prison-issue garb that was provided for her. Because she thought she was superior to the other inmates, she threw a fit over not being to able to wear fancy dresses in prison.

The prison sentence was 16 years, after Helmsley was convicted of numerous counts ranging from tax evasion to mail fraud. But because Leona Helmsley was special and all, she only had to serve a bit more than 1½ years of her 16-year sentence. (If she was poor, there's no way she would have been let out after only 1½ years.) She also had to do 750 hours of community service, but 150 hours were added to this because she made her employees perform some of her community service for her.

Later in life, Helmsley was estranged from her own grandchildren and spent most of her time watching teevee in her luxurious penthouse in Manhattan. She had hardly a friend in the world. She was also sued for firing a worker because he was gay and had to pay almost $600,000.

But Helmsley never stopped living the high life. She owned 4 homes and a jet airplane with a bedroom suite. One account says that near the end of her life she finally got a glimmer of conscience and donated to several worthy causes. The rest of the time, however, Helmsley was just so out of control that few people could grasp her excessive lifestyle and her greed that would have put Boss Hogg to shame. Helmsley once made a store clerk rewrite a bill for earrings that she buyed just so she could save $4 of sales taxes. And, after her son died, she sued her son's estate for items she said he had borrowed, and she callously evicted her son's widow from their home. During the funeral, Leona lunged towards her 14-year-old grandson and accused him of killing him.

After Leona Helmsley's recent death, when I read about some of her escapades, I tried to think where I'd heard such extreme self-indulgence before. Then I remembered I had seen it daily from the Free Republic crowd - the Freepers, as they call themselves. Over on Freak Rethuglic, one of their perennial complaints when someone posts an article about welfare, the homeless, or the minimum wage is that everybody thinks everyone owes them something. But while they complain that the poor expect to be indulged, they never have to worry about being poor themselves.

Every person who complains about the poor allegedly wanting something for nothing is rich. Every person who groans about the government and other agencies allegedly bending over backwards for the poor is rich. Always. Without fail. No exceptions.

Like recently when we discussed how a Freeper was angry at people using the beach along the oceanfront property he owned (even though the beach was public property). The indignant clod declared, "As far as I'm concerned, the public and 'their rights' can go screw themselves." This sounds quite a bit like Helmsley's supposed declaration that "we don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes." Both statements are progeny of the robber barons' selfish declaration of a century ago: "Public be damned."

It is Freepers - not the poor - who always expect to be indulged. The Free Republic intelligentsia (or more accurately, stupidsia) generally supports the UnfairTax that would shift the tax burden to the poor. Freepers are more likely to be society's wage payers, and are usually against any policy that would help the wage earners. Freepers expect the government to side with the fortunate few. Their fury over the Michigan beach ruling sprouted from the fact that the verdict nixed what was effectively a government giveaway of free land to wealthy beachfront property owners. Through all of this, however, the privileged few who people Freak Rethuglic portray themselves as oppressed victims.

Even in death, Leona Helmsley is pampered to a degree that few others can imagine. She was laid to rest in a mausoleum valued at $1,400,000. The multibillionaire's resting place is on a posh hillside with picturesque river views. The 1,300-square-foot mausoleum has stained glass windows of the New York skyline.

So that's the life story of a person who may be the original Freeper.


  1. What do you personally do to help the poor, Tim?

  2. Maybe the owner of this blog doesn;t vote for a bunch of reactionary weirdoes who loot the poor to pad their own spoiled existence??

  3. I mean, do you volunteer at soup kitchens or food shelters. That kind of thing.

  4. Do you??????

    Why so much worry about what the Bandit does, and none about what say Congress/the WH/the state legislature does, who have far more power to set policy??

  5. Never rely on professional politicians to do what we can do ourselves. A government program will never fix anything, never has and never will. How many of these lawmakers do you think actually have spent a single hour getting their hands dirty actually helping people out? Very, very few if any. Not unless the TV cameras are rolling and there's a crowd of PR aides and reporters to make them look good.

  6. We pay our tax dollars to politicians to do these things.

  7. If you do nothing at all to help the poor - and paying your taxes is not helping the poor - then you have no business demanding that anyone give more money to help the poor. That is hypocrisy.

  8. Where in this entry does Bandit demand more money to help the poor?? It isn't there...