Before her death a decade ago, New York Hotelier Leona Helmsley was the most hated woman in America. Ruthless and conniving with business associates, tax fraud put the millionairess in jail while slapping and insulting employees put her in the headlines.
When her son died she sued her daughter-in-law to get possession of his estate, wiping the woman out financially. Well earned and on the money, Leona Helmsley was known as the ‘Queen of Mean.’ She gave credence to that old saying about the rich: “If you want to know what God thought of money, look at the people He gave it to!” The woman also had an affinity for dogs which may have resulted from so many people referring to her as a ‘bitch!’
Leona became famous for her unique take on American financial responsibility. “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” Sound familiar? Remember when Trump was accused of not paying taxes he said: “That makes me smart.” I know what you’re thinking but … no, I checked and nobody in the Leona Helmsley extended family ever had orange hair.
In her will, Helmsley left $100,000 to her driver, because although he did have motive and opportunity, he did not back the limo over her. The bulk of her wealth, $12.5 million was bequeathed to her little, snow white Maltese dog named ‘Trouble.’
Yeah, with one swipe of the pen in a lawyer’s office, the gap between the rich and the poor didn’t just jump a generation, it jumped a whole species! Suddenly running around a New York mansion was a fluffy little bitch with a “Puddy Toy” in her mouth who could well afford to take in hundreds of homeless people! Or stray dogs.
Think about it, you’re spoiled little mutt now worth twelve and a half mil! You wouldn’t have to hit me twice on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper to figure that one out:
If I was a rich dog,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba, deedle deedle dum,
All day long I’d scooch across the rug,
On my deedle deedle, biddy biddy bum
If I were a wealthy dog …
I know exactly what I’d do if I was a multimillionaire mutt. First, I’d have all those guys in the painting “Dogs Playing Poker” over for a weekly Friday night card game. (And I’d give them cab fare so they didn’t have to drink and drive.) Not one for playing with toys, I’d hire a bunch of Weiner dogs to come to my mansion and do that for me. (I’d also have vet cones put on the heads just because I find that so damn funny!) I’d get fitted for a pair of Depends and then I’d walk through Central Park attempting but failing to pee on trees. I would give most of my money to humanitarian and former US President Jimmy Carter to negotiate a lasting peace agreement between cats and dogs. The remainder of my windfall would go to a lobby group to enlist the mandatory death penalty for anybody involved in dog fighting except of course the dogs.
‘Trouble’ it seems, had no such lofty ideals. Given New York City’s cold, damp winters and the fact she was now fifty-six human years of age – she just moved to Florida. Yeah, snow white became a snowbird almost overnight.
She flew by private jet under the assumed name of “Bubble” – not making this up – so as not to throw off dog haters and kidnappers. Once in “The Sunshine State,” she settled into the exclusive Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel in Sarasota for the rest of her natural, privileged life.
Staff catered to ‘Trouble’s’ every whim 24/7. From an annual $100,000 budget, $8000 was spent on grooming, $1200 on food and $28,000 on a gigolo service for crazy rich Maltese Matriarchs. Okay, I made that last one up. However the bulk of her annual cost of living went to around the clock security after receiving more than two dozen death and kidnapping threats. Think about it, you’re in the professional abduction business. Which would you prefer to get your hands on – Jean Paul Getty’s ear or a goofy little pup with her own American Express Card?
‘Trouble’ got old and bored and eventually passed away at 12 years of age. I mean when you get tired of watching Dog Vision TV and biting the butler’s ankles what is there left to live for.
The final line of Leona’s will read: “I direct that when my dog, Trouble, dies, her remains shall be buried next to my remains in the Helmsley mausoleum.”
Pets however, are not allowed to be buried in that cemetery in Westchester County, New York. ‘Trouble’ was subsequently cremated. Kinda touching really, the ‘Queen of Mean’ burning in hell and her faithful Maltese ablaze in a small animal oven. Leona and Trouble together at last.
Trouble was eventually “privately retained” according to Eileen Sullivan, spokeswoman for the Helsmley Family Trust which “supports charities.” Leona’s charities probably provided legal fees for people who put pins in the Halloween candy or free lunches for people who help little old ladies halfway across busy New York City Streets.
For comments, ideas and copies of The Legend of Zippy Chippy, go to www.williamthomas.ca