awning_02Once upon a time there was a decade when glitz and glamour were a white stretch limousine. Geometric shapes, brass accents, red carpets, plush leopard prints and marbled walls were sleek design décor. Colours such as mauve, taupe and seafoam green were fashionably chic. And when that limo pulled up beneath the iconic marquee proudly boasting the famed surname Helmsley, you had indeed arrived.

The hotel’s success and immaculate decor was largely down to Leona Helmsley, hotel tycoon and style queen. Her presence may have been famously notorious, but so was her sense of style.

21“I remember years ago sitting in the office busily typing,” said long-time employee Mercedes. “Suddenly the door opened up, and I jumped up in reaction. There she was looking perfect and dressed so beautifully right there in front of me.”

“She was always so beautifully dressed, and she had a very beautiful smile. She would flash it on when she liked someone and was nice to someone. You could always tell when she liked you. Before I could say anything to her about how beautiful she looked, she just walked right in, looked at me, and then just continued on. It startled me. It was almost like it never happened.”

A stickler for details, there was nothing that Leona didn’t catch. If she thought there was something that might compromise the quality of her real estate cubs, as the lioness she was always quick to protect her little ones.

Leona’s attention to detail was unheard of and unparalleled in the hotel industry.

“She was really into being into everything,” recalled a New York Helmsley insider. “She would walk into the kitchen and make sure everything was perfect and everything was very clean.”

Unlike competing hotels, she was a corporate head who really was involved with the day-to-day activities – much to both the staff’s chagrin and admiration. “At these other hotels, the top people weren’t involved with every thing the way Mrs. H was. She really cared. It was very important to her to make sure everything really was beautifully prepared.”

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