TOUGH TIMES FOR THE QUEEN

Ryne Sandberg of the Chicago Cubs signs for $30 million and everyone says, Swell." A rock musician makes $40 million and everyone nods their heads. Jack Nicholson makes $50 million for his role in Batman and we all look forward to Batman Returns. We have moved into a fantasy world where only athletes, actors, musicians and the top operating officers of corporations are considered worth the money they make.

At 71, Leona Helmsley is probably right when she says four years in jail for her is comparable to a double death sentence for both her and her husband, who is now 83.

Harry Helmsley is in such poor health that the government even admitted he couldn't stand trial. In his later years, he has grown exceedingly frail. He is totally dependent on Leona. If she goes to jail and leaves him, he will be done.

For the IRS, this is all a wonderful opportunity to use the Helmsleys as an example to reluctant taxpayers. ²It's hardly coincidental that Leona was first indicted for income-tax evasion on April 14 a couple of years back.

I find it even more chilling that she has now been ordered to report to prison on April 15-the date for filing taxes all over the country.

The message is clear: Don't mess with the Internal Revenue Service. No matter how rich you are, we will come after you. And we will take you down.

The public view of Leona Helmsley is that she is the Queen of Mean," who once supposedly boasted that only little people pay taxes." So she's the perfect target for the IRS. She is rich and she has an extremely high profile. Destroy Leona Helmsley and it will be much easier to collect taxes all over the country.

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I am talking again with Ellie Shapiro, the real estate lady.
Why don't you give me one of the photos of the Helmsley house so we can run it with the story in the paper?" I ask. Oy yoy yoy," Ellie says, you want pictures?

Mrs. Helmsley doesn't want pictures of her houses in the papers. She's already receiving threats about what might happen to her when she gets in prison." On the first day we talked, Ellie said that she would get Leona to talk to me. What she didn't realize was that I didn't need Leona to write this piece. In fact, a lot of self-serving statements by Leona would only get in the way.

But I can tell that Shapiro feels badly about not being able to produce Leona. She can't talk to you," Shapiro says, trying to be kind. A national magazine is coming to see her this week." One final note: From other sources, I learn that Leona, ever the enterprising real estate person, has quietly placed her Mummy Mountain house up for sale.

There is just one proviso. No one gets to see the place unless it is first determined they are capable of producing several million in cash- for the down payment!

A WORD TO THE WISE: DON'T GET SICK ... v4-01-92

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