Helmsley defense alleges gay sex parties

BY Advocate.com Editors

January 25 2003 12:00 AM ET

Defense testimony in the civil trial against hotel magnate Leona Helmsley got under way Thursday with lurid allegations of gay sex parties. Helmsley is being sued by Charles Bell, the former manager of the Park Lane Hotel in Manhattan, who says that Helmsley fired him because he is gay.

Park Lane maids testified that Bell's suite in the hotel often looked like a sex torture den before they cleaned up the rooms. Khady Kandji of Queens said she usually cleaned Bell's 10th-floor rooms between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday. She said she often found sex toys and silver rings on the nightstand, bloody sheets and towels, and body oils. "Sometimes I would see champagne," Kandji, a native of Senegal, testified. She said she once entered Bell's rooms and found a man reclining on the sofa and a naked man lying on the floor.

Kandji said that when she entered Bell's quarters on Valentine's Day 2001, she discovered Bell and approximately 10 other men, all dressed in black leather, in a room festooned with balloons and flowers, with music playing.

"I asked them if they needed service," Kandji said. "Mr. Bell said, 'We don't need service tonight.' I went out and put out the 'Do not disturb' sign."

Bell, 48, said outside court that Kandji's testimony was "absolutely untrue," adding that his rooms were usually cleaned in the morning and that Kandji was an evening "turn-down" service room attendant who was almost never required to be in his suite.

Bell's lawyer, Geri Krauss, accused Helmsley's lawyers of gay bashing and said, "That the defendants have to resort to this kind of smear campaign is the best evidence that they have no defense on the merits. This has nothing to do with this case."

Jeffrey Taub, one of Helmsley's attorneys, said the purpose of the testimony from Kandji and other housekeeping staff was to attack Bell's credibility.

"Bell testified that he had no wild parties at the hotel," Taub said. "The things that he testified to are turning out to be untrue. Mr. Bell was not a quiet, reserved man doing his job. The Bell they talk about--that's the Bell we want to come out."

Taub and cocounsel Steven Eckhaus say Bell was fired because he lied about his work history to get a job for which he was unqualified. They have called several gay employees of Helmsley's--including the Park Lane's current general manager--to rebut Bell's charges.

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