Former employees say Helmsley targeted gay manager for firing

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com January 18 2003 12:00 AM ET

Two security officers who formerly worked for hotel magnate Leona Helmsley testified Thursday that she fired the gay manager of the hotel in which she lives soon after learning that the man who hired him, her supposed boyfriend, is also gay. Andrew Martinez, 40, of Middletown, N.J., said Helmsley zeroed in on Charles Bell, former general manager of her pricey Park Lane Hotel, after she fired Patrick Ward, her former chief operating officer and the man she thought was her boyfriend. After learning in early 2001 that Ward is gay, Helmsley fired him, Martinez said. "She called him a fag," Martinez said. "She said she once caught him trying on her underwear." After Ward was fired, it seemed that Bell couldn't do anything right in Helmsley's view, Martinez said. He quoted Helmsley as saying, "I got rid of one fag. I want to get rid of another."

Martinez, a former New York City police officer, said he was told to "dig up anything I could," including telephone records, that could be used by Helmsley to justify firing Bell. He said Helmsley derided Bell, who used to work in Florida, as part of "the Miami faggot crowd." Martinez said he warned Bell: "She's coming after you."

Martinez was testifying at the trial concerning Bell's $40 million lawsuit against Helmsley. Bell, 48, claims the hotel queen subjected him to a vicious antigay campaign of terror for several months after learning that he is gay and then fired him from his $110,000-a-year job on March 23, 2001. Helmsley has denied that she fired Bell "for any improper reason." She also said she offered to rehire Bell for a comparable job, with a raise--before he filed suit against her. Bell says this is true but that he refused to risk Helmsley's abuse again.

John Moore, 38, of the Bronx, testified that he worked as a security officer for Helmsley for 14 years. He said he talked to her every day when he met with her to take her blood pressure and administer medication in her penthouse atop the 48-floor, 600-room hotel overlooking Central Park. Moore said Helmsley, who had already asked him about Ward's and Bell's sexual orientation, once asked him whether he knew that Ward wore her underwear and her dresses. Moore said, "I told her I had no idea."

On occasion, Moore testified, Helmsley asked him to have lunch and watch television with her. While watching an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Moore testified, Helmsley noticed the shaved head of actor Patrick Stewart and said, "Look! Look! There's fag boy!" Moore said he asked Helmsley what she meant and that she said she was talking about Bell, who has a shaved head and slightly resembles Stewart. Martinez testified that Helmsley also thought Donald Trump was gay. "'He's gay too!'" he quoted her as allegedly saying. "'He wears a lot of makeup!'"