Helmsley takes the stand

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com January 29 2003 12:00 AM ET

Leona Helmsley, testifying in her own defense against a $40 million lawsuit, said Tuesday that she fired hotel manager Charles Bell because he violated company policies and not because he is gay.

The 82-year-old hotel queen said she has never fired anyone because they were gay and said she currently has gay employees, including the current manager of the Park Lane Hotel, where Bell had worked. "I fired Mr. Bell for other reasons," she said.

Helmsley testified that Bell, 48, of Manhattan, was doing things that were not permissible at her hotel. She said she had learned he was using drugs, adding that she had lost her own son to drugs. She also countered the plaintiff's testimony that she had referred to Bell by an antigay term. She said witnesses who testified on his behalf were lying.

Helmsley appeared relaxed but slightly angry on the witness stand. Although her voice was subdued when she was examined by her lawyer, Steven G. Eckhaus, she was much more forceful and animated when answering questions on cross-examination by Bell's lawyer, Geri Krauss.