Keep the Helmsley Brand, No Matter the Trouble

Helmsley SandcastleSARASOTA – While the queen isn’t around anymore, her name is still standing guard at her castle.

We are talking, of course, about Leona Helmsley, who achieved a Paris Hilton-amount of fame in the 1980s for not only her travails, but her role as the woman who wouldn’t let anything past her at the chain of Helmsley Hotels and Suites that were founded by her husband. While not pretty like another hotel-name celebrity Paris Hilton, she had one thing in common, namely her love for dogs. She left the thing $12 million, along with the rest to charity. The rest is American history.

According to press reports, Trouble, the $12 million pooch, lives here in Sarasota. I will keep my eye open when I’m out on Lido Key. I hope the pooch comes near to the Helmsley Sandcastle, as her caretaker is the hotel manager, according to The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin.

Today, those Helmsley-branded hotels are still around. We just hope that the brand can live after the estate is settled. The name is memorable, and all the Marie Antoinette bad stuff looks quite tame compared to the greed we’ve seen in recent months. We are sure she has a few people (including family, and those folks who were fired) who were not amused by her, but the name wasn’t just Leona, but Harry too.

Name brands like this are important. In the 1980s, Americans flocked to the Helmsley Palace, which is now the New York Palace. The hotel, constructed over a McKim, Mead and White mansion, dropped the Helmsley name in 1992, but it stayed on the other properties, including the Helmsley Park Lane. New Yorkers might not have been amused by all the glamour, but the rest of the nation ate it up, and secretly wished to see Leona inspecting the hotel’s kitchens and bathrooms. In a sense, it was all a very middle class approach, even though the luxury made Texas oil folk VERY happy on their Christmas trips to New York.

Hotel name changes are frequent, particularly with franchised hotels. Less so with urban hotels that are not dependent on chains. For instance, the venerable St. Moritz, loved for its ice cream shop Rumplemayer’s, ought to have been reflagged Ritz-Carlton St. Moritz, instead of the Ritz-Carlton New York Central Park. (Rumplemayer’s was the scene of a tiff between Joe and Joey DiMaggio, where Marilyn Monroe interceded between the two over the exorbitant price of a soda there.)

That being said, to tell the oh-so-fascinating Helmsley story, we need some things around that tell it, including the following hotels. Certainly, the Helmsley’s name will not be forgotten, as much of the fortune will go to medical causes.

Below is the list of Helmsley hotels still extant.

  • The Helmsley Park Lane, 36 Central Park South, New York, New York 10019, Tel: 212-371-4000, Reservations: 212-521-6640, Toll-free: 1-800-221-4982 (Queen and Trouble lived here)
  • The New York Helmsley, 212 East 42nd Street, New York, New York 10017, Tel: 212-490-8900, Toll-free Reservations: 1-800-221-4982
  • The Helmsley Carlton House, 680 Madison Avenue, New York, NY, Tel: 212-838-3000, Reservations: 212-888-1624
  • The Helmsley Middletowne 148 East 48th Street, New York, New York 10017, Tel: 212-755-3000
  • The Helmsley Sandcastle, 1540 Ben Franklin Drive, Sarasota, Florida 34236, Tel: 941-388-2181, Toll-free: 1-800-225-2181 (The Queen stayed here!)

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