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Mystery Solved - Leona Beldini WAS Burlesque Dancer Hope Diamond

HOPE DIAMOND - Vintage Burlesque Dancer Stripper Photos

Just "Click the Pix" to see a larger view.

  • From my archives.

When I first posted about Hope Diamond, a couple of years ago, I couldn't find much about her, just a couple of info-bits. Since then, more info has been added online as Hope was involved in a big news story.

Starting with what I originally had:

"... Eddie Kaplan has unearthed a new strip by the name and title of Hope Diamond - The Gem of the Exotics ..."

  • From my archives, with newspaper ad. She was billed as "The Gem of Exotics".

  • From my archives. One of Hope's promo brochures.

A few more pix from my archives...

And that's where I ended it -- until the recent developments caused me to try to find out more about Hope Diamond -- read on:

At first there were just unsubstantiated rumors that the recently-arrested New Jersey politico Leona Beldini was once an exotic dancer known as Hope Diamond.

Back on my original post, about Hope Diamond, "Mr. Anonymous" had come along and commented that he had known Hope when he was a young boy.

I asked for more, but he didn't share any more info at that time.

Then a few days ago, following the series of arrests in Jersey, I received an email from the same "Mr. Anonymous", saying: "I got a big surprise on the news last night!"

No other info, except for a link to a news article about the big New Jersey political corruption bust, with Leona Beldini's photo. Curious, I tried to find out more...


Here's the article about Leona Beldini, which has a photo of Leona Beldini, and info about her arrest. Below the article there are reader's comments that allude to rumors that Leona was/is Hope Diamond.


Digging a little deeper, I found a comment posted on another discussion forum [note: it has since been removed] where "Anonymous" wrote about Leona - here's an excerpt, minus some parts that our Mr. Anonymous asked me to leave out to spare his family:

"... WOW, I just saw Leona Beldini arrested on the news. She is (was?) the Deputy Mayor of Jersey City, NJ for a while now... let me share this little tidbit, and a few of you may actually have heard of her before and not realized it is the same person- Hope 'Diamond' was her Stage name. Hope was one of that last stronghold Burlesque Gals before said art dissolved. ..."

"Anonymous" went on to say: "... Beldini is her ex-husband, drummer for The Morris Naton Trio through the 60s. Any one in the Jersey area back then and doing Jazz clubs may well have heard Al Beldini play. The Fountain in Palisades Park was one place I remember, I was way young, but got dragged in tow often. My Mom and she [Hope/Leona] swapped watching each other's kids. So her son and I spend a lot of time age 7-9ish, etc

Hope, when I was a kid was HOT HOT HOT!! Her act included a fake bubble bathtub, bubble machine and pasties... There was a poster of her in stage regalia in a sidewalk glass marquee well into the 80s, I used to show my friends on NYC jaunts as teens. ..."


I kept digging, and came up with a couple supportive-ish info-tidbits that back the story up.

According to the book "Burlesque" by Jane Briggeman, Hope Diamond graduated from high school in Princeton, New Jersey, so the location fits.

And this tid-bit from famous Burlesque Stripper / Belly Dancer, Nejla Ates bio-page adds a little more credence to the babysitting comment:

"... 5 April 61 -- Hope Diamond wins a legal separation from her husband in New York on grounds that he deserted her for Nejla.

Hope Diamond and Bobby Colt have a one-year-old son. ..."


That's where I left it, with a request for reader's help with more info.

And along comes the generous Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff, the editor of MondoQT.com.

She was able to come up with some more info and corroborating facts, and wrote a great article about the Hope Diamond/Leona Beldini mystery on her MondoQT.com website, titled Lady of Burlesque/Hope Diamond, Jersey City Deputy Mayor?

Here's an exerpt:

"... More conclusive was a 1965 article in The Harvard Crimson, in which a reporter interviews Hope Diamond backstage at a Boston Theater. Hope's non-stage name is given as Leona Bonaccolti. ... [and] mentions her Princeton, New Jersey origins and her residence in Edgewater, in Bergen County. Bergen abuts Hudson County, parent entity of Jersey City. ...

... By the 1980s, Leona Beldini was a prominent Jersey City real estate broker. By 2009, she was on the board of the Jersey City Economic Development Corporation (JCEDC) and deputy mayor in the administration of Mayor Jerramiah Healy. The Feds allege that Beldini, while Healy's campaign treasurer, was also a bag woman. Ferrying bribes disguised as campaign contributions to grease development deals. Beldini got a piece of the real estate action. ... She maintains her innocence. ..."

Again -- the story ended there, but it turned out to be just another pause, as more info has turned up.

One of Carola's readers' sent her a pic of a newspaper article, which she has graciously allowed me to share here.

The article ran in the Long Island Press in 1970 -- I have inserted the pix of the article below, but I'll hit the high notes: Mrs. Al Beldini is a stripper who uses the name Hope Diamond

Case closed, mystery solved. Or as Paul Harvey used to say, "And now you know the rest of the story". Unless, of course, something new develops in Ms. Beldini's activities -- a court case, a book, a movie -- who knows -- there's no such thing as BAD publicity, right?

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