Oddly Enough

Octogenarian New Jersey ex-con politician to revive burlesque act

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An octogenarian former New Jersey deputy mayor who once thrilled audiences as burlesque star Hope Diamond plans to sparkle again in the role next week at a charity event - though at her age she plans to keep her clothes on.

Three years after being released from prison following a bribery conviction, former Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini is headed back to the stage on Thursday to raise funds for the Kennedy Dancers, a non-profit dance company, which announced the event on its website.

Now a grandmother, Beldini intends to dazzle crowds when she revives her burlesque persona Hope Diamond at the Jersey City dance company’s 40th anniversary gala.

But she will not be stripping.

“It’s a little late for that, I’m afraid,” Beldini, 82, said on Friday.

“I’m going to wear a lovely gown and a feather boa. I’m sure it’s going to be interesting.”

Company artistic director Diane Dragone said male dancers would escort Beldini on stage.

“She’ll kind of strut her stuff. She was hot stuff in the ‘50s,” Dragone said.

Still recovering from a recent knee replacement surgery, Beldini was known in the 1950s as “the gem of the exotics.”

One of her last performances as Hope Diamond was in New York’s suburbs in 1970s, when she was described by the Long Island Press as “one of the premiere ecdysiasts,” or striptease performers.

Beldini, who also was treasurer of Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy’s re-election campaign in 2009, was convicted in February 2010 of accepting illegal campaign contributions in exchange for helping a corrupt developer win city approvals. She was sentenced to three years in prison and was released in 2014.

Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Scott Malone and Cynthia Osterman