Sunday, August 23, 2009

CryptoWA #9 - Acursed Diamond!

When John Considine wasn't busy shooting Seattle's police chief (and getting away with it), he built lavish theaters and music halls. Considine was stunned to find former Vaudeville superstar May Yohe scrubbing floors in a shipyard office in 1918. Yohe was once the toast of four continents, and formerly Lady Francis Hope. The Hope family owned a really big diamond.

After years of lavish globetrotting, Yohe and her third husband ran out of money, ending up in a Seattle tenement. She attributed her lowly state to the curse of the Hope Diamond.

The death of a gem merchant who briefly owned the diamond made some headlines in 1908, but it was May's tale that really caught the imagination of the world.

May went on to tell her story -- and a highly fictional history of the diamond -- in a tell-all book, followed by a series of silent films in the 1920's (all flops). She tried repeatedly to relaunch her career as a stage diva, usually wearing a replica of the famous diamond, but theater critics must have been in on the curse. Further efforts to start an inn (bankrupt) and a chicken farm north of Seattle (burned) all failed.

But her PR efforts on behalf of the Hope Diamond were arguably a huge success. May Yohe created a story that persists today.