First, let’s concede that there were at least a couple of women who went by the name of Diamond Tooth Lil. One, real name Honora Ornstein, was a vaudeville performer well-known in Klondike Gold Rush days. Her affectation of diamonds included much jewelry and several gold teeth studded with diamonds.
Idaho’s Diamond Tooth Lil was an entertainer and entrepreneur who bounced around the West from Silver City to San Francisco, spending significant time in Boise as a manager of rooming houses which were rumored to offer unadvertised recreational activities. Her birth name was Evelyn Fialla (some sources say Prado was her last name), and she was born in Austria-Hungary in about 1877. She married at least eight times, but the name she preferred to use was her first husband’s surname of Hildegard. Everyone else preferred Diamond Tooth Lil.
Lil loved to tell the story of her life to any reporter who would listen. She often told about her gold right front tooth with the diamond, about 1/3 carat, mounted in the center of it. She won that piece of art from a Reno dentist in a bet on a horse race in 1907. More than once she promised to leave the tooth and its diamond to the Idaho Children’s Home orphanage. What finally happened to it is open to speculation.
Diamond Tooth Lil’s stories were often about the love of her life, Diamondfield Jack. They spent time with each other over the years in Idaho and Nevada. She said he asked her to marry him many times, but she declined. They lost track of each other for 30 years, but reunited briefly at a Las Vegas casino in 1946, and in Los Angeles shortly before his death.
When Diamondfield Jack was struck by a cab in 1946 at age 84, it was Diamond Tooth Lil who alerted the Idaho Statesman. Before his death she reported that he had exonerated the taxi driver, saying, “I just wasn’t looking where I was going.”
She ran an auto court called the Depot Inn on the bench near the Boise Depot, and a hotel at 219 S. Ninth, among other Boise properties. She moved to Los Angeles to retire in 1943 but visited Boise regularly. In 1953 she sent photos and other items to the Boise Chamber of Commerce with a note, “just sending a little momento (sic), so you’ll not forget me.”
There’s little chance Diamond Tooth Lil will be forgotten. Mae West wrote a successful Broadway play called Diamond Lil in 1928, which was turned into a movie called She Done Him Wrong, and was revived on Broadway in 1949. Many say it was inspired by one Diamond Tooth Lil or the other, or perhaps the pair of them.
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