Gloria Dea, the first magician to perform on what would become the Las Vegas Strip in the early 1940s, has died. She was 100. Dea died Saturday at her Las Vegas residence, said LaNae Jenkins, the director of clinical services for Valley Hospice, who was one of Dea's caretakers. Dea also appeared in several movies in the 1940s and '50s, including King of the Congo, starring Buster Crabbe, in 1952. Dea was 19 when she performed at El Rancho Vegas on May 14, 1941. Her show at the Roundup Room is the first recorded appearance by a magician in Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. "There was no Strip, really, in those days," Dea told the newspaper last August when she turned 100.
"We had the Last Frontier and the El Rancho Vegas. They had just started building the Flamingo," she said. Dea performed magic that night and more. "I also danced. I did the rumba because it was difficult to keep setting up all my magic stuff," Dea said. After relocating to California, Dea appeared in movies including Mexicana in 1945 and Plan 9 From Outer Space in 1957. "I was in the Saturday matinees, for the kids," she said. "Plan 9 From Outer Space was the worst movie of all time. … I had fun making it though." But that marked the end of Dea’s entertainment career. She sold insurance and then new and used cars for a dealership in the San Fernando Valley, becoming a top sales rep. Her husband, Sam Anzalone, a former California car sales executive, died in January 2022.
Dea moved back to Las Vegas when she retired and lived quietly for decades—until magician AnnaRose Einarsen found a teal-and-pink skirt from the 1940s at a vintage store in 2021 and was told it belonged to a magician-turned-actress, the Review-Journal reports. Einarsen and other members of the magic community, including David Copperfield, befriended Dea and learned her story. "Gloria was amazing. She was charming, funny, and engaging," Copperfield says. "And in Vegas, as a young magician, she started it all. It was an honor to know her." Dea was scheduled to be inducted into the UNLV College of Fine Arts Hall of Fame on Tuesday night. Those plans will go forward as planned; Dea will be inducted by Copperfield in a presentation before the full program.
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