Gloria Dea, Las Vegas Strip’s 1st Magician, Dies at 100
Glorea Dea, the first magician to perform on what would become the Las Vegas Strip, died on Saturday, March 18, at age 100.
Idea — who had been in hospice care at a Las Vegas assisted-living facility — celebrated her centenarian birthday in August 2022. The milestone was celebrated at the Westgate Las Vegas, her favorite casino, by MGM headliner David Copperfield, Teller of Penn & Teller, and other magicians.
“Gloria was amazing,” Copperfield told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “She was charming, funny and engaging. And in Vegas, as a young magician, she started it all. It was an honor to know her.”
Youngest to Oldest
Dea was born Gloria Metzner on August 25, 1922 in Oakland. Inspired by her father, Leo Metzner – an amateur magician who called himself “The Great Leo” – Dea began performing tricks at the age of 4. Three years later, she was known as “the youngest working magician in the world,” according to the Oakland Tribune.
On May 14, 1941, at only 19 years old, Dea performed in the Roundup Room at the El Rancho Vegas. That made her the first magician to ever perform on Highway 91, which wouldn’t be renamed Las Vegas Boulevard for 18 more years. (At the time, only the El Rancho Vegas and Last Frontier lined the road. The Flamingo was still under construction.)
Dea performed two shows that night. The crowds went wild for her billiard-ball trick and a floating-card trick, both taught to her by her father.
“It felt good,” Dea told the R-J at her birthday bash in August. “Anytime someone likes something that you do, you feel good don’t you? Oh, yeah. I was received wonderfully. It was a great room. You had the audience seated, then floor-to-ceiling glass in the back, and on the other side of that was the swimming pool.”
“Then you were onstage, facing that. It was fancy. It was a fun place.”
Between magic acts, Dea performed the rumba to big-band tunes performed by the El Rancho house band.
Later in the ’40s, Dea moved to LA, adopted her stage name, and became an actress. She landed a contract with Columbia Pictures, for whom she starred in movies until the late ’50s. Her most prominent role was as Princess Pha in the 1952 film, “King of the Congo,” in which she starred opposite Buster Crabbe.
After leaving show business, Dea sold insurance, as well as cars for a Chevy dealership. By 1980, she moved to Las Vegas, where she lived in anonymity with her fourth husband, Sam Anazlone, a fellow car salesperson who died in January 2022.
Dea’s story was rediscovered by Las Vegas magician AnnaRose Einarsen, who circulated it around the local magic community. Once Copperfield caught wind of the legend living in his midst, he struck up a friendship. In 2021, he invited Dea to his MGM show and introducing her from the stage.
Copperfield was set to induct Dea into the UNLV College of Fine Arts Hall of Fame on Tuesday, March 25. The ceremony will now be conducted in her memory.