Gloria Dea, the Las Vegas Strip's first magician, dies at 100

John Katsilometes, Las Vegas Review-Journal on

Published in Entertainment News

“I am very sad to learn of the passing of Gloria Dea,” Uscher said in a statement Saturday. “She was a true pioneer in her discipline and has inspired many great illusionists working in the field today, who will honor her memory with great admiration and respect.

In a conversation in August, Dea remembered performing two shows the night of May 14, 1941, at the first hotel-casino on what would later be known as the Las Vegas Strip.

“There was no Strip, really, in those days. We had the Last Frontier, and the El Rancho Vegas, ” Dea recalled. “They had just started building the Flamingo.”

Dea performed magic, and more, that night.

“I also danced, I did the rumba, because it was difficult to keep setting up all my magic stuff,” Dea says. “That was a lot of work. I got lazy (laughs).”

In magic, she specialized in a billiard-balls routine and also a floating-card trick, routines taught to her by her father. A Review-Journal story about her El Rancho debut reported, “Miss Dea completely mystified the audience with her legerdemain. Her concluding trick, when a card jumps from a handkerchief to a quartered orange, was the hit of the show.”


The crowd showered the young performer with applause.

“It felt good,” Dea says. “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 her magic acts, Dea danced to such tunes of the times as, “You Couldn’t Be Cuter,” played by the hotel’s house band. “They had all these cottages, these bungalows, around the property,” Dea said. “I stayed in one of those. That’s where the entertainers stayed.”


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