Gloria Dea, the Las Vegas Strip's first magician, dies at 100
Published in Entertainment News
Dea’s time onstage ended in the late '40s when she moved to Southern California and turned to movies. She appeared in such feature films as the 1945 “Mexicana,” the story of a “Mexican Frank Sinatra” (she played a dancer); 1952s “King of The Congo,” the co-lead of Princess Pha opposite Buster Crabbe; and Ed Wood’s 1957 gem “Plan 9 From Outer Space” (where she played a “mourner”).
“I was in the Saturday matinees, for the kids,” she says. “‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’ was the worst movie of all time. Ed Wood, the director, was the worst. I had fun making it, though.”
Dea halted her entertainment career after those movies. She sold insurance for a time, then new and used cars for a Chevrolet dealership in the San Fernando Valley, as the rare female who became a top sales rep.
Dea moved to Las Vegas in 1980, living quietly in a house in the historic Paradise Palms neighborhood with her now-late husband, Sam Anzalone, also an auto-sales executive she met at the Chevy dealership. Sam died in January 2022.
It was Copperfield who helped bring Dea’s story to light. Having settled into retirement, Dea had been living in anonymity Las Vegas for decades, but she was re-discovered in July 2021. AnnaRose Einarsen, the magician/hypnotist at the since-closed “Late Night Magic” at Alexis Park was shopping downtown at Neon Cactus Village.
Einarsen found a teal-and-pink skirt, likely dating to the 1940s. She was told it was part of a collection from a Hollywood actress, who was also a magician. This woman was known to be 98 years old at the time, living in Vegas.
Einsaren was stunned, and ran Dea’s name around the Vegas magic community, to the stage performers Bizzaro and Ruby Colby, and magic historian Lance Rich, who turned to Copperfield, himself a magic historian.
Lance raked through decades-old publications to assemble her story, and introduced Dea — watching online — at the Las Vegas Magic Collectors Expo in August 2021.
Collectively, the group researched and befriended Dea. She would visit Copperfield’s show at MGM Grand in October 2021, drawing a standing ovation as Copperfield introduced her from the stage. As was customary, Dea donned a sparky gown that night, always representing stage performers whenever in public.
In a birthday party at Westgate on Aug. 25, Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom presented the Key to the Las Vegas Strip and named that date as Gloria Dea Day.
Copperfield, Teller of Penn & Teller, Rich, Westgate headliner Jen Kramer, Bizzaro, veteran comic-magician Fielding West, Doug “Lefty” Leferovich of Murray Sawchuck’s Laugh Factory show, former president of the International Brotherhood of Magicians David Sandy and “Mad Apple” comic Harrison Greenbaum turned up to perform and support.
The party was held at Westgate because it was Dea’s favorite Vegas casino. The staff there knew her only as a friendly, funny lady who played the slots, with no idea of her performance past. Bowes is now arranging some of the rare personal belongings Dea left behind to be sold to anyone with a sense of Vegas entertainment history.
On the event of her 100th birthday, Dea talked of how much she loved being with her fellow magicians in Las Vegas, the mecca of the magic universe.
“Vegas makes me happy,” she said that day. “I don’t care to live anywhere else.”
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