Gloria Dea, First Magician to Perform on the Las Vegas Strip, Dead at 100: 'She Started It All'

After Gloria Dea's show on May 4, 1941, "the door was open for magicians to keep performing here," said David Copperfield of Sin City's magic pioneer

Magician Gloria Dea, 99, at her Las Vegas home Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. Dea was the first magician to perform on the Las Vegas Strip, doing magic at the El Rancho Vegas in 1941.
Photo: K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty

Gloria Dea, known as Las Vegas' first magician performer, has died at 100 years old, multiple outlets confirm.

One of Dea's caretakers, LaNae Jenkins, director of clinical services for Valley Hospice, told ABC News that Dea died on Saturday near her Las Vegas residence, which the Los Angeles Times also reported. Jenkins noted that a memorial was being planned to honor the late performer.

Longtime caretaker Beth Bowes told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Dea died from coronary heart disease at 6:35 a.m. that morning in hospice care.

"Gloria was an amazing woman who accomplished an amazing amount of stuff," Bowes told the newspaper on Saturday. "She deserved all the accolades she got. Her personality was the catalyst to achieve it."

PEOPLE reached out to Valley Hospice for comment.

The Oakland, Calif., native first performed in what is now referred to the Las Vegas Strip in the 1940s, then decades later moved to Sin City in 1980. Magicians like David Copperfield followed in her footsteps.

"Gloria was amazing. She was charming funny and engaging," Copperfield noted of his friend. "And in Vegas, as a young magician, she started it all. It was an honor to know her," he added.

Gloria Dea screencard or poster, for King of the Congo ('The Mighty Thunda'), 1952 serial
Columbia Pictures

Just last August, Dea spoke with the Review-Journal for an interview commemorating her 100th birthday.

"There was no Strip, really, in those days," Dea shared. "We had the Last Frontier and the El Rancho Vegas. They had just started building the Flamingo," said Dea of the famed hotel and casino where Elvis Presley performed in the late 1960s.

Dea's show on May 4, 1941, at the Roundup Room was reportedly the first magic show ever performed in Vegas.

Dea's famous floating-card magic trick and billiard-balls routine were both taught to her by her father, Leo Metzner, according to the Review-Journal. Metzner was a local magician known in California as "The Great Leo," the Las Vegas Neon Museum shared in a March 9 tribute prior to Dea's death in honor of Women's History Month.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

The magic pioneer was set to be honored by the University of Las Vegas College of Fine Arts Hall of Fame on Tuesday, which will reportedly still go as planned with Copperfield inducting her, which was the plan from the start before Dea's passing.

"If it weren't for the people who went out there and really made magic important, I wouldn't be here," Copperfield said last August, according to FOX5. "And I think what Gloria did was, when she did her act in the show, and got the best review, the door was open for magicians to keep performing here."

"So," he added, "maybe I owe my career to her."

Related Articles