The Glorias were a popular and highly-paid brother-and-sister dancing team born in Europe who spent their later years in Gloversville and Caroga Lake.
Doing research for a book on a flamboyant costume designer (“Madame Sherri: The Special Edition”), historian David Fiske came across the story of Adelaide Gloria Hollenbeck and her brother Albert Gloria. Madame Sherri designed elaborate costumes worn by the Glorias.
Adelaide and Albert’s parents were lion tamers who had pronounced their wedding vows inside a lion cage as a publicity stunt; Count Adolphe Deneveloff, a Russian, and Anna Wagner, a German said to be descended from Richard Wagner. She performed as Anna Gloria with the Barnum and Bailey circus.
Adelaide was born in Normandy, France, and Albert was born in London. The siblings began dancing as toddlers in Europe. Showman Florenz Ziegfeld said Adelaide had “the most beautiful legs in the world.”
Their father died and Adelaide, Albert and their mother came to the United States in 1913 and lived in Bayside, Queens. The Glorias performed in cabaret shows and restaurant revues in the New York City area and also toured on vaudeville’s Keith circuit. Adelaide and Albert specialized in dancing that imitated ice skating and roller skating.
The Glorias, who earned as much as $5,000 a week, were acquainted with celebrities, including Bing Crosby, W. C. Fields and Vernon and Irene Castle. In the early 1920s, they were cast in George M. Cohan’s movie “The Rise of Rosie O’Reilly.”
In 1933, Adelaide claimed she had been attacked by admirer and Cuban businessman Francis Xiques at a Long Island hotel, according to Fiske. Xiques denied the charge, but later that year Adelaide was chloroformed and beaten while walking home from a friend’s house. Fiske said it was suspected this attack was connected to the pending lawsuit Adelaide had against Xiques. The legal dispute was resolved with a deal involving a cash settlement, although Xiques apparently did not pay up.
In 1940, brother and sister retired from show business. Albert got a job with Republic Aircraft Corporation on Long Island. In 1942, Adelaide married Sidney F. Hollenbeck of Gloversville, a native of Mayfield.
Sidney was introduced to Adelaide by a movie actress friend, Marguerite Gale, a native of the town of Glen in the Mohawk Valley. Between 1915 and 1919, Gale performed in “Molly Malone Made Good,” “The Yellow Menace” and “Mandarin’s Gold.” According to a movie website, Gale died in Amsterdam in 1948.
Adelaide, sometimes known as Adele, and Sidney lived first at 12 Clinton St. in Gloversville and later in Caroga. In 1956, Sidney took his own life, shooting himself twice with a shotgun at the couple’s home on the Gloversville-Caroga Lake Road. The Leader Herald reported he had been despondent for several months. He was working at G. Levor & Company, a leather tanning mill in Gloversville.
Adelaide later took up a hobby, according to a Leader Herald story — creating artistic montages from pieces clipped from greeting cards she’d received. In 1960, according to Fiske, her brother Albert retired from the airplane company and came to live with her.
Also in 1960, Adelaide is quoted in an Associated Press story recalling a 1919 strike that shut down the New York City theater scene.
Fiske said Adelaide and Albert took numerous trips together. A Leader-Herald article in 1963 described plans to take their trailer to Florida, California and Guatemala for an extended vacation. “When you are not active, you are dead,” Albert told the reporter.
Albert died in 1975 and Adelaide passed away in 1982. Gloversville is listed as the last place of residence for both of them.
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Anyone with a suggestion for a Focus on History topic may contact him at 346-6657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.