Gloria Nord, 87, a roller- and ice-skating star adored by millions in the 1940s and 1950s for her balletic finesse and theatrical flamboyance, died Dec. 30 at a hospital in Mission Viejo, Calif. She suffered a series of ailments in recent months, but her family declined to provide a cause of death.
Nord was known as the "Sonja Henie of roller skates," after the Olympic champion who starred in lavish musical ice-skating productions. She attracted sellout audiences across the country as the leading lady in "Skating Vanities," a roller-extravaganza that opened in 1942. The show, which featured a cast of 100 waltzing, conga-dancing skaters in glitzy costumes of ostrich plumes and sequins, played to more than 1 million people during its first two tours.
That success helped propel Nord - "a 19-year-old blonde of smiles and bounce," as The Washington Post described her - onto magazine covers and into the movies. She appeared on skates in the 1944 Betty Grable film "Pin Up Girl." Nord won a loyal fan base among U.S. servicemen, and many requested her photograph or her hand in marriage.
She received 12 diamond rings from near-strangers, she told a reporter, and accepted none of them.
In the 1950s, Nord traded wheels for blades to perform in ice-skating productions at London's Wembley Arena, where she also gained an enthusiastic following. In 1953, she gave a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II - making her the first skater to do so, said Roy Blakey, who runs an archive of theatrical ice-skating memorabilia.
"Here was Gloria, who was known mostly for her sex appeal and glamour, getting this big honor," Blakey said. "It really ruffled the feathers of a lot of English skaters who had won medals in their sports."
Gloria Nordskog was born Aug. 2, 1922, in Santa Monica, Calif., and she was a natural redhead. "It's a bottle job," she said of her famous platinum locks.
Nord had no children, and no immediate family members survive. Two marriages ended in divorce.