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Siegfried & Roy

Siegfried & Roy are longtime Las Vegas headliners whose longrunning illusion and magic act closed October 3, 2003 after "Roy" was mauled by one of the act's performing white tigers during a performance.

The two men, Siegfried Fischbacher (born June 13, 1939 in Rosenheim, Germany) and Roy Uwe Ludwig Horn (born October 3, 1944 in Nordenham, Germany), are naturalized American citizens who made large white tigers appear and disappear in their act. Their use of white tigers led them to develop a breeding program for the animals.

Siegfried is a traditional magician, or illusionist, while Roy grew up among exotic animals and is known for his rapport with them. Siegfried and Roy performed 5,750 shows together, mostly at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas where they were hired by then-Mirage owner Steve Wynn in 1990 for an annual guarantee of $57.5 million. In 2001, they signed a lifetime contract with the hotel.

The two worked together for over 40 years since meeting on a cruise ship where they were both performers. For some years, they shared living quarters and the conventional wisdom in Vegas is that they are former lovers.

According to the 2000 Forbes Celebrity 100 List, Siegfried & Roy were then the 9th-highest-paid celebrities in the U.S., coming in just behind motion picture producer and director Steven Spielberg.

Horn is mauled by a tiger

On October 3, 2003, during a show at the Mirage, Roy Horn was bitten on the neck by a seven-year-old male tiger named Montecore. Crew members separated Horn from the tiger and rushed him to a hospital. Horn was critically injured, sustaining severe blood loss. While being taken to the hospital, Horn said (according to sources) "Don't kill the cat." The 59-year old Horn (the incident happened as Horn celebrated his 59th birthday) was listed in critical condition for several weeks thereafter, and was said to have suffered a stroke and partial paralysis. Doctors removed one-quarter of his skull to relieve the pressure of his swelling brain during an operation known as a decompressive craniectomy. The portion of skull was placed in a pouch in Horn's abdomen in the hope of replacing it later. As of December 2003, Horn was conscious and able to communicate in writing. In a December 1, 2003 appearance on NBC's Today show, Fischbacher said Horn was making a "slow, steady recovery."

It is disputed whether or not the tiger attacked Horn. Montecore had been trained by Horn since he was a cub; he had performed with the act for six years. Fischbacher, appearing on the Larry King interview program, said Horn fell during the act and Montecore was attempting to drag him to safety, as a mother tigress would pull one of her cubs by the neck. Fischbacher said Montecore had no way of knowing that Horn, unlike a tiger cub, did not have fur and thick skin covering his neck and that his neck was vulnerable to injury. Fischbacher said if Montecore had wanted to injure Horn, the tiger would have snapped his neck and shaken him back and forth.

Former Mirage owner Steve Wynn (who hired the duo in 1990) told Las Vegas television station KLAS-TV the events were substantially as described by Fischbacher. (The Mirage denies the incident was videotaped, yet Wynn, who was in Idaho at the time, gave a detailed account.) According to Wynn, there was a woman with a "big hairdo" in the front row who, he says, "fascinated and distracted" Montecore. The woman reached out to attempt to pet the animal, and Horn jumped between the woman and the tiger. According to Wynn, the tiger gently grabbed Horn's right arm with his jaws, not scratching the arm or tearing Horn's costume. Horn said, "Release, release," attempting to persuade Montecore to let go of his arm, and eventually striking the tiger with his microphone. Horn tripped over the cat's paw and fell on his back; stagehands then rushed out and jumped on the cat. It was only then, said Wynn, that the confused tiger leaned over Horn and attempted to carry Horn off the stage to safety. Wynn said that although the tiger's teeth inflicted puncture wounds that caused Horn to lose blood, there was no damage to Horn's neck. Stagehands then sprayed Horn and Montecore with a fire extinguisher to separate the two.

Some animal behaviorists were skeptical of Fischbacher's and Wynn's version of events. One described the injury as a "typical killing bite"; another said Fischbacher's story "just doesn't wash."

Montecore was put into quarantine for 10 days in order to ensure it was not rabid, and was then returned to its habitat at the Mirage. While Horn has requested that Montecore not be harmed, the incident may augur the end of exotic animal shows in which there are no barriers between tigers and audience members. Some animal rights activists, many of whom oppose the use of wild animals in live entertainment, sought to use the incident as a springboard for publicity -- though few have ever accused the Siegfried & Roy show of mistreating animals.

The injury to Horn prompted the Mirage to close the show indefinitely (after 5,750 performances before 10.5 million patrons) and to lay off 267 cast and crew members with one week's severance pay. While Fischbacher has said "the show will go on," a hotel spokesman told the production staff that they "should explore other career opportunities."

According to the Las Vegas Advisor, the Mirage will suffer financially, not just from the loss of $45 million in annual ticket sales, but from having to forego untold millions in sales of food, beverages, and hotel rooms -- not to mention the casino's gambling winnings. An MGM Mirage spokesman said losing Siegfried & Roy is a bigger hit to the Mirage brand than to its finances, because the entertainers are "practically the faces" of the hotel, and finding a new hotel brand or identity would be difficult.

Filmography (as themselves)