Little Bits of History

Siegfried & Roy

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 3, 2013
Roy Horn with a big cat in better times

Roy Horn with a big cat in better times

October 3, 2003: Roy Horn is critically injured by a tiger. The magical duo Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn were performing at The Mirage in Las Vegas. Included in their magic act were tigers that performed with the duo. Montecore, a 7-year-old male tiger, had been trained by Roy since he was a cub and worked with the production for six years. Montecore, Siegfried and Roy claimed, was only trying to protect his friend and had not meant to harm him.

During the show, a woman in the front and with a “big hairdo” reached out to pet the tiger. Montecore was “fascinated and distracted” by the woman and Roy stepped between the tiger and the dimwit. Montecore gently, without even tearing Roy’s costume or scratching his skin, took Roy’s arm in his mouth. Roy said, “Release, release” but the tiger held on, so Roy hit him with the microphone. Roy tripped over the tiger’s paw and fell on his back. Next, two stagehands rushed out and jumped on the tiger. It was only at that point the tiger grabbed his friend by the neck, as tigers do with cubs, in an attempt to drag him to safety.

If the tiger had meant to harm Roy, he would have snapped the frail human’s neck and shaken the body back and forth. Fire extinguishers were used to separate man and beast. Fangs had punctured the skin and there was a tremendous blood loss. Roy was taken to University Medical Center in Las Vegas and underwent surgery. He suffered a stroke with associated partial paralysis. He was eventually sent to UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles for rehab. Montecore was held in seclusion for ten days to make sure he was not rabid and then returned to his habitat at The Mirage.

Today, Roy is walking with the aid of Siegfried. And talking, complaining of the rigors of rehab. Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage hosts a variety of rare and exotic animals. They can be seen daily and on June 13, 2007 (Siegfried’s 69th birthday) a new group of tiger cubs were first shown. Because they no longer perform at The Mirage, the hotel is suffering a branding crisis. The two men performed a one time only One-of-A-Kind Magical Performance on February 28, 2009 to benefit Lou Ruva’s Brain Institute. Their live performance in front of 1,100 fans was later also broadcast on ABC television’s news show, 20/20.

“Don’t harm the cat.”- Roy Horn, in the ambulance after the attack

“They are slave drivers over there. You’d think they are the KGB from Russia.” – Roy Horn, referring to rehab

“In magic, anything is possible.” – Siegfried Fischbacher

“The never-ending quest of conservation and the rewards of having a family like this, are worth lifelong dedication. And, we are pleased to share these magical creatures with the world.” – Siegfried & Roy

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: This date is also Roy Horn’s birthday. He was born in Germany in 1944. Siegfried was also born in Germany but in 1939. The two immigrated to the US and became naturalized citizens. They met in 1959 when both were working on a German ocean liner – Siegfried as a cabin steward and Roy as a waiter. Siegfried began performing magic for the passengers and was eventually given his own show; he chose Roy as his stage partner. The two were given a chance to perform in Las Vegas and by 1972 received an award for best show of the year. In 1990 they were hired by The Mirage for an annual guarantee of $57.5 million. In 2001 they signed a lifetime contract with the hotel. They appeared together in about 5,750 shows before this date. Their act came to an end with the injury to Roy. In 2000, they were listed at the ninth highest paid celebrities in the US.

Also on this day: Captain Jack – In 1873, Captain Jack was executed.
Treasure House – In 1955, Captain Kangaroo premiered.
Cease and Desist – In 1712, Rob Roy MacGregor had a warrant issued for his arrest.


3 Responses

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  1. Sherry said, on October 4, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    I wish only good for Siegfried & Roy. They seem like very decent guys, and it’s a simple fact that their big cats are well taken care of.

    HOWEVER, I am four-square against private ownership of ‘exotic’ animals – especially predators like big cats and bears. Not because they’re dangerous (although they are), but because they will never be able to lead the lives Mother Nature arranged for them. I hate seeing these majestic animals penned and trained for human amusement! Other than the wild, the only place I want to see these apex predators are the best zoos with naturalistic enclosures (like the San Diego Zoo) and *unfortunately* FDA-approved sanctuaries and refuges for the big exotics that are surrendered or seized from idiotic private citizens. They end up in sanctuaries almost always through one of two routes:
    1. An individual and/or family figures out that once out of the ‘cute’ stage the animal is dangerous, destructive, and expensive.
    2. The animal is being used for illegal activity, such as protection/intimidation for drug dealers and manufacturers. Once the criminal gets busted, their big cat is seized and must be found a proper home.

    Oftentimes, these animals (and those from situation 1) have been neglected and terribly abused. They arrive at refuges/sanctuaries with injuries, illnesses, and emotional trauma.

    I would like to see a federal BAN on the breeding, selling, buying, or in ANY way acquiring of big exotics by private citizens.

    I live in the Ozarks, and due to a lack of laws/regulations and a THRIVING drug, we have more big exotics in this region than in any other in the country. The problem is also facilitated by our hilly, rural culture. In other words, you can get away with a lot of stuff here. I patronize a big cat sanctuary (although they will take anything they have the room and expertise for – like bears, bobcats, certain primates, even a coyote, some 3-legged deer, etc.) about 2 1/2 hours drive away. It’s on a 500-acre piece of land and one of the few facilities of it’s kind that is FDA-approved. Zoology, wildlife biology, and veterinary students apply for coveted spots as interns, live on the grounds, and work their butts off probably between 12-18 hours a day. They’re wonderful kids. Tyson’s donates tons of chicken and other meat for the animals. The sanctuary even accepts large roadkill (such as deer, which are plentiful and killed on the roads here every day), if it can be arranged before the meat spoils. The public pitches in to help supply materials and build ever-larger, more naturalistic pens (some of the cats and bears now have 6-ACRE enclosures! Eventually, all the big animal will be like pens.)

  2. Sherry said, on October 4, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    Pardona moi’. Correction – “. . . thriving drug CULTURE . . . )

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