LAS VEGAS – Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy, the duo whose extraordinary magic tricks astonished millions until Horn was critically injured in 2003 by one of the act's famed white tigers, has died. He was 75.
Horn died of complications from the coronavirus Friday in a Las Vegas hospital, according to a statement released by publicist Dave Kirvin.
“Today, the world has lost one of the greats of magic, but I have lost my best friend,” Siegfried Fischbacher said in the statement. “From the moment we met, I knew Roy and I, together, would change the world. There could be no Siegfried without Roy, and no Roy without Siegfried.”
He was injured in October 2003 when a tiger named Montecore attacked him on stage at the Mirage hotel-casino in Las Vegas. He had severe neck injuries, lost a lot of blood and later suffered a stroke. He underwent lengthy rehabilitation, but the attack ended the long-running Las Vegas Strip production.
Horn was credited with the idea of introducing an exotic animal – his pet cheetah – to the magic act.
The two became an institution in Las Vegas, where their magic and artistry consistently attracted sellout crowds. The pair performed six shows a week, 44 weeks per year.
They returned to the stage in 2009 for what was billed as their one and only comeback performance, to raise funds for the new Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. The brief performance, which included Montecore, became the basis of an episode of the ABC TV show “20/20.”
Horn and Fischbacher, both natives of Germany, had first teamed up in 1957 and made their Las Vegas debut a decade later. Siegfried & Roy began performing at the Mirage in 1990.
When they signed a lifetime contract with the Mirage in 2001, it was estimated they had performed 5,000 shows at the casino for 10 million fans since 1990 and had grossed more than $1 billion. That comes on top of thousands of shows at other venues in earlier years.
The pair gained international recognition for helping to save rare white tigers and white lions from extinction. Their $10 million compound was home to dozens of rare animals over the years. The white lions and white tigers were the result of a preservation program that began in the 1980s.
“The good news is that the white tigers and white lions are going into the 21st century,” Horn said in a 1999 interview with The Associated Press. “The bad news is that if we don't do something about the tigers in the wild, they will disappear.”
It was during a performance Oct. 3, 2003, when Horn was alone on stage with the tiger that it suddenly lunged at him.
Horn, who had turned 59 that day, had never been injured during a show before, Bernie Yuman, the pair's longtime manager, said at the time.
Yuman said he thought Montecore got distracted by something in the audience and Horn was trying to calm him. Horn himself said later that he fainted and the tiger was trying to help him by dragging him offstage, though animal experts disputed that possibility.