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Roy Horn and the White Tiger

Let the Magic Continue


White Tiger

Rare and Endangered White Tiger

Friday, October 3, 2003, was Roy Horn's 59th birthday. It was also the day when his 7-year-old, 600 pound Royal white tiger, Montecore grabbed him by the neck and carried him offstage, during a performance of the Siegfried and Roy illusionist act at the Mirage Hotel and Resort in Las Vegas. Backstage show attendants sprayed the big cat with fire extinguishers to get him off Horn, who was rushed by ambulance to a local hospital.

The performer, who had worked with the big cats in over 5,000 performances without incidence, was in critical condition, suffering from two bite wounds to the neck, with resultant loss of blood. He suffered at least one stroke during surgery, and prognosis was grim.

As of this writing, Roy Horn's condition is still critical, although he is able to move his hands and feet, and to communicate with doctors and his partner, Siegfried Fischbacher, with motions.

Horn's surgeon, Dr. Derek Duke, has been cautious about mentioning the possibility of any long-term brain damage, and denies that Horn was in a "drug-induced coma," as some writers have reported. At a press conference, he read from a prepared statement: ""A contributing factor to his current condition is his extraordinary will and strong physical attributes. These are significant elements in his ability to recover." Roy's will to survive was amply demonstrated by a "thumbs-up" sign he gave his partner.

The Siegfried and Roy Partnership: How it Started

Roy Horn and Siegfried Fischbacher both grew up in Germany during WW2, but in different villages. Siegfried, (the older by five years), possibly as an emotional escape from the harsh realities of life during war, took an early interest in magic, and avidly honed his talents until he left his hometown at the age of 17. Roy, whose lifelong love of animals was sealed early-on by the saving of his life by his beloved dog, got a job in a zoo, where he cared for and bonded with a cheetah named Chico.

In 1957, Siegfried and Roy met on a German cruise ship, where they both worked; Siegfried as a steward, and Roy as a waiter. One night Roy saw Siegfried pulling a rabbit out of a hat on a makeshift stage. One thing led to another, and the two became partners. During an early conversation, when Siegfried asked Roy how the show could be made better, Roy asked if he could make a cheetah disappear the same way he could with a rabbit. It seems that Roy had smuggled Chico aboard the ship. The rest, as they say, is history.

After performing in Europe for five years, Siegfried and Roy arrived in Las Vegas, having been invited there by an agent who saw their performance in Monte Carlo. They have been performing in Las Vegas for over 30 years, thrilling and delighting over 25 million show-goers during that time. They progressed from a modest shared billing at the Folies Bergere to an eventual lifetime contract with the Mirage Hotel, which also showcases a multimillion dollar conservatory for the Royal White Tigers and Magical White Lions they love so well.

Images © 2003 ArtToday.com, used with permission.

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