Siegfried Fischbacher of Siegfried And Roy Dead At 81
Siegfried Fischbacher, one-half of the flamboyant big cat illusionist act Siegfried and Roy, died Wednesday at his home in Las Vegas. He was 81.
Fischbacher was terminally ill with pancreatic cancer and recently underwent an operation to remove a tumor, his reps told The Post. He was released from the hospital earlier this month and had been under hospice care at home.
The perpetually tanned magic man’s death comes less than a year after the passing of his longtime stage partner, Roy Horn, due to complications from COVID-19.
The flashy German-American duo met cute aboard the TS Bremen cruise ship in 1957, where they bonded over Horn’s pet cheetah, Chico, which he had smuggled on board.
Working as a steward and entertainer, Fischbacher recruited Horn, the captain’s bellboy, to assist during his nightly magic act. After the show, Horn popped the question that changed both of their lives: “Siegfried, disappearing rabbits is ordinary — but can you make a cheetah disappear?”
Their eventual act — a hybrid of tiger-taming and David Copperfield-esque magic with a gaudy dose of Liberace glitz — launched in Sin City circa 1967. But it was their $30-million, 14-year run at the Mirage Hotel & Casino, beginning in 1989, that propelled them into global stardom amid the height of the era of excess.
“We did what we did out of love, not for success or money,” Siegfried once said, according to his reps. “We had a deep respect for each other. We literally raised each other: I created Roy and Roy created Siegfried.”
Pop culture’s original tiger kings deflected persistent rumors that they were a down-low gay couple — but a mural on Fischbacher’s bedroom wall reportedly depicted Horn in the nude with cheetahs. Still, when informed that he was a counterculture symbol of sorts, he played coy.
“Gay icons? For these people? Well, I am very honored,” Fischbacher told Vanity Fair in 1999. “In my life I have a lot of friends who are gay, and I made a lot of friends in show business, and I found out that they are always interesting, intelligent, and good people, and fun to be with. They are very open-minded. They are not narrow-minded. If I am an icon to them, it is wonderful, because gay people are always very loyal … And, you know, when you go back in history, there are great names in the arts and in every field, so be my guest.”
In 2003, Horn suffered a gory career-ending injury when Mantacore, a 400-pound Siberian tiger, sunk its teeth into his neck during a live performance — on his 59th birthday, no less — at the Mirage theater.
One of their animal handlers, Chris Lawrence, came forward in 2019 with high-profile allegations of a mysterious coverup surrounding the treatment of the tigers before the attack, which he claimed left him with longterm PTSD. However, in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Siegfried and Roy said they had made peace with the infamous mauling that killed their international tourist destination gig.
“I really don’t miss it,” Fischbacher said at the time. “We have been on stage in Vegas just by themselves for 40 years on stage, you know? And we had the most successful show in the history of Las Vegas anyway.”
Our friend Siegfried (of Siegfried & Roy) has died. Those guys opened Las Vegas to the possibility of a full-evening magic show. They lived large. They paved the way for @pennjillette and me. Here's an appropriately lavish obit in the New York Post. https://t.co/Meq4CrwL8v pic.twitter.com/wZskSwRJaK
— Teller (@MrTeller) January 14, 2021
Upon hearing of Fischbacher’s death, fellow superstar illusionist Raymond Joseph Teller, 72, of the duo Penn & Teller, summed up Siegfried and Roy’s enduring impact in a tweet: “Those guys opened Las Vegas to the possibility of a full-evening magic show. They lived large. They paved the way for @pennjillette and me.”
Born in Rosenheim, Germany, on June 13, 1939, Fischbacher credited the childhood purchase of a magic book for setting in motion his enduring love for the art of illusion. Even after his performing days were finished, he could be found daily at the Secret Garden of Siegfried & Roy, where some of their big cats still reside at the Mirage, entertaining fans with simple coin tricks and taking time for photos.
His lifelong mantra: “In magic, anything is possible.”
Author: Rob Bailey-millado
Source: NY Post: Siegfried Fischbacher of Siegfried and Roy dead at 81