“The show is never over!” Roy Horn said this sentence in October 2018 when he celebrated his 74th birthday in the Secret Garden of Las Vegas, the enclosure for exotic animals at the Hotel Mirage. For 16 years he had not performed “performed” – as it is so beautifully said in Vegas – to put people on a show. The Tiger Mantacore had dragged him by the neck during a performance on October 3, 2003, seriously injuring him. The show was officially over since then, but now Horn called to his guests: “I perform whenever I leave the house. The show is never over.”
The show, this Las Vegas, as it can be seen today, basically started with the duo Siegfried and Roy. Before that, this city was as it was shown in the film “Ocean’s 11”, the original from 1960: Frank Sinatra strolled through the “Sands”, ordered a drink at the bar, lit a lonely heart with a cigarette and tossed silver dollars into it Slot machines. Then he whispers in the ear of the charming Patrice Wymore, presses a kiss on her cheek and lets the room key slide into the cleavage. She tosses the key in disgust.
This Las Vegas, which is always very romanticized today, was a highly misogynous city at the time, racist (Sammy Davis junior was not allowed to stay in the hotels in which he performed) and also homophobic. Then Siegfried and Roy came.
From the cruise ship into the desert
Horn was born on October 3, 1944 in Nordenham in northern Germany, his father died during the Second World War. The founder of the Bremen Zoo was a friend of the family, so Horn had access to exotic animals at the age of ten. He left school when he was 13 and worked as a waiter on the cruise ship Bremen and there he met the magician Siegfried Fischbacher. He first became his assistant and then partner, on and at times off the stage, even then it was clear: these two only exist as a duo.
Fischbacher and Horn were released for bringing a monkey on board. The owner of the Bremen Variety Show Astoria, Elisabeth Fritz, had seen one of her performances and offered to perform in her nightclub in the future. “That changed everything,” said Horn later: “We were now artists among other artists.”
The two became famous for their unique combination of magic and animal training. They performed in Paris, and in Las Vegas, after sobering appearances in 1967, they heard Tropicana owner John Houssels’ unforgettable phrase: “Guys, magic doesn’t work in this city.”
Well, her show worked three years later when she returned, first in the Stardust, then in the New Frontier and later in the Mirage. And maybe it takes a few numbers to show what a crazy show the two hosted: The cost of producing the first show at the Mirage in 1989 was more than $ 30 million, by far the highest in Las Vegas history. 267 people worked on the show, and when Siegfried and Roy traveled to Japan for a few gigs, they needed two jumbo jets to carry all the animals and equipment. The only reason two arenas were built in Osaka and Tokyo, for $ 10 million each, was demolished after the performances. Until then, magicians pulled rabbits out of a hat – Siegfried and Roy played with tigers while fireworks were burning in the background.
“We were the first to offer entertainment for the entire family in Las Vegas,” Horn said once, and it’s true: Disneyland for adults, which is Las Vegas today, is there because of Siegfried and Roy, and therefore also legendary Magicians like David Copperfield, Criss Angel, Penn and Teller. “I always thought it would be reasonable humility to go to events where we didn’t have to work in jeans and a T-shirt,” recalls Penn Jillette: “However, the two always came in costumes and makeup, and at some point it became clear to me: the show never ends for these two. “
Abrupt end in October 2003
The shows were gigantic, breathtaking and extremely successful, they turned up to $ 60 million a year until this evening in October 2003. Horn, which is still the official account of the incident, is said to have suffered a stroke, the Tiger Mantacore grabbed his master by the neck out of concern and pulled him off the stage. Horn was seriously injured, the show was stopped immediately, and the arena in the Mirage was empty for three years because pretty much everyone suspected that only the Beatles would have been able to follow this spectacle.
The first show after that, in June 2006, was the Cirque du Soleil program “The Beatles Love”. At the premiere, Paul McCartney, Roy Horn, Siegfried Fischbacher met on the red carpet.
Numerous hotels on the strip pay tribute
The big appearances of Siegfried and Roy might be over, but the show went on. Those who knew the two told how brave Horn fought the complications after the many operations and how touchingly Fischbacher looked after his partner. What zest for life the two conveyed on their “Little Bavaria” estate, and how delighted they were that this Secret Garden enclosure in the Mirage with numerous exotic animals became a popular attraction. When Mantacore died in 2014, Horn said, “I lost my beloved 17-year-old white tiger, friend and brother. It was he who pulled me to safety.”
On April 28, Roy Horn’s management announced that he had coronavirus infection and had to be taken to hospital. He died on Friday at the age of 75.
Numerous hotels on the strip paid tribute to him, and larger-than-life pictures were to be seen on the facade of the MGM Grand. It is likely to be a coincidence that Roy Horn died of the aftermath of the corona virus on the day that some lights were allowed to come back on in Las Vegas after the lockdown, as a sign that the show will never stop. Maybe not.