Born In: Rosenheim, Germany
German-American entertainer and magician Siegfried Fischbacher ruled the Las Vegas entertainment circuit as one half of the popular magician duo Siegfried & Roy, with his partner Roy Horn. The two met while working on a German cruise liner as teenagers and then started performing as a duo in Europe. They later made Las Vegas their base and rose to become the city’s highest-paid magicians. Their shows had unique acts, featuring a large group of exotic animals, such as white tigers and white lions. They rubbed shoulders with the “who’s who” of the American celebrity world and began headlining a show at The Mirage casino resort in 1990. Their show saw an abrupt end when Horn was mauled by a white tiger on stage in October 2003 and left partially paralyzed. Fischbacher and Horn were also often rumored to be a romantic couple. They died within months of each other.
Also Known As: Master of the Impossible SARMOTI
Died At Age: 81
father: Martin Fischbacher
mother: Maria Fischbacher
Born Country: Germany
place of death: Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Cause of Death: Pancreatic Cancer
Siegfried Fischbacher was born on June 13, 1939, in Rosenheim, Gau Munich-Upper Bavaria, German Reich (Nazi Germany), to Martin and Maria Fischbacher. While his mother was a homemaker, his father worked as a professional painter and was taken a prisoner of war in the Soviet Union during World War II.
Fischbacher was interested in magic since early childhood. It is believed, his father was an alcoholic and was often violent. Thus, Fischbacher often sought refuge in magic.
As a child, he watched a town square show where an entertainer swallowed razor blades. After this, he bought a book on magic tricks and started practicing illusions.
In 1956, he moved to Italy and began working in a hotel. He eventually joined a German cruise ship named TS Bremen in 1959, as a teenager, where he met Roy Horn.
While Horn had been working as a bellboy on the ship, after running away from home, Siegfried worked as a steward and performed an evening magic on the ship using the stage name Delmare. Soon, Horn began assisting him on his shows.
They were soon tired of the usual magic tricks and wished to add a little spark to their shows. Thus, they smuggled a cheetah from a zoo and brought it to the ship for their show.
They were apparently fired by the captain because of this outrageous act. Another version states the captain was angry but allowed them to perform since the crowd loved their show. Horn and Fischbacher then joined a New York-based cruise line and started performing together as a duo.
In 1966, Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn got a big breakthrough when legendary American actor Grace Kelly (also known as Princess Grace of Monaco) invited the duo to perform at her Red Cross gala, an annual event held in Monte Carlo. During the show, the duo’s cheetah, Chico, fled through the crowd (which mostly had celebrities), going straight past Kelly and into the kitchen.
Fischbacher jumped off the stage, but the crowd thought that was part of the act. The duo got a standing ovation and were all over the newspapers and tabloids.
In 1967, Fischbacher and Horn were brought to Las Vegas by Tony Azzie, who had seen them performing in Paris. The duo began performing in revues such as Lido de Paris (the Stardust Hotel show) and Hallelujah Hollywood in Las Vegas.
Within a few years, the duo began performing regularly in Vegas hotels and resorts. They earned a headline slot with Vegas’s first full-length magic show.
Over the years, they performed at reputed venues such as the New Frontier Hotel and Casino (the Beyond Belief show) and the Tropicana Hotel Las Vegas (the Folies Bergere show). Soon, they became Las Vegas’s most famous performers.
From 1990 to 2003, the duo ruled the Vegas show circuit with the Siegfried & Roy show at the Mirage Resort and Casino, which became one of the most popular shows in the city. Their shows had over 55 big cats, including white tigers, white lions, leopards, and jaguars. They even had an elephant.
They performed in about 30,000 shows (almost always sold out) and catered to around 50 million people, generating more than $1billion in ticket sales, throughout their careers. Their acts included illusions featuring their exotic animals, such as suspending tigers on flaming disco balls above crowds and vanishing elephants into thin air. Their family-friendly shows gave tough competition to the typical Vegas entertainment featuring topless performers.
The duo also gained an enviable group of celebrity acquaintances that included Michael Jackson (who wrote a theme song for them), Pope John Paul II (who gifted them a fragment of the shinbone of Saint Francis of Assisi), and David Lee Roth (who gave them a few goats). After a show in 1998, they were joined by then US President Bill Clinton.
In 1992, the duo co-authored the book Siegfried and Roy: Mastering the Impossible, with Annette Tapert. The 1996 animated series Siegfried & Roy: Masters of the Impossible was based on them, while the duo later produced the animated sitcom Father of the Pride (2004-2005).
On October 3, 2003, Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn’s show came to an abrupt end when Horn was mauled by a white tiger on stage. The tiger, named Montecore, not only bit Horn through the neck, it also pierced his vertebrae and severed an artery, dragging him about. Four men got the tiger off him with the help of a fire extinguisher.
Though Horn recovered in hospital later, he was rendered partially paralyzed on the left side. He later claimed that Montecore had not actually attacked him and that he was trying to save him after he suffered a stroke on stage that day.
Fischbacher and Horn officially retired in 2010. Horn lived with Montecore till the tiger died in 2014.
It is believed, Siegfried Fischbacher had an interesting personal life. After their shows, Fischbacher and Horn would spend time with their jungle cats in their Mirage Hotel suite.
The duo would then go back to their Moroccan-style Las Vegas mansion named the Jungle Palace or their 100-acre estate named Little Bavaria, where they lived together. They were also fond of listening to German marching music through concealed speakers.
There were rumors that the two were a gay couple. However, in all their interviews, neither Horn nor Fischbacher ever agreed to being romantically involved.
Their spokesperson Alan Feldman once told the LGBTQ+ outlet The Advocate that Fischbacher and Horn were lovers. The duo’s friend, actor Shirley MacLaine, too confirmed that Fischbacher and Horn were indeed a romantic couple.
Some also believed that the duo had also had a marriage ceremony while working on a cruise ship in the 1960s. It is thought that they were reluctant to come out publicly because the society back then was less tolerant of gay people.
While Horn died of COVID-19 in May 2020, aged 75, Fischbacher died of pancreatic cancer on January 13, 2021, in Las Vegas, aged 81. Following their deaths, the Apple podcast Wild Things, showcased their lives and careers.
They were once Las Vegas’s highest-paid magicians, and there is a statue in front of the Mirage, honoring them. They have a Hollywood Walk of Fame “star” that was awarded to them in 1999. In the poker version No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em, a pair of pocket Queens is known as "Siegfried and Roy.”
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