Roy Horn, who found fame as one half of the Siegfried & Roy duo of Las Vegas-based magicians, passed away at the age of 75.
Horn died yesterday in a Las Vegas hospital from complications related to COVID-19.
“The world has lost one of the greats of magic, but I have lost my best friend,” Siegfried Fischbacher said in a 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.
“Roy was a fighter his whole life including during these final days,” Fischbacher’s statement continued. “I give my heartfelt appreciation to the team of doctors, nurses and staff at Mountain View Hospital who worked heroically against this insidious virus that ultimately took Roy’s life.”
Last month, a rep for Horn confirmed that he had tested positive for the coronavirus and was being treated.
Horn developed a connection to animals at an early age, which began with his wolfdog, Hexe, and his pet cheetah, Chico, which he’d adopted from the Bremen Zoo in northern Germany.
Horn went on to work as a steward on a cruise ship, where he assisted Fischbacher in a performance of his magic act. At one point, the story goes, Horn asked Fischbacher: “Siegfried, disappearing rabbits are ordinary, but can you make a cheetah disappear?”
As Siegfried & Roy, the duo traveled around the world, but it was their forty-year run in Las Vegas that cemented them as superstars. Horn and Siegfried got their start in Sin City in 1967 as a featured act in “Follies Bergère,” “Hallelujah Hollywood” and “Lido de Paris,” then became headliners in “Beyond Belief” in 1981 and finally landed a 14-year run at The Mirage.
The pair performed six shows per week, 44 weeks per year. 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 amount 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.
Siegfried & Roy’s show, incorporating animal antics and magic tricks, included about 20 white tigers and lions, the number varying depending on the night. The show also had other exotic animals, including an elephant.
However, Horn’s performing career ended on October 3, 2003 after one of his white tigers, Montecore, “reacted to what Roy believed was a stroke and dragged him off the stage.” Roy suffered severe neck injuries and blood loss and later did suffer a stroke.
Despite the incident, Horn went on to “live a full and rewarding life after the show ended.”
In October 2006, three years after the attack, Horn and Fischbacher attended their induction into the Las Vegas Walk of Stars. Horn’s speech was sluggish at times and he walked a bit slow, but he called the event “a deeply emotional experience.”
Siegfried & Roy returned to the stage in February 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 television show “20/20.”
“Roy’s whole life was about defying the odds,” Siegfried said. “He grew up with very little and became famous throughout the world for his showmanship, flair and his life-long commitment to animal conservation. He had a strength and will unlike anyone I have ever known.”
Born Uwe Ludwig Horn in Nordenham, Germany, on October 3, 1944, Horn is survived by his brother Werner Horn, his animal family and Siegfried.