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Roy Horn, who found fame as one half of the Siegfried & Roy duo of Las Vegas-based magicians, has died. He was 75.
"Today, the world has lost one of the greats of magic, but I have lost my best friend," Siegfried Fischbacher said in a statement obtained by Fox News. "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.
According to the release announcing Horn's death, he 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.
“The good news is that the white tigers and white lions are going into the 21st century,” Horn said in a 1999 interview with The Associated Press. “The bad news is that if we don’t do something about the tigers in the wild, they will disappear.”
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.
“Their show is so fast-paced the viewer has time only to gasp before the next dazzlement,” an Associated Press reviewer wrote in 1989 when they brought their act to New York.
“A white car drives on stage — as Liberace used to do — bringing a mother white tiger and three cubs. Roy rides an elephant, which disappears, then reappears. At the end, a 650-pound white tiger climbs atop a globe. With Roy on his back, they’re pulled into the air.
“It’s a Las Vegas show and it’s nonstop entertainment. New Yorkers aren’t too sophisticated for this.”
However, Horn’s performing career ended on Oct. 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.
“Throughout the history of Las Vegas, no artists have meant more to the development of Las Vegas’ global reputation as the entertainment capital of the world than Siegfried and Roy,” Terry Lanni, chairman of MGM Mirage, the casino’s parent company, said after the attack.
An investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture explored a variety of theories but was unable to reach a conclusion on what caused the tiger to attack. In its final report, the USDA also said the show’s producers had failed to protect the audience because there was no barrier separating the exotic animals from the crowd.
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 Friday. “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 Oct. 3, 1944, Horn is survived by his brother Werner Horn, his animal family and Siegfried.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.