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Magicians Siegfried & Roy

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Magicians Siegfried & Roy
Siegfried & Roy, famous for their stunning large scale illusions and big cats, once ruled Las Vegas as its most successful act. In their more than three decades in Las Vegas, the pair performed for an estimated 25 million people.

Germany

The magical team was launched from humble beginnings in postwar Germany. Siegfried Fischbacher grew up in the town of Rosenheim, Germany, while Roy Horn grew up in Nordenham. Siegfried discovered an interest in magic at an early age and taught himself from a book that he purchased with a five-mark bill that he happened to find on the street.

In his youth, Roy spent lots of time at the Bremen Zoo where he eventually gained the trust of a two-year-old cheetah named Chico. Eventually, the zookeeper allowed Roy to enter the cheetah's den and feed and care for him.

In 1953, Siegfried and Roy left their respective schools. Siegfried worked for a time in a carpet factory. In 1956, Siegfried took a job at the Lago di Garda resort and began to perform magic.

The Pair Meet

In 1957, Siegfried and Roy met. Siegfried was working as a steward on an ocean liner while Roy was working as a waiter. Roy saw Siegfried performing and they immediately struck up a friendship. Roy became Siegfried's assistant.

In his act, Siegfried had been pulling a rabbit from a hat. But Roy had smuggled Chico the cheetah onto the ship and the big cat soon became part of the act. For the next five years, the pair traveled throughout Europe playing at small clubs for little pay. But the act evolved.

Breakthrough

The big break came when the pair was booked at the Monte Carlo casino. There, a representative of the "Folies Bergere" asked if they would be interested in performing in Las Vegas. In 1967, Siegfried & Roy debuted at the Tropicana in Las Vegas which was followed by a successful run at the Lido in Paris.

Their popularity convinced tycoon Steve Wynn to build his Mirage Casino around them. At the Mirage, their show had a cast and crew of 250 and ran for over 5,000 performances.

The Accident

On Oct. 3, 2003, Roy was injured by a tiger who picked him up by his neck and carried him off stage. According to Roy, the tiger was instinctively protecting him, just as a tiger would its cub.

Roy was severely injured and doctors said that Roy would never walk again. The show ceased. Ever determined, and relying on the spirit that brought himself to the pinnacle of Las Vegas entertainment, Roy painstakingly taught himself to walk.

In a benefit for the Ruvo Institute, Siegfried & Roy performed one last time in March 2009 - a moving return for the magic legends. The performance was recorded for a segment that ran on ABC's 20/20 that honored the magical team.

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