Siegfried & Roy connected with several eras of Las Vegas entertainment By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports May 13, 2020 at 8:00 pm Siegfried & Roy were as Vegas old school as dinner shows, coin-in slot machines, and the $1.99 all-you-can-eat buffet. But Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Uwe Ludwig Horn were also a connection from the aging Strip showrooms of the 1970s to the elaborate multimillion-dollar theaters that make up the modern Las Vegas resort industry. Their career in Las Vegas touched parts of five decades and brought them in contact with some of the gaming industry’s historical figures. Their show was originally a specialty act that was part of the “Lido de Paris” at the Stardust, when the Strip resort was controlled by the mob and overseen by organized crime associate Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal. The pair later moved their act to “Hallelujah Hollywood” at the original MGM Grand – now Bally’s Las Vegas – when it was owned by billionaire Las Vegas pioneer Kirk Kerkorian. Siegfried & Roy eventually landed their own headline production, “Beyond Belief,” at the New Frontier. The resort was one of the last owned by Summa Corp., the company founded by eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes. From left, Roy Horn, Nevada Governor Bob Miller, Siegfried Fischbacher, Steve Wynn, Bobby Baldwin and an assistant holding a tiger appear during the grand opening of the Mirage Wednesday, November 22, 1989. CREDIT: Don Knepp/Las Vegas News Bureau When Siegfried & Roy announced they were moving their headline production a block south on the Strip from the New Frontier to Steve Wynn’s planned $620 million Mirage, the event changed the Las Vegas entertainment scene almost immediately from an amenity into a reason for planning a visit. The pair signed a multi-year, $50 million contract with Wynn to perform at The Mirage, a deal unheard of on the Las Vegas entertainment scene in the late 1980s. During a 14-year run in their 1,500-seat theater, Siegfried & Roy entertained sold-out audiences nightly with magical illusions and performances that incorporated more than 55 white tigers, white lions, leopards, and jaguars, plus an elephant that vanished nightly. Along the way, they met Presidents, royalty, and Hollywood and sports celebrities. Today in Las Vegas, elaborate theaters house Cirque du Soleil productions, and big-name performers have residency contracts with Strip resorts. Entertainment was a major reason that more than 42.5 million visitors came to Las Vegas in 2019, and entertainment will likely play a key part in helping Las Vegas recover from the now two-month-long casino industry shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. We have Siegfried & Roy to thank for that transformation. Sadly, COVID-19 took Roy Horn from us last week. When he died from complications of the illness at age 75, Roy had lived nearly 17 years since a 2003 on-stage incident with one of the pair’s white tigers. Roy, who was left severely handicapped, believed Mantecore reacted to what Roy thought was a stroke and dragged him off the stage. The attack ended their performing career, and despite Roy’s severe injuries and medical complications, Siegfried & Roy continued to be Las Vegas ambassadors, making public appearances for various charitable causes. “Roy’s whole life was about defying the odds,” Siegfried said in a statement. “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.” Siegfried & Roy, November 2009/Photo via LVRJ Siegfried & Roy remain connected to The Mirage, which was the Strip’s most expensive development when it opened and paved the road for billions of dollars in resort projects over two decades – projects that transformed the city. The concept seemed to mystify the pair when I sat with them for a November 2009 interview to discuss the 20th anniversary of The Mirage at their west Las Vegas home. The compound doubles as a white tiger habitat. Their first meeting with Wynn took place at their dining room table – the same one I sat at with them two decades later. “Steve wanted to learn everything about us,” Roy Horn said. “And we wanted to learn about The Mirage.” Siegfried admitted the contract – which had a non-compete clause keeping Siegfried & Roy from appearing in Las Vegas until The Mirage opened – frightened him. I received a stuffed White Tiger named ‘Nevada’ and a thank-you letter from Siegfried & Roy following my November 2009 interview “I was in a panic,” Siegfried recalled. “We had signed this contract that nobody had ever signed before. I knew we had to bring something special to The Mirage.” Las Vegas public relations executive Dave Kirvin, the pair’s long-time representative, told me before the interview I would only have 10 minutes with them. Siegfried & Roy talked with me for nearly an hour. That’s Vegas old school. During the interview, they discussed The Mirage show, performing around the world, and their friendship with entertainer Michael Jackson, who had died a few months earlier. Jackson would hang out at The Mirage to watch the show’s rehearsals. Roy said the pair approached Wynn with the idea for developing Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden at The Mirage, which is adjacent to the resort’s Dolphin Habitat and where many of their animals resided. “It was a parking lot, and we made it special,” Roy said. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.