Added in Casino Icons on May 9, 2020 by Jim Murphy

Roy Horn–one half of the iconic Las Vegas entertainment duo Siegfried & Roy–has died at age 75 due to complications related to COVID-19. A S&R publicist confirmed that Roy passed away on Friday at Mountain View Hospital in Las Vegas. It had been announced on April 28 that Horn had been treated for COVID-19.

It’s definitely ironic that Horn survived nearly having his head bitten off by a tiger only to succumb to a virus. The duo’s Las Vegas run ended abruptly on the night of October 3, 2003 after Horn was mauled by a tiger during their nightly performance at the Mirage Hotel & Casino. The two had performed an estimated 30,000 times during their career without even a major incident with the various animals they used in their act but following the attack by a 380 pound white tiger named Mantacore (you’ll alternately see his name spelled as ‘Montacore’ and ‘Mantecore’) it looked unlikely that Roy would survive the night.

Roy had a reputation as a tough and tenacious guy and he did manage to survive. Partner Siegfried Fischbacher eluded to this in a tribute statement released following Horn’s death:

“Today, the world has lost one of the greats of magic, but I have lost my best friend. 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. I give my heartfelt appreciation to the team of doctors, nurses and staff at MountainView Hospital who worked heroically against this insidious virus that ultimately took Roy’s life.”

LEGENDS OF LAS VEGAS ENTERTAINMENT

Siegfried & Roy started their Las Vegas run in 1967, beginning their career as a smaller component of the large production shows that were in vogue at the time including Folies Bergere at the Tropicana, Lido de Paris at the Stardust and Hallelujah Hollywood at the original MGM Grand. Their first headlining show was called Beyond Belief and ran at the Frontier until 1988.

Their next gig would be the one that launched them into the stratosphere of Las Vegas legends. In 1988, they were hired by Steve Wynn to be the headliners at the under construction Mirage Hotel & Casino. Siegfried & Roy debuted in their custom made 5,000 seat theater in 1990 and began a run of 5,750 performances during which they became one of the most popular and financially successful acts in Las Vegas history. The show cost $30 million to produce and employed 276 staffers to keep it running. Show producer Kenneth Feld quipped:

“It was probably the most expensive show in the history of the world at the time it was built.”

Since Wynn knew that he had to ‘go big or go home’ with The Mirage that was fine with him:

“Siegfried and Roy came to me with the idea of a new show that was going to be scaled above and beyond anything anyone had seen in Las Vegas.”

The success of Siegfried and Roy’s show trod the path for other elaborate productions such as the myriad Cirque du Soleil productions. In 2013, Siegfried spoke of this legacy:

“These are big production shows now, but yeah, we came from nowhere. And when The Mirage became such a success, Steve Wynn knew how important entertainment was, and he knew how important Siegfried & Roy were. The show was sold out every night from the first night to the last.”

Like Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Liberace and Wayne Newton for a time S&R were **the** show in Las Vegas. Longtime manager Bernie Yuman spoke with Las Vegas media fixture John Katsilometes on Friday:

“Their arrival was the beginning of a new era. They were doing 12 shows a week, sometimes up to 16 shows a week, because of the demand of families coming into Las Vegas. It got to the point that if you went to Las Vegas, you had to see Siegfried & Roy in the same way you had to see the Statue of Liberty when you went to New York.”

COUNTLESS TRIBUTES FROM BIG NAMES IN ENTERTAINMENT, POLITICS, MAGIC, ETC.

A good way to gauge the significance of someone’s life is by the tributes they receive after they pass away. Horn is remembered today by far too many ‘A Listers’ in showbiz, politics and countless other disciplines. None bigger than ‘The Midnight Idol’ himself, Wayne Newton:

“I send my condolences to Sigfried, Bernie and all of Roy’s family. Having known Roy from the time he and Sigfried first came to Las Vegas, words cannot express what he has meant to not only our city, but to those around the world. He worked tirelessly to bring happiness and joy to so many people. Rest in peace, my dear friend. You will be missed but never forgotten.”

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman on Twitter:

“Roy Horn and his partner Siegfried are synonymous with what has made Las Vegas the entertainment capital of the world. They formed a beyond spectacular performering act that can never be replicated. We are devastated by our loss of Roy, a unique entertainer and dear friend.”

Even more impressive was the accolades Roy has received from his peers in the word of magic such as David Copperfield:

“He was a wonderful artist, a legend. Roy gave so much to entertainment and our community.”

Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller:

“No one even remembers that before Siegfried & Roy, magic was 12 minutes in a variety slot. They invented the idea of magic as a full show. You do not have Penn & Teller without Siegfried & Roy.”

Lance Burton:

“As a boy, I saw Siegfried & Roy on television and was inspired. I didn’t know where Las Vegas was or what gambling was or what resorts were. I just knew there was a city called Las Vegas and S&R performed there. And I wanted to go there!”

You can read more Roy Horn tributes at the Las Vegas Review Journal:

ROY HORN TRIBUTES POUR IN FROM CELEBRITIES, POLITICIANS, FANS (LVRJ)

My love for Las Vegas is almost precisely symmetrical with the opening of the Mirage and the start of Siegfried and Roy’s dominant run. For over a decade, it was impossible to conceive of the city without the duo’s white tigers holding court in the Mirage foyer and ads for S&R plastered all over town. The duo is part of the unique iconography that makes Las Vegas unlike any city on the planet.

About the Author

Jim Murphy

For more than 25 years, Jim Murphy has written extensively on gambling theory and practice. Jim Murphy has been quoted in media from the Wall Street Journal to REASON Magazine. Murphy worked as a radio and podcasting host broadcasting to an international audience that depended on his expertise and advice.

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