Wild Things Siegfried & Roy - Hell on Earth

This episode contains graphic descriptions of violence and language that may not be suitable for all listeners.

Please be advised.

As far as birthday parties, Roy Horn 59th birthday party with you know most extravagant ones I’ve ever been to.

Curtis Rowe is attending Roy’s birthday party at The Mirage on October 2nd, 2003.

No expense has been spared.

There’s a balloon drop, a conga line with hundreds of people and ice sculptures of tigers.

They had tigers everywhere, tons of food, tons of alcohol, live band.

I mean, if there’s a reason to dress up, that was certainly.

It has more than 500 people gathered near the stage.

Roy, wearing black leather pants, steps out to greet everyone.

The greatest thing any man can do at this age, the 59 I’m celebrating and celebrating and celebrating.

Siegfried and Roy’s cast members put on a special performance just for Roy.

First, on our breaks and stuff so that we could like surprise him with this show.

It was multiple dance numbers, costume changes.

It was a pretty significant little show that we did.

Dancer Megan Hensley attends the party which is held in the same theater where she performs in Siegfried and Roy Show.

It was really fun to dance with these people that I danced with every single night in a different way.

So different style and different energy.

And I remember thinking like we’re so awesome.

At midnight, Roy is presented with multiple ornate birthday cakes featuring little white tiger figurines.

Thank you everybody.

Thank you for being here.

Thank you for sharing the evening with me.

He also toasts Siegfried, his partner of 44 years.

They’ve been through so much together since they first met as teenagers on that German cruise ship, and created one of the most successful magic acts in history.

It was a great night.

It really was.

Roy was having a blast.

He’s only 59.

He’s with the people he wants to be with.

Bad part about it is what happened to following day.

Ladies and gentlemen, the superstars of magic, the mystifying Most Outstanding Act in show business, big breeders, she created Ross, Siegfried and Roy.

Since opening at Mirage, they have sold out at a rate of 104% capacity for every show.

They were one of The Pioneers of transforming Las Vegas into what it is today.

He said that Vegas is ready for a change, so we decided to go a new dimension.

Black magic on sidewalks.

This is wild things Siegfried and Roy.

On October 3rd, 2003 and around 3:30 PM, the first crew members began arriving at The Mirage to prepare for tonight’s show.

Roy’s birthday party only ended about 15 hours ago.

I’m sure a few of us were hungover, but it was just another night.

That’s all it was.

Stagehand Curtis Rowe is one of the first to arrive at the theater.

A few hours later.

Megan Hensley and the rest of the cast show up.

I think we had to be there at 7 in this show start at 7:30.

Before every show, the casting crew gather with Siegfried and Roy.

Although his party was last night.

Today is Roy actual birthday.

I’m sure there was some birthday wishes thrown at him, but when we’re doing the show, you know we’re concentrating on what we’re doing.

It’s same as they are.

Roy makes his usual rounds with one of his animal handlers and handpicks, which animals will perform specific parts of the show.

There are four options for the Rapport Act.

The show’s quietest moment.

After conferring Roy and one of the animal handlers decide on Monocor.

Meanwhile, Curtis is preparing backstage.

It was almost like organized chaos.

In that show, you know, because these magic shows are pretty dark backstage ‘cause you can’t run around with your flashlight.

And when the show runs smooth, it’s great.

But all shows will screw up, whether it’s a sound problem or a automation problem or a rigging problem or whatever.

But that night I mean the show went on time and it was just another night.

Ladies and gentlemen, the superstars of Magic, Zigfried and Roy.

There was the battle number and then there was always a 45 minute break while they just did stuff with the Tigers and then we would come back on for like the last 15 ish minutes for our big final production number.

But we would always get to go to our dressing room and usually we throw on like sweats and hang out.

So we were just looking at our pictures from the night before we got our one hour photos and we were kind of like showing each other what we taking pictures of and giving somebody their double.

While Megan takes her break, the stage crew keeps busy.

I was on the electric crew.

You’re sitting there.

You’re plugging these illusions in if you don’t plug these in when they’re supposed to be plugged in or unplugged, it’s going to affect the show.

It’s going to make the show look bad, so obviously you have to pay attention, specially in that show, but these are live shows so you have to expect the unexpected.

Dancer Michael Davies is on stage with another dancer, Don McCarthy.

They’re assisting with the Sarmadi box act, an illusion where Siegfried and Roy make animals magically appear out of a 5 by 5 foot mirrored box.

I pull a curtain across the cat, jumps off on stage left, and then the box spins again and dawn on the other side of the box pulls a curtain across and another cat jumps out and runs to stage right.

And for the finale.

Don and I lift the lid.

You know jumps Roy.

And the illusion is, how does this small box that’s, you know, five feet square contain two £800 cats in Roy.

And of course, there’s all kinds of applause, so he’s he’s standing up in a spotlight, and so the crowd is absolutely applauding at this point and cheering.

And you also, you know, I, I wish you could see Roy, because he really was really just a tremendous entertainer.

He had a charisma about him, and when he when he jumped up and smiled and jumped down, he just kind of owned the stage.

The audience just adored him.

And then a curtain drops and at that point one of the trainers brings monocor out to Roy.

Michael and Don are standing behind the curtain in pitch black, and we’re the only two on the stage at that point, and Don and I had this ritual as we walked back.

We peel our wigs off, and Roy had a monologue and we would mimic it every day as we walked.

And tonight is his first appearance in front of him.

But that night there was a long pause.

You know, so we’re walking in pitch black and walking toward the door where the dressing rooms then are.

It’s it’s maybe say 45 feet or something from the center stage and we we kept walking and we got finally to the door into the hallway where there was light and Don and I actually stood there like looking at each other ‘cause he still was.

No monologue.

There was a pause in the audio and we didn’t know what was happening, but we dismissed it at first because there were moments where we sometimes had technical difficulties with the big props and stuff moving on stage.

So I think all of us just assumed that that’s what was going on.

And we slowly walked back into the darkness.

I remember hearing there was like a feeling of a microphone like you know, if you take a mic and you rub it like it’s rubbing on something.

And at that point we heard one of the stagehands yelled cat loose.

And that was for us was absolutely terrifying.

I just happened to hear on a headset that was sitting next to me on a stool.

I just heard he’s got Roy.

And then then it just got dead quiet.

That’s when I decided to run down stage and that’s when I saw, you know, a monochord dragon row across the stage.

And then somebody came into our dressing room and told us that they were locking us in the dressing room.

And one girl was pretty religious in our group, and she suggested that we all get together and hold hands and say a prayer.

So I remember we were in a circle saying a prayer that things were going to be OK.

But at the same time I was thinking about like survival mode like Oh my God.

Do we have to run?

Should we get our shoes on?

I think one of us even said everybody get your shoes on in case we have to run and then I remember thinking I’m not running for my cats like there’s no way I’m running from a cat.

Running down stage courtesy’s monocor dragging Roy into the Big black box, which is used to transport the tiger to and from the theater.

I grabbed moniker by detail to stop him from Dragon Roy further into this box and there was nothing else to grab when he ran by me.

I’m in.

The details are pretty big man.

You can’t miss him and at this point I’m there, Sir by myself, no cat handlers, nobody.

Nobody was there and then.

Finally Mike showed up Mike Herbert, one of the other states hands and we kind of make eye contact.

We’re like holy hell and then Dale hurt.

But it was the other state and that showed up.

So now there’s me, Mike and Dale.

I got Monaco by to tell, and Mike and El reached down and grabbed Roy by the legs.

But they knew not to start polling because last thing they wanted was a tug of war.

Alright, so now we’re just all frozen and nobody saying nothing.

There wasn’t a sound.

There was no moaning from Roy.

There was no sound from the tiger.

I mean you, you just can’t imagine these are big big animals, so we were at risk of being attacked as well.

And if Monocor wanted to take Roy further into that box, there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.

They’re just too powerful.

Suddenly, Curtis remembers his emergency training.

The first thing we were told is is to grab a CO2 fire extinguisher because I guess the noise and the coldness freaks the cat out or whatever, and I’m thinking of course fire extinguisher fire extinguisher.

But I don’t want to let him go.

Finally, an animal handler runs over with a fire extinguisher, and then he just hits it.

And Monochord drops Roy.

And we knew this ‘cause we can actually hear Roy hit the bottom of the box and then monocross shot in the cage.

Just tell just shot through my hands.

The transport boxes immediately slam shut and taken away.

Moniker is placed into quarantine.

Meanwhile, Curtis, Mike and Dale all look down at Roy.

There’s blood everywhere.

This was ******* hell on earth, but we run, he dies, you know we help.

He has a chance.

We were saving a friend so when that time came we were not going to let this man die.

Keeping him from bleeding out was very difficult.

It looked like somebody took a railroad spikes and just jammed them into his neck.

These hoes were were huge.

I mean it was coming out like a freaking garden hose man so.

Mike and Dale just started plugging the holes that the two main wounds were in the back, and Dale had a couple of his fingers in one.

Mike had they just, they just started plugging and I looked down and Roy had another wound in his throat and a lot of blood was shooting out of it.

So I dropped down and started shoving my fingers into that.

Siegfried standing there and watching all this right screaming Oh my God.

This is a nightmare.

Help him help him save him.

At this point Roy is actually conscious.

He’s actually talking, you know I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.

I’m telling Dale you’re choking him you’re choking him you know you gotta, you gotta ease up and he’s screaming I can’t.

I can’t you know and he was right he was right he couldn’t really any pressure and at this point.

We’re all terrified.

I know I was because after about 10 minutes you know he’s not moving at all.

I’m thinking to myself he’s gone.

He’s not going to make it man.

Because when you look around and you see the pile of blood we were sitting in.

I mean it looked like somebody just dumped a bucket of red paint on us.

There was that much blood.

There was so much, so much blood, and Roy really isn’t speaking anymore.

All we can do is wait for the paramedics.

And we knew they were coming.

It’s just when are they going to get there?

Paramedics reportedly arrived within 4 minutes, but Curtis swears it feels more like 13 minutes.

I actually screamed at one of them.

I said get your *** over here that he came over and said, look at I’m going to take over and I go be my freaking guest, you know.

And then the other paramedic told Mike you gotta move your fingers.

I can’t see Mike saying I can’t do that.

I can’t pull him out paramax it goes look at I got to see what’s going on.

Mike pulled his fingers out man what blood was left started shooting out and paramedics told him put it back put it back put it back.

Mike shoved his fingers back in there and then eventually the paramedic did take over.

Mike’s wounds and then the other paramedic took over the wounds that Dale was dealing with, and I’m telling you if it wasn’t for my Carbondale hurt.

The other two stagehands if it wasn’t for those two guys.

Roy bleeds out right there, he dies.

Siegfried still standing there.

Bots in this whole thing go down.

He was a mess, you know which understandable and would just stand in there until the paramedics patched him up and then put him on a stretch or whatever.

Michael and Don, the two dancers who were on stage in the dark as everything just unfolded, are now waiting in their dressing room.

Time started to pass and we eventually got word that of what had happened.

And as all the performers slowly started getting out of their costumes and taking off their makeup, we all just sort of slowly trickled into this long hallway and and waited, waited until they brought Roy out.

So as I walked out there good good portion of the cast was already out there and it was just a a lot of tears.

A lot of apprehension, a lot of fear, and when the EMTs brought the the Gurney around the corner and Roy is on this on this journey, you know you could have her pin drop.

And the reason I know that it goes quiet is because I could hear Roy’s breathing like in that breathing tube like air being sucked through a tube and it sounded like he was struggling against the pressure that they had to put on his neck.

They take the journey down the the long hallway and once they walked through the shock of it all really sort of sunk in for everybody that drove it home.

A lot of us didn’t want to leave and there was a group of us that.

Actually went out and sat in a lounge out in the garage and had a beer and just sort of lingered.

We didn’t want to go home.

We didn’t didn’t know where to go.

You start reflecting on Roy’s impact on you personally, you know and he created a lot of fun moments with performers backstage that were, you know, just unique to them.

And we were all sort of started sharing some of these kinds of moments that we had with Roy.

‘cause we’re all sort of trying to process it.

Sick breed does not ride in the ambulance with Roy.

Instead he returns to his dressing room before he leaves for the hospital.

Several casting crew members head to the hospital as well.

They hold a candlelight vigil in the parking lot, but amidst all this chaos, nobody at The Mirage remembers to unlock the women’s dressing room where Megan and several dancers have been praying.

We stayed in our dressing rooms the whole time.

Nobody told us anything and then I just remember one girl coming in and saying that she saw Roy getting wheeled out and so then that’s when we knew that it was Roy and Roy was being brought to the hospital when a stage manager finally comes into the dressing room, the cast is told only some of what’s been going on.

She’s just said, you know there was an incident with a cat.

It’s not a big deal.

We brought him to the hospital.

Everything should be fine like we were.

We were just thinking no big deal and so we went to.

A little barn restaurant.

Bahama Breeze down the road and we were in the bar having a good time.

Like so excited that we had a night off.

And at that point all the TV’s started showing Roy’s face and obviously the sound wasn’t on in the bar.

So we just saw his face and like Oh yeah, an accident happened.

But like at the same time my family they all start calling me.

I get calls from my mom and dad.

I get calls from my uncle.

And I was like I’m fine like I don’t understand what’s happening and then we found out how severe it was and then we’re like, Oh my God, this is not good.

So after the show, the three of you are covered in blood.

So do you just go get cleaned up?

I remember one of the stagehands looking at me goes hey man go to the bathroom and watch that **** off you.

I said yeah, that’d be a good idea so we’re in the bathroom washing blood off ourselves.

There was these two towels that were just totally soaked with Roy’s blood.

I said I’m going to the ******* bar, you know.

I mean we, you know we do work in the casino.

You know the bar wasn’t that far away.

Curtis doesn’t have a change of clothes, but stagehands wear all black so the blood on his shirt and pants isn’t noticeable.

At least nobody says anything at the bar, but if they had, Curtis would have offered quite an explanation.

Years later, listening to all the intimate and gory details of this infamous tragedy, I was overwhelmed.

So it’s tough to imagine what Curtis was feeling as he cozied up to the bar.

I think I started off with a couple of shots of tequila.

I’m not sure what Mike had, and we’re kind of like, you know, still, like did this **** just happen?

We’re like, did this just really happen?

Because at that point in time Arnold Adrenaline was still pretty much, you know 100% as some of the stagehands we’re just talking.

You know between us they’re buying us drinks and reality started to set in some way, and eventually the news traveled pretty quickly.

One of the rare tigers of Siegfried and Roy attack paramedics arrived within 4 minutes and rushed Horn to a Vegas hospital where he underwent emergency surgery.

We’re watching this on TV and like we didn’t want to be interviewed.

We weren’t going to say anything.

We were just only concerned about, you know, Roy’s well-being.

Mike even said he goes man, don’t go to anybody.

I ain’t going to anybody, man, it’s nobody’s business.

I respect Roy’s privacy and and we left it at that.

I don’t know if I was summoned or whether I just went, but I found out what hospital and jumped in my car and went over.

Penn Jillette, of the Las Vegas Magic act.

Penn and Teller has known the duo for decades.

I was in a heightened state.

And excited and nervous and despondent all at once.

And I got there with no no idea why I was there.

I was just a guy standing at a parking lot.

I forgot who came out and grabbed me and all of a sudden I was in the halls.

And there was a A destroyed Bernie and a destroyed Siegfried.

And I think Siegfried came up to me and said that they were.

Unable to speak, they were so upset emotionally and they asked me if I would do the interviews, which was beautiful and very, very odd because I was always making jokes about them.

And I remember Larry King actually saying something like, didn’t you make jokes about those guys and saying, well, sure I made jokes and now this is not a joke.

The next day the casting crew arrived at work.

Everyone, including Michael, is wondering what’s going to happen.

When we showed up, you know we hadn’t gotten any news.

Is it possible that you know, we just need a little bit of time off and he recovers and we come back to work?

Megan shares his optimism, so I’ve was under the impression that everything was still going to be OK when I should have that meeting.

But Siegfried met us all there and told us that the show would be closed for good at that point, and he was visibly, you know, in shock, he’s normally very gregarious, but he was very different than normal.

There must have been the gravity of of the of the whole situation.

I got to imagine was weighing on him, but I just remember the producer doing most of the talking.

That would be Ken Feld, the CEO of Feld Entertainment, which has produced Siegfried and Roy Show since 1979.

As I mentioned before, Feld Entertainment declined to participate in this podcast.

It was like a 15 minute meeting and they told us that we had one weeks worth of pay that we had our insurance till the end of the month.

And then that’s it.

There were some like ******** sigfried and where people that had been with him from the very first show like 15 years in the same show.

I remember a lot of those people speaking up in the meeting and being really upset.

Like heartbreakingly upset, it was their family.

There’s not a lot of shows that have that long ever run where you can actually find a place to stay for that length of time.

In fact, I’d been there over two years, and I was one of the newer ones still.

They gave us garbage bags, black garbage bags, and we went and we.

Cleaned out our spots and we walked out of the garage with black garbage bags slung over our shoulders with all of our belongings in them.

And that’s the last time that most of us set foot in that theater.

Feld was not.

He probably could have approached that moment a little a little differently.

He didn’t win a lot of friends in that moment.

They clearly made a lot of money off that show and the show was cancelled.

It sort of unceremoniously.

A few people were a little bit upset, but that’s obviously mixed in with more concern about Roy.

So is confluence of competing emotions at that point.

Then we started doing the candlelight visuals at the hospital that Roy was at in Vegas here and that was almost every night.

All the cast and crew would show up out in a parking lot with candles.

Praying and wishing him well and all that.

It was just a big waiting game after this.

If I were unceremoniously let go from my job and handed a trash bag to carry away all my belongings, I’m not sure I would be able to hold on to such fond feelings for my bosses.

So the fact all those casting crew members continue gathering outside Roy’s hospital window is certainly a testament to him and the show.

But when Siegfried and Roy eventually discussed the attack publicly, their story actually offends some of these people.

Specifically, the way Siegfried and Roy doubled down on the claim that moniker was trying to help Roy.

As I said before, I was always skeptical of this explanation, but it’s not until 2019 that someone with first hand experience criticizes that story.

Publicly new allegations about that onstage attack that ended the infamous Las Vegas, Siegfried and Roy Show and nearly ended Roy’s life.

Now one of the men behind the Tigers is speaking out, saying what he thinks happened.

Do you think this was human error?

Yes I do.

Animal handler Chris Lawrence was working backstage at the show on October 3rd, 2003.

He actually rushes over to help Curtis and the other stagehands in 2019 after 16 years of silence.

Chris finally goes public.

This is his version of what happened there.

Former animal handler says Roy made an error on stage with a tiger that he believes led to the attack at the time Chris had been working as one of Siegfried and Roy’s animal handlers.

For nearly eight years when we started our podcast, I hope to interview Chris, our producer.

Alexanders aslo spoke on the phone with him and his wife Alicia, but ultimately he declined our interview request.

One of Chris duties was to meet moniker off stage right after the Rapper Act to make sure the Tigers transport box was secure after helping to support this routine hundreds of times, Chris understands exactly how this moment should play out, beat by beat.

Occasionally, tigers do fall out of routine, but it’s something Roy in all the handlers trained for specifically they use a certain move to reset the animals.

It’s called a come around where the handler leads the tiger to walk in a complete circle, but according to Chris Roy botched this move, he says Roy brought moniker around in a quote UN quote pirouette motion without moving his own body.

The point that I realized that things were kind of going sideways.

Was when Roy turned monocor around and he ended up with his face in in Roy’s midsection.

According to Chris, the human error of Roy Cutting a corner while using a simple tiger command leads to the accident.

I have to say, it’s tough to imagine that scenario given how Roy is known for being a perfectionist, but Chris makes other allegations that pick at Roy’s reputation.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in March 2019, Chris claims that Roy was no longer spending as much time with his performing tigers.

He says Roy had stopped feeding them treats and talking to them during preshow walkthroughs, which are tactics for bonding.

Lawrence tells The Hollywood Reporter the bond had weakened in the years leading up to the attack.

Chris Revelations are news to a lot of people, including USDA investigator David Neal, who was unable to talk with any of the shows.

Animal handlers during his investigation.

In his interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Chris says, quote UN quote Siegfried and Roy’s attorneys told us not to talk to any of them or anyone for that matter.

He claims he provided a written statement which he gave to his superiors, but that statement was never passed on to the USDA, so none of this was included in David Neal’s report.

Does Chris Lawrences account change what your report would ultimately say?

Murray gorgeous.

Don’t understand like it is the way I wrote it no matter what.

Chris Lawrence it said it is, however, very useful information for helping to piece together how and maybe even why the attack transpired.

Even though Chris claims this was partly the result of Roy’s errors.

Chris is one of the main people responsible for Monocor, so he still assumes some of the blame.

Here’s Chris talking to Michael Smerconish on SiriusXM in 2019.

I carried a lot of guilt for a long time.

I thought that, you know.

I I should have been able to stop it all from happening.

And then they had to sit in the same theater and listen to 250 people lose their job.

Chris tells Michael Smerconish he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder in 2007 and like Sean Stanek, the 10 year Old Boy who was attacked by Siegfried and Roy’s Leopard in the 1970s.

Chris says he has nightmares.

The anxiety from the night terrors.

I try to stay out in front of it.

Now it’s worth noting that a few details from Chris account of the attack don’t line up with Curtis is account.

For instance, they don’t agree on how quickly an animal handler arrives to help, or what the handler does to assist the stagehands.

That’s understandable.

Traumatic moments have a way of impacting people differently, so their memories becoming congruent.

Given that I interviewed Curtis at length, we were able to present his account in much greater detail.

With Chris, I would hope to dig deeper, especially his claim that Roy was starting to disconnect from his animals.

In August 2019, a few months after The Hollywood Reporter publishes its story, Siegfried and Roy appear on Good Morning America.

Here’s what they have to say about Chris.

Claims you were saying that Roy had he collapsed even before this happened, and that Montecore was trying to help him off stage.

Of course, Chris says that that is a story to protect the brand.

Why do you think he says that?

I have no idea he had problems with his life anyway, so.

Something he’ll have to.

I don’t know.

I don’t know them what what goes on.

I just know his life was full of problems.

One person who takes issue with the notion that moniker was in any way trying to help Roy is Curtis Row that just made no sense, so I didn’t pay too much attention to it right?

But from that point on, that was the story.

And that’s when we started to get a little frustrated.

You know, Mike called me up and he goes, hey man, do you hear this?

They’re asking zigfried zigfried who saved Roy that night?

Sick freeze telling everybody that moniker saved Roy, so he took Roy and put him backstage behind the curtain.

Detected the protect him and I mean maybe if they would have came up to us and say hey look it, we know what you guys did but we just can’t let this get out.

We cannot let the public know about this.

Would you guys help us with this?

I can understand that or maybe Roy inviting us to his house and having a beer but that never happened.

It was truly a slap in the face to all three of us.

It really was that ******* cat could have came after us so to act like we were never there and this never happened.

That’s just I don’t know.

A low blow and that’s why Mike and El refused to do interviews.

They said no way.

If both those guys you know we’re not waiting for people to write songs about us, but I will never understand until my last breath.

What was the Big deal about telling what we did?

In February 2009, a crowd of 1000 people gather at the Bellagio Hotel.

Among them are celebrities like Danny DeVito, Teri Hatcher and Hilary Duff.

A camera crew is standing by to capture the event for an ABC News Special.

Everyone is here to see Siegfried and Roy’s return to the stage.

After the incident at the time was never right to do this, and I think this is a very nice.

Of leaders, and you know?

The price of 1 ticket is $1500, which is exorbitant, but tonight’s show is a fundraiser for the Lubo Center for Brain Health in Vegas.

Given Roy’s experience with a life saving brain surgery, this causes important to the duo.

After walking a red carpet out front, guests are greeted inside by costumed women airbrushed to look like white tigers.

People are anxious to see what is about to go down.

Nobody has forgotten that six years earlier at Siegfried and Roy’s last show, one of them was mauled by a tiger.

ABC’s cameras focus on the stage as a voice plays over the loudspeaker.

I have an announcement to make.

The spirit of Siegfried and Roy has just arrived.

Roy emerges onstage wearing a white and gold decorative mask and dressed in a long hooded robe.

Carrying a torch, he ambles towards a cauldron in the center of the stage.

It takes nearly a minute for him to travel no less than 19 steps.

The audience sits in silence, awed by a man who his doctors once predicted, would never walk again.

One audience member shares her reaction with ABC.

I think really seeing boy in recognizing that that was him walking.

I think that’s really what got most of us.

We all start.

We all started bawling.

Roy finally reaches the cauldron and lowers the torch.

The flames dance until he covers the fire with a metal lid.

When Roy lifts the lid, Siegfried rises up from inside the cauldron.

As the show continues, Siegfried helps Roy maneuver around the stage.

Whenever possible.

Roy leans on railings and surfaces.

At one point, Sigfried steps inside a box and suddenly out of nowhere, reappears inside a different box.

To be honest, the show is less a spectacle of stagecraft than it is a marvel of human resilience and a nod to the past.

The routine lasts only 7 minutes, but the climax gets a standing ovation.

After the duo Conjure a white tiger inside a glass box, Siegfried opens the door and the animal steps out onto the stage.

Right on cue, the tiger sits patiently beside the duo, but I have to point out that before the animal is allowed to leave the box, sigfried quickly clips a cable onto its collar.

This is an obvious safety precaution, but just subtle enough that the audience may not even notice.

Siegfried and Roy removed their masks fistbump and waved to the crowd.

Ladies and gentlemen.

Your attention please.

The spirit of Siegfried and Roy just left the building.

As the curtain closes on, what will be the duo’s final performance that White Tiger stands obediently?

It’s a fitting tableau.

For 44 years, Siegfried and Roy performed thousands of shows alongside dozens of exotic cats.

But on this night, that White tiger is not just any white tiger.

Here’s ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas you see me.

One of these massive majestic tigers, a tiger that Siegfried and Roy say is Manta core, which is dramatic, really.

Maddick given the fact that the last time Manticora shared a stage with Roy, he nearly died.

Right after the show this fairy tale ending is called into question within a few days, journalist Steve Friess post photos on his blog of the Tiger from the final show alongside a photo of monocor he wonders whether they’re actually different animals.

Years later, Chris Lawrence tells a reporter it was not moniker, but a tiger named Jaipur.

Since I’m not one to accept secondhand information, I did a little research.

It turns out Tiger stripe patterns are a lot like human fingerprints.

No two are identical.

So I asked our team to email the photos to experts on tigers.

Didn’t tell any of these folks where the photos came from or what we were working on.

We wanted their unbiased opinions.

We consulted with Jeff Kramer and Animal welfare advocate who identifies missing tigers used by the entertainment industry.

We consulted with Doctor Bilal Habib, a conservation biologist at the Wildlife Institute of India, the country with the world’s largest population of wild tigers, and we also consulted with Doctor Ulas, current, a conservation zoologist who is one of the world’s leading tiger experts.

All three of these people say the Tigers in the photos are not the same.

Giving their infamous tiger a second chance is such a beautiful gesture and a poetic curtain call, so I get why Siegfried and Roy would claim it was monocor.

But if this isn’t true and it’s merely a BF act of showmanship, well, what a bummer.

Maybe they just couldn’t help themselves.

Being forced into retirement had to have been difficult years earlier.

Siegfried doesn’t seem at all prepared for a life beyond the show.

Here he is in 1999 on Larry King Live.

Do you ever have dreams beyond The Mirage?

Oh yes, of course you always have three legs and no problem with any bigger.

There is no bigger is not always better.

You know it’s when I’m on stage and the most happiest.

So now I try to figure out how I’m gonna be the rest of my time.

Also happy Roy and you don’t want to ever retire.

Not long before the tiger accident, illusionist Penn Jillette has lunch with Siegfried.

He was very eager to retire at that point.

He said he was getting sick of doing it and that he was.

He was looking to be done with it.

It was getting to be a grind.

Roy aggressively did not feel the same.

We talked a lot about that.

Roy wanted to go forever.

Yeah, there came a point where you know, you wished and hoped that they would have retired.

Maybe just one or year earlier and they would have retired as one of the greatest.

In an alternate universe, Monochord doesn’t attack Roy and a tragic black cloud never hangs over the duo’s legacy, but even still, I don’t think that infamy can diminish their impact.

Writer Annette Tapert reminds us that before Siegfried and Roy, Las Vegas was a very different place.

There wasn’t really any culture, even though they were living in this bubble, they were always looking always reading.

Always curious, they reached.

Out to really interesting people to create costume sound music.

They went outside of the Las Vegas bubble and they transformed Las Vegas into what it is today.

If it weren’t for Siegfried and Roy, countless magicians including Rick Thomas would never have headlined a Vegas show.

Just seeing them on the strip was everything to me.

Siegfried and Roy had spent 40 years in one of the greatest careers on the face of this Earth, and I think it was frustrating watching the way that Vegas went on without them, as though they never existed.

We have some breaking news out of Las Vegas, the famous Siegfried and Roy ACPA.

That’s right, Roy Horn from that famous act has died.

We understand that he passed from complications to COVID-19.

On May 8th, 2020, Roy Horne dies in a Las Vegas hospital at the age of 75.

His passing from the virus that unleashed a pandemic is understandably emotional for Siegfried.

In a statement, Siegfried Fischbacher said he lost his best friend from the moment we met.

I knew Roy and I.

Together we changed the world.

Siegfried said there could be no Siegfried without Roy, and no Roy without Siegfried.

Roy was always fearless.

He had No Fear of living, not fear of loving and No Fear of giving.

Roy’s death shocks.

Former cast members like dancer Brad Barnes for me.

I just never thought of him passing.

He’s like a superhero.

They would live forever.

But up.

That’s not always the case, and.

But it’s been worked forever.

Roy is cremated and sigfried places the urn holding his ashes in their private Chapel.

Before Roy passes though, he and Siegfried received good news.

One of the streets leading to The Mirage will be renamed Siegfried and Roy Drive, but the ceremony is scheduled for August 2020, so Roy misses it.

Here’s Siegfried addressing the crowd.

You know, Roy.

He had always big dreams and this is one of his and you know when we got the phone call from the mayor and she told us the news, Roy.

Roy chapter.

Then he said, you know?

You know what another this is.

Usually you have to be dead before you get your name on the strings.

Fans and friends attend the ceremony, including Mirage spokesperson Alan Feldman.

Zigfried showed up for the unveiling of the street sign.

He looked amazing, but when Roy passed, there was a part of me that thought.

It won’t be long before Siegfried goes.

Siegfried Fischbacher half of the duo, Siegfried and Roy, lost his battle with cancer at the age of 81.

On January 13th, 2021, about four months after the street is renamed, Siegfried passes away from pancreatic cancer.

Rather than spend his final moments in a hospital bed like Roy who passes just eight months earlier, Siegfried returns home to the Jungle Palace.

From what I understand, one night he calls his sister, a nun named Sister Delor who lives in Munich, Germany.

Shortly after they pray together, Siegfried passes.

As somebody who knew them and obviously worked with them for a long time, how did you feel when you found out that they both had passed away?

It was heartbreaking, but in in some respects.


On the one hand, I really had hoped that Siegfried would find a path on his own and thrive.

But on the other hand, they were both.

Incredibly spiritual and connected, and so in a lot of respects.

I’m not surprised.

I don’t know that Siegfried could have lived much longer without Roy.

I just think they they had a need to be together.

Here’s Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, speaking with a local news channel.

Sing Free was really half a person without Roy and it that coupling that partnership.

They had all those years.

Well, at least they’re together again.

Mayor Goodman releases a statement on Twitter.

What is calming now she writes, is to realize that he is back with his life partner Roy Horn.

Life partner, that phrase is telling.

Even more telling is how the tweet doesn’t seem to raise any eyebrows.

On Twitter, not one person replies with anything remotely homophobic.

In fact, a conservative woman in Colorado who identifies herself as a follower of God, tweets only one word.


Personally, I don’t know what happens when we die, but the idea of Siegfried and Roy reuniting in the great beyond is beautiful.

It reminds me of something magician Rick Thomas observes when he visits the Jungle Palace after the tiger attack.

The only thing I saw in Siegfried was his love for Roy.

I saw nothing more than a man just showing that he wanted to sit there next to Roy and be there for him.

Less than a year before Roy’s death, police crime scene investigator Randy McLaughlin is out to dinner off the strip at a local casino when his wife notices something, she leaned over and said, man, if I didn’t know better, that looks like Siegfried.

And that’s when I motioned with my eyes to look down and she looked down and saw that he was pushing Roy in a wheelchair.

And that’s when she realized, Oh my God, that’s Siegfried and Roy.

It’s really sweet to see Siegfried pushing Roy.

Did they seem happy?

They did, they really did.

You know people would walk by and recognize them and they were very personable and they never you know, acted famous.

They just were pleasant, nice people and did it ever sort of cross your mind that perhaps you might want to say hello.

It did cross my mind and I’m sorry I didn’t.

Now I wish I would have said hello, but I certainly would not have told them that I was a bigger part of their life than they know.

I would have just said hi and thanks for the year.

Years in Las Vegas.

Even if Siegfried and Roy’s show on October 3rd, 2003 didn’t go haywire, it’s safe to say that acts like theirs are being consigned to history.

Ringling Brothers Circus is no more.

It shut down in 2017 around the same time attendance steeply declines.

At SeaWorld, the theme park, known for its performing orca whales in 2021.

The Mirage was sold to the Hard Rock Hotel, which plans to overhaul the property.

Although folks at the Hard Rock wouldn’t tell us if they intend to remove The Secret Garden, it’s hard to picture an exotic animal attraction surviving the remodel.

Recently Ringling Brothers announced its intention to relaunch in 2023 without performing animals.

Today, Hollywood movies are substituting computer generated animals in lieu of real ones, even Rick Thomas, who launched his Vegas career onstage alongside Tigers has had a change of heart.

It wasn’t Roy who caused me to rid myself of the Tigers, and it was me saying.

You know what?

I don’t think it’s right.

What I’m putting him through.

I don’t think it’s right for me.

I’m not going to do this, and at that time.

I decided to put him in a reserve.

My tigers are at a wonderful facility called Keepers of the Wild.

It is not a zoo.

They take in animals that are need of being protected, but not utilized to be on display.

How do you feel knowing that Siegfried and Roy’s tigers are still on display at The Secret Garden?

I personally.

Probably would not want to put the Tigers on display anymore.

I feel very comfortable with my decision on what I did with my Tigers.

How I moved on with their life and mine?

Can I get one ticket, please?

$25 thank you.

So it’s sending you a QR code and then they’ll scan it.

When you get to the entrance.

Wonderful, thank you.

Thank you, enjoy.

Walking into The Secret Garden, I’m struck by just how close it is to the pool, where Mirage hotel guests swim and sun themselves.

When you traverse the long catwalk and pass through the turnstiles, the first thing you see isn’t a tiger but an enormous pool with dolphins and a gift shop filled with chalkies stuffed animals, baby onesies, T shirts, tank tops, and coffee mugs all adorned with white tigers.

The actual real life exotic cats are all the way in the back of The Secret Garden in a separate area.

This exhibit is run by Melody Jesus and an animal trainer in vet Tech who is overseeing The Secret Garden.

Since it opened in 1997.

When I arrange my tour with Melody, I’m told that I cannot interview her on tape.

As we walk around the garden, Melody shares many stories about Siegfried and Roy, which I’ve never heard of.

All the things.

She tells me the most interesting tidbit.

Is a secret.

Following the attack in 2003, The Mirage expresses interest in publicizing Monocor’s next appearance at The Secret Garden.

But Siegfried and Roy vehemently object.

They won’t allow the tiger to be put in a position where it will likely be taunted.

However, for all the cats at The Secret Garden, working a four hour daily shift as part of their routine and as Melody tells me, breaking that routine causes them stress in her words, the animals look, quote, UN quote, depressed.

So Monocor eventually does return to The Secret Garden, but the public never knows.

Every day when he’s LED into a pen inside the exhibit, handlers put up a placard which doesn’t say moniker, but the name of another tiger.

For years, people have no idea that the white tiger behind the fence is actually the infamous cat who ended the reign of Siegfried and Roy.

In 2014, when 17 year old Monocor passes away from natural causes, Roy posts attribute on Facebook.

Beyond sharing that farfetched, Guadalajara birth story Roy does sound sincerely upset.

I feel he writes like a part of me is gone.

After Melody and I say goodbye, I find a bench in a secret garden across from an immense white tiger in his enclosure.

He’s lounging on a tree branch elevated off the ground as Mr spray clouds of cool moisture onto his face.

He shuts his bright blue eyes.

Tourists snapped selfies and shouted him to look their way.

I think back to that word, melody used routine.

It’s touching that Siegfried and Roy spared Monocor from public ridicule.

But now that the magicians are both gone, why are these tigers even here?

What good is a routine without a purpose?

Siegfried also keeps to a routine in his final years.

He begins frequenting The Secret Garden unannounced.

He had become a fixture at The Secret Garden.

He he would go every afternoon.

And he just pulled his car up by his side entrance.

There was never marketing done about it.

He just showed up and tourists who were walking through the sacred garden would just come upon him and.

He would always greet them and he loved it.

And they loved it, my goodness.

Siegfried poses for photos, signs, autographs and performs close-up magic tricks, including making a gold coin disappear and reappear.

After finishing the trick, he gives away the coin to countless tourists on one side.

It’s emblazoned with the names Siegfried and Roy and on the other side it’s engraved with a message.

It reads look for the magic all around you.

Why do you think he went to The Secret Garden where the Tigers were to do this?

That was their place.

It was a product of their creativity and of their spirit.

He just wanted to be wanted to be around the animals and he wanted to be around familiar surroundings, especially as Roy became less able to go out.

And ultimately became ill.

That must have felt like a place where everything was alright.

Picturing Siegfried standing in The Secret Garden performing impromptu illusions far away from the pomp and circumstance of a big stage brings to mind something magic historian and consultant, Jim Steinmeyer told us earlier.

They were constantly challenged and driven to achieve the next show to achieve the next solution.

To achieve the next production.

And I think that manifested itself with a kind of happy, challenging attitude with Roy, who always seemed to rise to the occasion.

And I think it manifested itself with a kind of dark.

Worry with Siegfried, who tended to worry about you know, had the show become so big that he had lost an opportunity to know reach those people, because all of that is that is a danger for performer.

He never forgot how important that could be.

And when the world would be dismissive of magicians and be dismissive of magic, Siegfried Nunez hard that it was that it was much more profound than that.

As all of those gold coins say, look for the magic all around you.

Writer Annette Tapert believes this maxim also applies to Siegfried and Roy’s life story.

It was sort of fate that they met, and I think absolutely they had a bond.

Because of that.

I think that they understood each other on a level that was just deep and instinctive.

They could always tell what the other one was thinking.

Looking at the full arc of their lives, it’s remarkable what Siegfried and Roy achieved.

Two boys raised in abusive homes amidst the wreckage of Nazi Germany meet unexpectedly on a cruise ship and forge a mystical partnership.

For nearly half a century, these men crafted a spectacle that compelled millions of strangers from all over the world to sit in the dark together and be amazed.

Although these iconic entertainers brought joy and wonder to so many, I can’t ignore that offstage, away from the spotlight, there are people who say they were hurt both directly and indirectly by Siegfried and Roy.

I’ll never get the chance to sit down and speak with the magicians so I can only wonder how each of them reconciled any feelings of remorse as they passed away into the great beyond, or whatever’s out there.

Sitting in The Secret Garden, observing a white tiger pacing vigorously back and forth behind a fence.

I think about all those shows where everything played out just perfectly.

It’s a site I’ll never see, and a site that nobody will ever see again.

Today there’s a generation of people whose only experience of Siegfried and Roy will be spotting a 20 foot bronze statue on Las Vegas Blvd and wondering who is that?

But for people like me who take the time to consider all of the wild things that swirled around them onstage and off, I suspect we’ll remember them for a long time to come.

And maybe that’s their greatest magic trick of all.

That, despite the fact they have both vanished.

And despite all their flaws and missteps, and despite the bitter, tragic end of their astonishing show 2 eccentric men with mullets wearing sequinned capes will endure forever.

The wonderful thing is when the audience and the magician of their becomes one.

You know you have them right there and it’s the real magic comes in and that happens not all the time, but it happens.

So that’s the most beautiful thing in the world.

While things Siegfried and Roy is an Apple Original podcast produced by Outwell Media, our producer is Alexanders Aslo story editors are Matt Hickey and Mandy Gorenstein.

Our editor is Rachel Lightner.

With help from Andrew Holzberger and Margaret Warner is our associate producer.

Adele Sparks is our archival producer, and Ashley Taylor is our line producer.

Fact checking by Sona Avakian our original music in main title are by Robert Kiesewetter.

Anjana Bechtolt audio post production by 1000 birds.

While things Siegfried and Roy is executive produced and written by me, Stephen Lagarde, our executive producer for Matt.

Well, media is will malnati yet well media team also includes Dominica, Becquet and Ruby.

Be legal.

Services provided by Samuel Bayard and Sean Gordon with representation by Oren Rosenbaum at UTA.

Special thanks to aerial Davis, Ben Goldberg, Bianca Grimshaw Bill and Alexia Conger, Bob Leinbach, Brian Koppelman, Catherine Doyle doctor, Bilal Habib, Dr Alaska RV Gelson, Jacqueline, Fairly heiro Alvarado, Jake young, Jamie Katsuki, Jeff Kramer, Jillian Eugenios, Linda Fosso, melody hit Susan, Mike Mcclary, Rachel Neal, Rebecca Reno and Zach.

Archival material courtesy of AP archive.

British Pathe Limited, CNN Getty Images.

NBC News archives.

Global Imageworks, LLC.

Gray Media Group, incorporated.

KVUE TV KLA S Nextstar media incorporated producers library and the Merv Griffin Show and other material licensed courtesy of Reelin in the Years productions.

I’d also like to add a special thanks for me to everyone on our team who works so hard to make this series.

Listen and follow on Apple Podcasts.

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