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Siegfried and Roy
Fischbacher, Siegfried (b.1939), and Horn, Roy (b.1944)
 
 
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Illusionists Siegfried and Roy became world-renowned for their spectacular Las Vegas shows, elaborate productions that featured their trademark white tigers, as well as lions and other exotic animals. Although they refrain from discussing their sexual orientation publicly, they are widely perceived as homosexual and are popular with gay and lesbian audiences, functioning in some respects as camp icons.

Both Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn faced difficult circumstances growing up in wartime and post-war Germany.

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Fischbacher, who was born in Rosenheim, Bavaria, on June 13, 1939, began learning magic at the age of eight. He discovered that he could use it to get attention from his generally uncommunicative father, who had been in a Russian prisoner-of-war camp and who had turned to drinking after returning home.

Fischbacher studied carpet design for a time but then got a job as a steward on a cruise ship, the Bremen, where he also did magic tricks to amuse the passengers.

Horn, who was born on October 3, 1944, in Nordenham, near Bremen, also came from a troubled family. His once-prosperous stepfather became an abusive alcoholic after his fortunes declined. As a boy Horn sought solace in the company of animals, especially his wolf-dog, Hexe. He also visited the local zoo, where he helped with feeding the animals and cleaning cages.

At thirteen Horn became a bellboy on the Bremen, where he saw Fischbacher's magic act and suggested that he make a cheetah instead of a rabbit disappear. When Fischbacher agreed to do so, Horn smuggled a cheetah out of the zoo and onto the ship. The captain was concerned about the danger posed by the wild animal, but passengers liked the show, and so Fischbacher and Horn were allowed to continue their performances.

In 1964, with the purloined cheetah still in tow, the partners took their magic act to clubs in Germany and Switzerland, where they had only moderate success. They gained greater public attention when they performed for Princess Grace at a benefit show for the Red Cross in Monte Carlo in 1966. They began playing at more prestigious venues such as the Lido in Paris.

In 1970 Fischbacher and Horn contracted to perform at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. They began adding more exotic animals to their act and developing their showmanship. They complained that limitations on their creativity were causing them to be depressed, however, and in 1981 they became the main act at the Frontier Hotel, where they broke the record for the longest-running show in Las Vegas.

In 1987 the pair contracted to appear at a lavish new hotel, the Mirage. The deal not only guaranteed them a minimum salary of $57,500,000 over five years but also included a $40,000,000 theater for their show and an $18,000,000 habitat for their growing collection of exotic animals, including rare white tigers.

Fischbacher and Horn received three white tiger cubs from the Cincinnati Zoo in 1982 and have worked with the zoo to help preserve the species. They have since bred more than thirty white tigers, including the only five pure-white tigers in the world. They are also working with the Johannesburg (South Africa) Zoological Society to breed and preserve the rare white lions of Timbavati.

Fischbacher and Horn began performing at the Mirage when it opened in 1990, and in 2001 they signed a lifetime contract, guaranteeing that they will continue appearing at the hotel at least through the end of 2004. Their elaborately produced stage show features music, fancifully-costumed dancers, imaginative and elaborately-engineered props, and numerous exotic animals.

In 1996 the Mirage added Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden, a spacious exhibit in which visitors can see a variety of animals in lush, tropical settings.

In addition to their stage performances, Fischbacher and Horn have appeared on film and on television. The 2000 IMAX movie Siegfried and Roy: The Magic Box, directed by Brett Leonard, turned their already spectacular show into a 3-D film extravaganza in which animals appear to move through the audience.

The movie also tells the story of their early lives and rise to stardom. In his review of the film in Variety, Godfrey Cheshire pointedly remarks that the episode about their meeting aboard the cruise ship should appeal to gay audiences.

A 1994 television special, Siegfried and Roy: The Magic, the Mystery, also featured portions of their stage show but was centered on their interactions with their exotic animals at home.

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