- Siegfried Fischbacher of Siegfried and Roy has died at the age of 81.
- Siegfried and Roy performed at The Mirage for fourteen years.
- Roy Horn died in May 2020 at the age of 75 from complications related to COVID-19.
Less than one year from the passing of longtime personal and professional partner Roy Horn the other half of the legendary Las Vegas entertainment team Siegfried & Roy has died. Siegfried Fischbacher died earlier this week due to complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 81 years old. Fischbacher publicist, Dave Kirvin, confirmed his death and announced that funeral services will be private with plans for a public memorial in the future.
Longtime Las Vegas observer John Katsilometes reported early this week that Fischbacher was seriously ill. The Las Vegas Review-Journal article detailed that Fischbacher had surgery in December to remove a malignant tumor. He survived the 12 hour surgery and at the time of the report he was at home in Las Vegas under the care of two hospice nurses. Fischbacher had not been seen in public since August 26 when a road near The Mirage was renamed to honor Siegfried & Roy.
Fischbacher was raised in Rosenheim, Germany. He met Roy Horn in 1957 while working on a cruise ship. The duo shared their interest in magic and quickly formed an act that added the novel twist of incorporating exotic animals. After working all over Europe they started their Las Vegas run in 1967 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.
When they first arrived in town Fischbacher was unimpressed with the quality of Las Vegas entertainment saying it was:
“no more than just a rest period between gambling sessions — you know, bring on the scantily clad showgirls, strike up the band, tell some jokes, ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-boom, you’ve got a show.”
BECOMING LAS VEGAS ENTERTAINMENT LEGENDS
Their career would soon blow up and they would redefine the entire concept of Las Vegas entertainment. In 1988, they were hired by Steve Wynn to headline at his new casino in Las Vegas called The Mirage. When it opened, The Mirage met with considerable skepticism that it was too ‘over the top’ for a Las Vegas casino. Naturally, Wynn needed an equally over the top show and Siegfried & Roy were the perfect choice. Wynn gave them a custom made theater that held 1500 fans along with an at the time unprecedented $30 million production budget. The show employed 267 cast and crew members and was on a scale previously unheard of in Sin City:
Siegfried & Roy debuted in their custom made 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. 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.”
THE LEGACY OF SIEGFRIED & ROY
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 shortly after the death of Roy Horn:
“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.”
Alan Feldman, former PR head at The Mirage then and now is a distinguished fellow at the International Gaming Institute at UNLV explained their significance to the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
“They were the first of anyone, really, to bring leading Broadway and West End designers and directors and choreographers into a Las Vegas setting to help stage a show,” Feldman said. “The creative team that was around ‘Siegfried & Roy at The Mirage’ was practically a who’s who … (of) incredible people who had an incredible list of credits.”
The result was a show that “was as deep and as rich and as powerful and as symbolic a show as you could find anywhere, if you chose to notice it,” Feldman said. “You also could choose to just be awed by it —‘That’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen’ — but if you chose to, you could see love and death and light and dark and resurrection. It was an incredibly artistic show.”
Their run ended abruptly in 2003 with the now famous mauling of Roy Horn by the white tiger Monticore. Even when their professional career ended, they stayed in Las Vegas where they had a deep connection according to Feldman:
“They had a deep and abiding love for Las Vegas. They believed Las Vegas gave them the opportunity to grow and thrive and become the artists they are.”
During the past few years, Fischbecker loved to interact with fans at their eponymous Secret Garden at The Mirage:
They “were larger than life,” Feldman said, “but both of them, especially Siegfried, had moments where they could be unbelievably down to earth.”
“Siegfried, during the last few years, loved nothing more than going to the Secret Garden (at The Mirage) and just interacting with people,” Feldman said. Fischbacher would pose for pictures with visitors and give them SARMOTI (Siegfried And Roy, Masters Of The Impossible) coins that he would pull out of thin air.
“I saw it happen dozens of times,” Feldman said. “It was just extraordinary, that joy he got from doing magic. He got such joy out of making people say, ‘Wow,’ and, honest to God, it didn’t matter if it was it was Queen Elizabeth or Elizabeth Taylor or Elizabeth from Bloomington, Indiana.”
Fischbacher’s publicist, Dave Kirvin, said that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health at www.keepmemoryalive.org.