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April 24, 2014

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Siegfried on death of Michael Jackson: ‘It hurts’

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John Katsilometes

Siegfried and longtime S&R performing partner and confidant Lynette Chappell at the L.V. Hilton Theater.

Often, a person’s feelings can be measured not just in what they say, but how long it takes to say it. This afternoon, outside the Las Vegas Hilton Theater just before the “Ribbon of Life” Golden Rainbow benefit performance, I spotted Siegfried Fischbacher and asked him if he could talk about the death of his friend, Michael Jackson.

There was no spontaneous response. Not for this one.

Siegfried, in attendance at the Hilton not to perform but to support one of his favorite charities, pulled himself away from the group of friends and fans he’d been easily chatting with to gain a hint of privacy. He paused and pondered for what seemed an eternity but might have been a minute. His eyes glistened, he put his clenched right hand to his mouth and nodded a few times before saying, “It hurts.”

He halted for a few more moments, then said, “He was a good, good friend, one of the finest entertainers. He wrote music for us when we really needed him to do that.” Jackson’s unreleased “Mind Is Magic” is the Siegfried & Roy theme song, and his was the final voice heard in the S&R performances at The Mirage.

“I remember us talking to him about needing a song, and he just said, ‘Let me write it,’ no questions asked,” Siegfried said, shaking his head. “It was such a gesture of friendship.” Jackson was one of the duo’s biggest celebrity fans, a frequent visitor to the show, where he was dually enamored of the entertainers’ white tigers and trailblazing illusions onstage.

“I last saw him about a month ago,” Siegfried continued, “at the Wynn hotel, with Kenny Ortega.” Ortega, director of Miley Cyrus’ concert tour, “High School Musical” and “Dirty Dancing,” also was director of Jackson’s upcoming shows at London’s O2 Arena. When I asked the nature of the meeting at Wynn, Siegfried demurred and said, “Michael, he was always interested in magic. We were just talking about how we designed magic in our show -- he was in love with our show.”

I asked if Jackson seemed in ill health at the time of that meeting in Las Vegas, and Siegfried only shook his head. “It gets me upset,” he said. “It is hard, what I read in the papers about him. First Danny Gans, now this. (Pause) I’m just so sad about all of it.”

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