Las Vegas Sun

April 18, 2014

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Roy still critical; show is canceled indefinitely

Blood drive The Mirage was already scheduled to hold an employee-only blood drive next Thursday, and in the wake of the tiger attack on Roy Horn, United Blood Services will extend the drive for a second day. Group spokesman Dan Pern said many people have been calling United Blood Services to find out how they can donate blood in Horn's name. Those interested should call 233-9620 to set up an appointment.

While there was encouraging news on Horn's health, the multimillion-dollar Siegfried & Roy show is closing after 13 years at The Mirage, the show's producers, Feld Entertainment, said.

"The show has been canceled indefinitely -- closed," Siegfried & Roy spokesman Dave Kirvin said. "This decision was made because of the uncertainty due to Roy's injury and survival."

"There have been more than 30,000 live shows and one anomaly," the duo's manager Bernie Yuman said of Siegfried & Roy's more than 30-year career. "We had one heck of a long run."

Dr. Derek Duke said at this morning's news conference that while Horn remains in critical condition from "extremely severe" injuries suffered during Siegfried and Roy's show Friday night at the Mirage, he is conscious and communicating.

"Not now or ever has he been in a drug-induced coma," Duke said in response to what he called erroneous information that has been circulated. "Every day that passes increases his chance for survival."

No one at the news conference would confirm or deny reports that Horn has suffered partial paralysis on the left side of his body, however.

When pressed on the question, Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said, "paralysis is a longer term diagnosis than where we are today. This is somebody who is speculating, guessing, claiming to have knowledge. His (Horn's) condition is stable but critical, and that's all we know."

Duke credited Horn's "extraordinary will and strong physical attributes" as contributing to his recovery so far.

Bernie Yuman said Horn "has a will ... of a thousand men. That will will lead to his survival.... A lesser man perhaps would not have survived.

"He is totally aware of his circumstances (and is) aware that he is fighting for his life."

Yuman was asked several times if Horn is talking and said only that Horn is "communicating."

Doctors at University Medical Center said Horn is communicating by hand squeezes and moving when asked.

Yuman said Montecore, the tiger who attacked Horn, "will have a great life. There is no blame. Roy has a relationship to exotic animals second to no human being."

The animal currently is in "the inner sanctum" of the Secret Garden, a tiger habitat at the Mirage, which remains open to the public, Yuman said. The 7-year-old white tiger has been quarantined for 10 days to check for rabies.

Asked about the future of the showroom, Feldman said "for the time being it is still the Siegfried & Roy Theatre, but it is dark as of now."

He did not rule out that name entertainers could be featured as they have been in the past when Siegrfried & Roy were on hiatus.

"The concerns were for the employees so they can make decisions about their futures," he said.

That left the 65 dancers and other employees of Feld Entertainment, and 202 ushers, crew members and other employees of the Mirage unemployed.

Feldman said Mirage is working on a severance program for employees that he expected to be completed by week's end.

Mirage spokeswoman Jenn Michaels said, "The decision was made (to close the show) so they (employees) can protect themselves and their families," noting that workers are eligible for unemployment benefits.

"As we speak, our human resources department is developing a program to help place them in other positions. Cirque du Soleil is opening a show at the MGM Grand next summer and they hire technical people locally."

Also, Michaels said, Steve Wynn, former owner of the Mirage who contracted Siegfried & Roy to open the resort's showroom in 1990, "has stepped up to hire people from the show" for the opening of his Wynn Las Vegas in 2005.

Mark Riddell, spokesman for Feld Entertainment, the Virginia-based producers of the Siegfried & Roy show, said the company "well exceeded" its contractual arrangements with the show's dancers by paying them one week's severance pay and covering their medical benefits through the end of October.

"Each contract with the dancers is an individual contract with different provisions," Riddell said, noting that some may have gotten benefits that others did not, depending on the deals they negotiated.

"We are providing assistance to place them in our other productions," Riddell said, noting that Feld produces two units of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and the "Disney on Ice" show.

What triggered the tiger's attack on Friday about 45 minutes into the show still remains a mystery.

Larry King discussed it on CNN Monday night with eyewitnesses to the attack and to the show's staff who were backstage on Friday at the time of the attack.

King also announced that Horn's partner, Siegfried Fischbacher, would be a guest on "Larry King Live" on Wednesday for his first interview since the attack.

Paul D'Antonio, who witnessed the tiger's attack from the front row of the showroom, told King the tiger took what looked like a playful swat at Roy.

"There was a little bit of commotion between him and the tiger," D'Antonio said, then Horn banged his microphone on the top of the head of the tiger.

"At that point, the tiger jumped for his neck and bit his neck," D'Antonio said. "It then picked him up and just walked offstage."

Cheryl Gardner, who has worked in the show for 14 years, was backstage when the attack occurred. She said she saw Horn on the ground as stagehands worked on him, trying to stop the bleeding and calm him.

"Was he bleeding a lot?" King asked.

"Yes, but not as much as you would think," Gardner said. The crew had Horn packed in ice and towels, she said.

It was the first major attack by an animal in her years with the illusionists, Gardner said.

"You know, we've had situations like this, where there's been small bites or small injuries before, and it has never been a, you know, a big deal until -- I didn't realize that it was as big a deal as it was until later," Gardner said.

Jack Hanna, host of TV's "Animal Adventures," said he had seen the Siegfried and Roy show several times. "I stated that a wild animal's like a loaded gun," Hanna said. "It can go off at any time."

But Hanna said that the Las Vegas magicians had done more to educate people about tigers than anyone else in the world.

"If this animal was hungry and making a kill, we wouldn't be talking about Roy today," Hanna said.

"This animal wasn't out to just kill Roy or anything like that," Hanna said. "He was out to jump on him. He might have been upset."

There are fewer than 4,000 tigers in the wild and they may be extinct in the wild by 2016, Hanna said. There are only about 160 white tigers in the world, he said.

Magician Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller fame said there was always a danger that live animals could jump into an audience. When he was with Ringling Brothers Circus, Jillette said he refused to go into the room with the tigers. "Those things are terrifying," he said.

But Jillette said he believes that Horn had enough control over his cats.

"They certainly did everything they could to protect the audience," Jillette said. "And I would have said at any time, if anyone was going to be hurt it was going to be Roy. I mean, he was right there with them."

Sun reporters Jean Reid Norman and Timothy Pratt contributed to this story.