Las Vegas Sun

July 29, 2014

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LAS VEGAS AT LARGE:

Roy Horn: More than birthdays to celebrate

Almost six years after vicious attack by tiger, Horn’s rehabilitation is ongoing

Image

Leila Navidi

Siegfried Fischbacher, right, and Roy Horn present a birthday cake for their tiger cubs at Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden at The Mirage.

Siegfried & Roy at the Secret Garden

Siegfried & Roy share in cake. Launch slideshow »

Sun Blog

Beyond the Sun

You watch Roy Horn walk, gingerly but with little aid, and you wonder how much more improvement remains in his tireless quest for rehabilitation.

He could easily be dead from the injuries he suffered after being dragged off the stage in the mouth of the big cat Montecore. That he is walking and talking is a miracle of modern medicine, and those close to him say it’s nothing short of miraculous that he is still appearing in public after the frightful events of Oct. 3, 2003.

But Roy walks, with the occasional aid of a cane and the more prevalent assistance of his decades-long performing partner and friend Siegfried Fischbacher. They shuffle along, slowly but steadily, to their next photo opportunity with their famed white tigers.

Tuesday afternoon it was to celebrate the first birthday of five tiger cubs who had been shuttled from the duo’s residence near Vegas Drive and Decatur Boulevard to the Secret Garden at the Mirage in June.

As a dozen photographers and scores of S&R fans gathered in the jungle-themed attraction, Siegfried and longtime assistant Lynette Chappell led Roy up the walkway to the outdoor habitats where the tigers — Chakra, Star, Svengali, Celestial and Cosmo — reside. They’re cute and cuddly — from a safe distance.

For this event, Siegfried & Roy didn’t have any direct contact with the cats and watched from beyond a tall chain-link fence, as any visitor to the Secret Garden would observe the powerful animals.

Roy used a whistle to summon the cats, who ambled out on cue and swatted at a few gift-wrapped boxes. The crowd sang “Happy Birthday,” a cake was presented, and S&R took the mike to thank everyone — first in English, then in German, a nod to their still-enormous popularity in their homeland.

For an hour afterward the duo signed copies of “Siegfried & Roy: The Magic Begins at Home” and other mementos presented by fans. On the walk from the birthday celebration to the book signing, the two talked about Roy’s diligent path to recovery.

“I’m great, great,” said Roy, whose workout routine includes “hanging out with my animals.”

Siegfried, who often adds commentary to questions posed to Roy, said, “He walks the dogs every day. We go to the gym, and we work out, every day.”

Siegfried remains the chief motivator in Roy’s workout regimen.

“He’s a taskmaster,” Roy said, his voice strong and his words measured. “I should pay him double. He keeps me on it.”

Roy continues to promise a full recovery. “This is only the beginning.”

Both said the Feb. 28 appearance at a benefit for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health was without question their final public performance. It was not an easy assignment, even for veteran entertainers who had captivated audiences for decades.

I asked about the reports (my own) of Roy coughing up blood before that show.

Siegfried fielded that one. “He had a little problem. It’s what happens when there is so much pressure on you. We had not performed for years. There are a lot of things to think about, a lot of people you don’t want to let down at an event so big, and you have trepidation. You can have problems with confidence.”

As he spoke, Siegfried made a rolling motion with his right hand, as if to indicate an upset digestive system.

Almost not believing what I was about to say, I asked, “Was it a case of pre-show retching?”

Siegfried chuckled. “You could say that, yes.”

I also asked if the duo might well have retired by now even if Roy hadn’t been severely injured that night at the Mirage. Siegfried, who looks terrific, turns 70 next month. Roy is 64.

“I doubt it,” Siegfried said, after pausing to consider voluntarily stepping down from the stage. “You are always thinking about new things to do, always being creative. We spent 45 wonderful years together, 40 in Las Vegas, and I don’t think we would have ever retired.”

Roy had the last word:

“Once you are in show business, you are always in show business.”

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