On Friday, entertainer Roy Horn died of COVID-19 at the age of 75. Horn, known for being half of the German duo Siegfried & Roy, passed away in Las Vegas, the city that made him famous, just one week after his coronavirus diagnosis.
"Today, the world has lost one of the greats of magic, but I have lost my best friend," Siegfried Fischbacher said in a statement. "From the moment we met, I knew Roy and I, together, would change the world. There could be no Siegfried without Roy, and no Roy without Siegfried."
For more than 30 years, Horn, alongside his lifelong friend, entertained countless audiences. The glittery Siegfried & Roy show at the Mirage hotel was a staple of the Las Vegas strip, grossing $45 million (£36 million) a year. The duo retired in 2010.
Their shows came to a complete halt in 2003 after Horn was horrifically mauled by a 400-pound, 7-foot-long Siberian tiger named Mantecore during a live performance. As a result of his attack, Horn severed his spine.
While Horn and Fischbacher faced allegations of animal mishandling, they always maintained that the attack was an accident. The duo claimed that Horn suffered a stroke onstage during the sold-out performance, and Mantecore lunged at Horn to help him. Chris Lawrence, who worked onstage with Horn and Fischbacher during that show, said last year the attack was not an accident and blamed Horn for enticing the tiger with his microphone. The incident happened on Horn's 59th birthday.
Fischbacher declared that if Mantecore wanted to kill Horn, he could have, but the tiger refrained and tried to drag him offstage.
"Listen, I say it was an accident," Fischbacher said on CNN four days after the attack. "[If Mantecore wanted to kill Horn] it would [have happened] in no time."
In 2009, Horn and Fischbacher put Mantecore back onstage for their last performance. When Mantecore died of natural causes in 2014, Horn wrote a letter on Facebook and said it was the tiger who saved his life. "My lifesaver, 'Mantecore,' who was the one responsible for pulling me to safety where the Paramedics could help me after my high blood pressure, made me dizzy on stage."
Despite the show's closure, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) persisted with their battle against Siegfried & Roy, calling on an investigation of their treatment of wild animals.
Horn, born Uwe Ludwig Horn, first met Fischbacher in 1957, working on a cruise ship. The pair began collaborating on magic tricks and progressed their vanishing act from making a rabbit disappear to a cheetah. In the 1960s, a scout saw their show at a Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco and asked them to move the show to Las Vegas.
A German producer and director announced last year that he would be making two feature biopics about Horn and Fischbacher's life and career, according to Variety.
A public memorial will be held for Horn at a later date. Horn leaves behind his brother, Werner Horn, and his longtime friend and stage partner, Fischbacher.