Siegfried Fischbacher, one half of the world-renowned illusionist act Siegfried & Roy, has died. Fischbacher’s rep confirmed for NBC News that the entertainer died in his Las Vegas home on Wednesday evening from pancreatic cancer. His passing arrives eight months after that of his longtime business partner Roy Horn, who died last May of complications from coronavirus. Fischbacher was 81.
Born in Rosenheim, Germany on June 13, 1939, began practicing illusions at a very young age. With time, he eventually found work as a magician with the turbine ocean liner TS Bremen, where he met Horn. The two became fast friends and a formidable act, performing magic as a duo for audiences on the ship. After developing a working rhythm, they quickly started to take the kinds of risks that would eventually cement them as legends—that is, they brought a live cheetah onto the ship in order to heighten the excitement of their show. The move was a little too risky for TS Berman: The pair was ultimately fired for the stunt. However, another cruise ship based in New York recognized their potential and recruited them to perform. They were soon commissioned as an inseparable duo and began incorporating tigers into their shows, which they performed around the world. They were discovered in Paris and asked to bring their performance to Las Vegas in 1967, which marked the beginning of the most enduring chapter of their shared legacy: their impact on Las Vegas’ extravagant entertainment culture.
In 1981, Fischbacher and Horn began to really establish their roots in the Las Vegas Strip’s flashy scene in a collaborative show with Ken Feld of Irvin & Kenneth Feld Productions at the New Frontier Hotel and Casino. Beyond Belief would mark the beginning of their residency, making them a prominent part of the city’s famed glamour (and, depending on who you ask, telltale camp). Their ascension continued in 1990 when they broke away from the production to create the iconic Siegfried & Roy, a show that would spawn a culture and legacy of its own. Their premiere at The Mirage would reportedly become one of the most expensive shows to ever be erected and led the city’s offering of family entertainment. Fischbacher and Horn ruled the Las Vegas scene until 2003, when Horn was attacked by their starring tiger Montecore, leaving his motor and verbal abilities permanently impaired.
The attack, however, did not preclude the pair from nurturing their immovable legacy. They became producers of the short-lived animated sitcom Father Of The Pride, which was based on their act and centered on a family of white tigers. In 2009, they took to the stage with Montecore for a final performance ABC’s 20/20. Over a year later, they retired from show business entirely.
In an interview with Good Morning America, Fischbacher said that he had made peace with everything that had informed his legacy, good and bad. “I really don’t miss it,” Fischbacher said. “We have been on stage in Vegas just by themselves for 40 years on stage, you know? And we had the most successful show in the history of Las Vegas anyway.”