Illusionist Siegfried Fischbacher dies aged 81 after cancer battle


Illusionist Siegfried Fischbacher, one half of the legendary duo Siegfried & Roy, has died aged 81 in Las Vegas after a battle with pancreatic cancer. 

Fischbacher’s sister, a nun who lives in Munich, first confirmed her brother died at his home in Las Vegas on Thursday, German news agency dpa reported.   

Sister Dolore said she talked to her brother on the phone before he died and they prayed together.

‘I could pray with him and tell him that I will always be with him in my heart,’ Sister Dolore said. 

After the call, he laid down and fell asleep, she said.  

Fischbacher’s publicist Dave Kirvin confirmed in a statement that he died Wednesday and said the funeral service will be private ‘with plans for a public memorial in the future’. 

His death comes just days after reports surfaced that the famed magician was terminally ill with pancreatic cancer.

A report from German publication Bild Monday said he had undergone a 12-hour operation to remove a malignant tumor and was being cared for at his Las Vegas home by two hospice workers. 

His last public appearance was on August 26, at the dedication of Siegfried & Roy Drive at The Mirage Hotel – where the duo had performed their iconic show for more than a decade and where Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden is located. 

Fischbacher’s death comes just eight months after his long-time show business partner and lifetime companion Roy Horn died aged 75 at a Las Vegas hospital in May of complications from COVID-19.

The pair were inseparable both on and off stage for more than six decades, living together until Horn’s death in their lavish Las Vegas mansion called Little Bavaria. 

Illusionist Siegfried Fischbacher, one half of the legendary duo Siegfried & Roy, has died aged 81 in Las Vegas after a battle with cancer. Fischbacher pictured at the 23rd annual Keep Memory Alive ‘Power of Love Gala’ benefit at MGM Grand Garden Arena in March 2019

Pictured Siegfried & Roy in 2002 with Monticore, the 7-year-old rare snowhite Siberian tiger that attacked Roy on stage in 2003

Pictured Siegfried & Roy in 2002 with Monticore, the 7-year-old rare snowhite Siberian tiger that attacked Roy on stage in 2003

Fischbacher's sister, a nun who lives in Munich, confirmed her brother's (pictured) death to German news agency dpa Thursday

Fischbacher’s sister, a nun who lives in Munich, confirmed her brother’s (pictured) death to German news agency dpa Thursday

Siegfried & Roy met in 1957 on board a cruise ship before they shot to fame and became some of the most popular and highest-paid entertainers to ever grace the Las Vegas strip.

The famous duo, known for their spectacular illusions and use of exotic animals, kept audiences enthralled throughout their 40-year career before retiring after Horn was mauled on stage by one of their beloved tigers in 2003. 

Tributes started pouring in from the entertainment industry and Las Vegas officials after news of Fischbacher’s death was confirmed Thursday.

MGM Resorts, which owns The Mirage hotel where Siegfried & Roy had a lifetime residency and entertained crowds with their extravagant magic shows that brought exotic animals to Sin City, described Fischbacher’s death as the ‘end of an era’. 

‘The passing of Siegfried Fischbacher marks the end of an era. Siegfried & Roy had a vision for the kind of entertainment spectacular the world at large had never before seen,’ it said.

‘We are grateful for all they meant to MGM Resorts, Las Vegas and to the world of entertainment.’

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman credited the duo with putting the city ‘on the map’.

She tweeted that while the city is ‘crushed’ to learn of his death, it is ‘calming’ to know that he is reunited with Horn.  

‘We are just crushed to have lost Siegfried our wonderful friend and giant entertainer. Anyone who came to town, their request was always, “I must see Siegfried and Roy!”’ she tweeted.

‘They put Las Vegas on the map not only as spectacular illusionists but also as breeders, trainers and caretakers of royal felines which grew to be an enormous part of their performance. 

‘Visitors to their personal home had the thrill of seeing the habitat where so many cubs were born and raised. And a trip to the Mirage Hotel and the Secret Garden was a treat one never could forget. 

‘More importantly than anything, Siegfried was the kindest and most loyal friend and a beautiful individual. What is calming now is to realize is that he is back with his life partner, Roy Horn, and at peace. You are loved, dear Siegfried.’  

Fischbacher pictured in 2013.His publicist Dave Kirvin confirmed his death in a statement, saying the funeral service will be private 'with plans for a public memorial in the future'

Fischbacher pictured in 2013.His publicist Dave Kirvin confirmed his death in a statement, saying the funeral service will be private ‘with plans for a public memorial in the future’

His death comes just eight months after his long-time show business partner Roy Horn died in May of complications from COVID-19 at a Las Vegas hospital. The duo in 2005

His death comes just eight months after his long-time show business partner Roy Horn died in May of complications from COVID-19 at a Las Vegas hospital. The duo in 2005

The account for Clark County, Nevada, paid tribute to its ‘adopted son’ who together with Horn ‘revolutionized’ the Vegas strip.

‘#ClarkCounty shares the sadness of friends, family and fans of #SiegfriedFischbacher today. The legendary Las #Vegas entertainer has died at 81. A legend and our adopted son, he and Roy Horn revolutionized Las Vegas  entertainment. #Siegfried and Roy now back together forever.’   

Fellow magician Lance Burton, who had 31-year show in Las Vegas, described Fischbacher as the ‘epitome of what a Las Vegas entertainer should be’.

‘I am devastated to hear the news of Siegfried Fischbacher’s passing. Today is truly the end of an era in Las Vegas and in the world of magic,’ he tweeted.

‘Siegfried was for decades the epitome of what a Las Vegas entertainer should be. On stage he was larger than life. A brilliant magician with an original and highly successful show. 

‘Along with his long time partner, Roy, he helped make Las Vegas the entertainment capitol of the world. Off stage he was charming and at times shy. I will always cherish the times I spent in his company.’

Former WWE wrestler Marc Mero said: ‘Sad to hear the news that Siegfried Fischbacher, half of the world-famous Las Vegas magic and entertainment act Siegfried & Roy, died of cancer eight months after the death of his long-term business partner Roy Horn. He was 81.’

Tributes started pouring in from the entertainment industry and Las Vegas officials after news of Fischbacher's death was confirmed Thursday

Tributes started pouring in from the entertainment industry and Las Vegas officials after news of Fischbacher’s death was confirmed Thursday

Early life and path to fame

Fischbacher’s love of magic stemmed from his childhood.

Born in Rosenheim, Germany in 1939 to his housewife mother and his professional painter father who was a prisoner of war in the Soviet Union during the Second World War, Fischbacher purchased a magic book aged 8.

He began practicing magic tricks from then on before he moved to Italy in 1956 to work in a hotel.

Fischbacher landed a job performing magic on the cruise ship TS Bremen under the stage name Delmare. 

It was here that the magic duo’s paths crossed in 1957. 

Horn, real name Uwe Ludwig Horn, was born in 1944 in Nordenham. 

He developed a love for animals from a young age. He would care for his childhood dog while he learned about exotic animals as a family friend was the founder of the Bremen Zoo.

Horn was a waiter on the cruise ship and soon became Fischbacher’s assistant for his magic performances.  

Horn had smuggled his pet cheetah Chico on board the ship and eventually suggested using it in their act – a signature that would soon become synonymous with the pair.  

They honed their animal-magic show in small clubs in Germany and Switzerland in the mid-1960s. 

The duo combined Fischbacher’s love of magic and Horn’s love of animals to create their legendary shows.

Fischbacher at the keg-tapping celebration at the kickoff of Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas' 8th Annual Oktoberfest in 2011

Fischbacher at the keg-tapping celebration at the kickoff of Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas’ 8th Annual Oktoberfest in 2011

Las Vegas superstar illusionists Siegfried (right) and Roy (left) ) at their Mirage Hotel apartment, prior to Horn's nearly fatal encounter with a white tiger on stage during one of their performances

Las Vegas superstar illusionists Siegfried (right) and Roy (left) ) at their Mirage Hotel apartment, prior to Horn’s nearly fatal encounter with a white tiger on stage during one of their performances

Their big break then came in a Monte Carlo casino when an agent in the audience invited them to Las Vegas.  

The pair made their debut at the Tropicana hotel-casino in the late 1960s.

The illusionists became increasingly popular in the 1970s, receiving their first star billing in 1978 as headliners of the Stardust´s ‘Lido de Paris.’ 

Their show ‘Beyond Belief’ opened in 1981 at the Frontier and played to thousands over seven years. 

Siegfried & Roy began performing at the Mirage in 1990. 

They then signed a lifetime contract with the Hotel in 2001. 

At the time, it was estimated they had performed 5,000 shows at the casino for 10 million fans since 1990 and had grossed more than $1 billion. 

That comes on top of thousands of shows at other venues in earlier years. 

One spectacular developed for the Mirage opened with a flashy ‘Star Wars’ scenario and Horn and Fischbacher arriving in their own mini space capsules. 

Another segment had Horn sitting atop a 30-foot pyramid that was ‘destroyed’ by an explosion and fire, leaving him levitated high above the stage.    

The Siegfried & Roy show incorporated animal antics and magic tricks, featuring 20 white tigers and lions, the number varying depending on the night. 

The show also had other exotic animals, including an elephant. 

For years, Siegfried & Roy was an institution in Las Vegas, where Fischbacher and Horn’s magic and artistry consistently attracted sellout crowds. 

The pair performed six shows a week, 44 weeks per year. 

In 1988, Horn and Fischbacher became US citizens. An elated Horn said at the time: ‘Being an American means all the things we believe in.’ 

The illusionist duo continued to astonish millions with their extraordinary magic tricks until Horn was critically injured in 2003 by one of the act’s famed white tigers.  

The duo with tiger cubs in Las Vegas in 2008. The Siegfried & Roy show incorporated animal antics and magic tricks

The duo with tiger cubs in Las Vegas in 2008. The Siegfried & Roy show incorporated animal antics and magic tricks

Horn pictured above performing with a white tiger during the duo's 15,000th live show in 1996

Horn pictured above performing with a white tiger during the duo’s 15,000th live show in 1996

Horn was left with partial paralysis on the left side of his body and was confined to a wheelchair most of the time. The pair are pictured here in October 2002

Horn was left with partial paralysis on the left side of his body and was confined to a wheelchair most of the time. The pair are pictured here in October 2002

Horn was left partially paralyzed and using a wheelchair after being attacked by a 400-pound white Bengal tiger named Montecore during one of their performances at The Mirage hotel-casino in Las Vegas in 2003.

He suffered severe neck injuries, lost a lot of blood and later suffered a stroke.   

After the attack, the duo consistently claimed the cat had latched onto Horn as a way to protect the entertainer, after he had suffered a stroke and toppled over.  

Horn insisted the cat ‘saved his life’ by attempting to drag him to safety after he fainted and begged for the cat not to be put down.  

An investigation by the US Department of Agriculture explored a variety of theories but was unable to reach a conclusion on what caused the tiger to attack. 

In its final report, the USDA also said the show´s producers had failed to protect the audience because there was no barrier separating the exotic animals from the crowd. 

Horn underwent lengthy rehabilitation, but the attack ended the long-running Las Vegas Strip production. 

The tiger later died of natural causes at age 17 in 2014. 

Aside from incorporating exotic animals into their shows, the pair gained international recognition for helping to save rare white tigers and white lions from extinction. 

Their $10 million compound was home to dozens of rare animals over the years.  

The white lions and white tigers were the result of a preservation program that began in the 1980s.   

The illusionists receiving the second annual Liberace Legend Award at a gala benefit in Las Vegas in 1995

The illusionists receiving the second annual Liberace Legend Award at a gala benefit in Las Vegas in 1995

The duo met on a cruise ship before teaming up and working together on the iconic show

The duo met on a cruise ship before teaming up and working together on the iconic show 

Life in retirement 

In October 2006 the duo were inducted into the Las Vegas Walk of Stars. 

The duo then returned to the stage in February 2009 for what was billed as their one and only comeback performance, to raise funds for the new Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. 

The brief performance included the tiger Montecore. A year later Siegfried & Roy formally retired from showbusiness.

In March 2019, the two appeared together as surprise guests at the Vegas’s Keep Memory Alive’s 23rd annual Power of Love gala. 

Two months later, Fischbacher underwent emergency life-saving heart surgery in Germany, after he collapsed and was rushed to hospital. 

Doctors feared he wouldn’t survive but he recovered and flew back to his home in Las Vegas within weeks.

The beloved entertainer told friends that he felt ‘a million percent better and like a teenager,’ DailyMail.com revealed at the time.

The health crisis occurred while he was accompanying Horn to Germany where he was being treated with revolutionary stem cell therapy to help Horn walk again. 

Horn in a wheelchair in 2018 with Siegfried at his side attending the unveiling of a plaque in their honor at the Cleveland Clinic for Brain Health in Las Vegas

Horn in a wheelchair in 2018 with Siegfried at his side attending the unveiling of a plaque in their honor at the Cleveland Clinic for Brain Health in Las Vegas

The bronze busts of Siegfried & Horn outside The Mirage Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. A makeshift memorial for Horn is seen in front of it following his death in May

The bronze busts of Siegfried & Horn outside The Mirage Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. A makeshift memorial for Horn is seen in front of it following his death in May

Horn’s death 

Horn died at Mountain View Hospital in Las Vegas in May around a week after testing positive for coronavirus. 

Siegfried kept vigil at his life partner’s hospital room day and night as he battled the condition, DailyMail.com revealed at the time.   

Horn was in intensive care for almost a week after being struck down by the virus.

He woke briefly from a coma and wiggled his fingers to ‘wave goodbye’ to Fischbacher moments before he died. 

Siegfried paid tribute to his ‘best friend’ in a statement at the time. 

‘Today, the world has lost one of the greats of magic, but I have lost my best friend.

‘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. 

‘Roy was a fighter his whole life including during these final days. I give my heartfelt appreciation to the team of doctors, nurses and staff at Mountain View Hospital who worked heroically against this insidious virus that ultimately took Roy’s life.’  

The pair were said to be working on a biopic to be released in the form of a multi-part docuseries in 2021. 

Horn was cremated and his urn was placed in Siegfried’s bedroom. 

Siegfried Fischbacher (left) and Roy Horn (right) pictured in 2017 at a benefit for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, Nevada

Siegfried Fischbacher (left) and Roy Horn (right) pictured in 2017 at a benefit for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, Nevada

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk